Chef Woonsen presented at Tender Table on November 12, 2017 at Sweet Thai Basil Cuisine in Portland, OR.
Chef Woonsen (she/hers) was born in the smallest province in Thailand, 45 minutes north of the country’s capital, Bangkok. She has over 10 years of professional experience in cooking and studying Thai food and a degree in Food Nutrition from Thailand. After completing 9th grade, Woonsen attended Trade school for 3 years, then received her Food Nutrition degree in her hometown 2 years later. After saving enough money working at resorts as a front of house staff, she enrolled in a Hospitality program in Bangkok, and started working at the province Hua Hin as a prep cook at big international hotels.
Eventually Thailand cut its national budget for tourism and closed the nearby airport, and Woonsen was laid off. She moved to Phuket for its busy tourist attraction to work in a beauty clinic, then eventually to Pattaya, and finally landed in the beach island Koh Kut for the next 5 years as a chef. She was later recruited to come to America, and is celebrating her 5th year in Portland as the Executive Chef of Sweet Basil Thai Cuisine.
One sentence to describe yourself and where you came from:
I am a transgender woman Chef from Thailand!!! I am KaTuey (trans) (กะเทย)!
I have over 10 years experience in studying and cooking Thai food. My first time learning was when my mom taught me simple things, like steaming rice and cooking pad krapow. Pad Krapow is like a burger in America. When you have no idea what to eat, you just eat Pad Krapow.
Best piece of advice you ever got about cooking:
Timing is very important. Not every food you make is quick. When making food, you need to allocate the right time to create the best dining experience. You need to prep and combine all the ingredients together to ensure the best quality beforehand.
If you could only eat one meal forever, it would be:
Thai food only! BBQ Thai chicken, Som Tum Pla (papaya salad) -- either Lao or Issan style, and sticky rice. Lao style Som Tom has shrimp paste and is spicier, while issan style doesn’t have shrimp paste and is less spicy.
This is hard! Thai food because Thai food has everything. Like life, it has every flavor: Sweet (happy), spicy (sexy), salty (really, it’s not good for you, but it represents hardship, negativity), and sour (fun, excitement). These are 4 distinct flavors of Thai food and of life.
I like reading books about cooking, specifically desserts or cake (kanom).
Not yet… I don’t have one yet (joking).
My happiest meals are when I cook food for people I love, that’s when I’m the happiest.
Food you’d like to try:
Mexican food! I also want to learn how to make every dish in Mexican food.