Jamie Raftery is a holistic chef from Ireland. At Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort in the north of Phuket, he has been recently developing a range of vegan, raw food, and Ayurveda-inspired dishes. Some more exciting dishes are soon to be introduced and everyone is welcome to check out the new culinary creations. Phuketindex had a chance to have him share with us about his career path and creations.
Who, or what, inspired you to become a chef?
I was inspired to become a chef about the age of 14. I grew up on a farm in the West of Ireland, surrounded by beautiful fertile land and my mum is a great cook so I was always inspired by food. I love the concept of taking raw ingredients and applying skills and craft to them and then giving that to someone in the form of a meal. So it’s a combination of my family, my surroundings, my region and also nature. Nature is what continues to inspire me, using raw ingredients and showcasing them into something spectacular.
Where have you trained, and how difficult was your training?
I’m still training! I started training as a chef 20 years ago when I was 15. The beautiful thing about cooking is we are always training, we’re never finished and we always have something new to learn so that I’m learning about new ingredients and new techniques here in Phuket. I did my apprenticeship with Gordon Ramsay in England and also Thomas Keller in the USA, in California. It was the world’s number one restaurant when I trained there. I’ve always put myself in at the deep end, in a case of sink or swim. But I’ve trained with some of the best chefs in the world and it was very tough. As you know, knowledge is power and all I’ve learned throughout my career is serving me every day as I continue on and pass on the knowledge to other chefs.
What is your favourite kitchen equipment or gadget?
It’s hard to nail it down to one or two. But if I have to pick one of two, it would be a Vitamix. It’s a fantastic tool for refinement for making nut milks, purées, soups, and so on. Apart from the Vitamix there’s the mandoline for shaping vegetables. These two are my favourites.
What are the principles and philosophy of Ayurveda and how does it work?
Ayurveda is translated to a science of life and dates back Ancient India of about 4-5 thousand years ago. It sees food as medicine. It sees the individuality of human beings as separate identities and therefore not one diet fits everybody. We all have different needs physically and psychologically depending on where we grew up, what kind of lifestyle we live, what food we eat, and so on. It treats each person as an individual. It’s holistic health care, a system which takes into consideration of what we eat, our relationship, our social life, our exercise. It’s a complete healthcare and philosophy.
How did you start practicing Ayurveda and what made you want to learn about it?
I was introduced to Ayurveda about four years ago when I travelled to India. At first I didn’t even know how to pronounce the word! I didn’t know what it meant but you could see the word ‘Ayurveda’ everywhere in India. So that was my first introduction to it. Around that time I’d finished working for other chefs and I was starting my own business. Throughout my career, I’d always had a Chef as a mentor so I’d always followed their philosophies, their cuisine and their recipes. When working on my own, I wanted some sort of guiding principles to focus my cooking. There are different options: veganism, vegetarianism, Paleo and also different diets that chefs can follow but I wanted something with more integrity, something that fascinated me and inspired me. So the more I read about Ayurveda, the more I studied it, the more it inspired me. I’m still learning about it; it’s a vast subject.
What’s your favourite dish?
That’s very difficult to answer because food is so diverse depending on where I’m cooking and depending on the time of year. But one of my everyday favourites is my own breakfast. I cook porridge religiously every day. It’s the first meal I eat, about 330 days a year. It’s not exciting or maybe not the answer you were hoping for but yes that’s it.
What do you love most about your job?
There’s a lot to love about it. If I have to pick one thing I think it’s the ability to be able to connect with people from anywhere in the world through food. It’s something we all share, something we all have in common. To connect with people through food is really a beautiful way to learn about new cultures and people. So I think it’s connecting with new people, meeting people and sharing nice food with them.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I don’t like to plan too far ahead. When I was younger, it was a question we were always asked in school: “Where do you see yourself in five years’ time, or in 20 years’ time?” I can see myself it’s a long way to go so I try to focus more on the present. Throughout my career I spent a lot of my time looking ahead to my next job, always planning ahead and what I realized through that is I wasn’t actually enjoying what I was doing here and now. I have a lot of dreams, ambitions, visions, aspirations for the future but I don’t like plan too far ahead. I just like to enjoy the adventure I’m in each day and enjoy cooking beautiful food and meeting with great people all the time.
What about the dish you prepared today?
The dish we prepared today is based on Ayurvedic and macrobiotic philosophy. It’s called a ‘Buddha Bowl’, also known as a macrobiotic bowl. These bowls of food are designed to give us all our daily food, the food we need to eat on daily basis. The Buddha Bowls that I created are based on flavour profiles from different countries around the world. I’ve developed Japanese Buddha Bowls, as well as Mexican, French, Thai, and Chinese versions. Each Buddha Bowl has a flavour profile from that particular country and I take certain ingredients from that country and create a dish that has a balanced selection of legumes, pulses, fruits vegetables, nuts, seeds, seaweed and fermented ingredients.
The dish I developed here in Thanyapura is a Mexican-inspired Buddha Bowl. We made a chilli con carne which contains black beans, lentils, chillis, made with lots of local corn, spices, tomato, mango, avocado and tomato salsa which gives the raw element. We made rainbow sauerkraut which gives the fermented probiotic element. We also have cauliflower rice and our sour cream made out of smoked cashew nuts. A Mexican inspired dish with Mexican flavours using local ingredients.
More holistic dishes await you at Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort. Please visit www.thanyapura.com for more information and queries. Also, more about holistic Chef Jamie Rafferty can be found on his own site holisticchef.co.uk.