This post is one in a multi-part series.
Frédéric Colas has been travelling the globe with his family since July 2011 raising money to build an African school for Burkina Faso’s Cissé Yargo village. Every time a Facebook friend or “real time” friend hosts the family, the Colases donate $100 to their “We Like the World” project (when they stay at a Four Seasons, the Colases donate $250 per night to the project). In addition, for each person who friends the project on Facebook, the family donates $1. The journey ends in Burkina Faso this June.
In the Colas family, we love fine dining, but are definitely not great cooks. As it turns out, Chiang Mai is a good match for us. Not only is this area famous for tasty Northern Thailand cuisine, but for its wonderful cooking schools. A good occasion for us to find out whether or not we are as hopeless as we think we are! Because a cooking class with the executive chef of Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai is the ultimate test—reputedly the best Thai cooking instruction you can get in the region.
At 11.30 on a spring morning, we crossed the lush green rice fields at the centre of the resort to join Rewat Srichai in his dazzling inside-outside kitchen overlooking the tropical landscape. He welcomed us with a high-wattage Thai smile while his assistant offered some delightful fresh fruit juices.
Rewat Sriachai is a creative chef who has worked at Four Seasons Chiang Mai for five years. Originally from the rural region of Isan in eastern Thailand, Rewat decided early he would one day become a chef. And, because he was gifted, was sent to an international cuisine school in Bangkok, where he trained in traditional French cuisine: sauce béchamel, consommé… It was a strange experience for Rewat, he told us, because he spent the bulk of his time learning recipes that didn’t really taste good to him—a guy used to eating spicy, robust dishes. Not only did Rewat have to learn a new cooking style, he recalled, he had to learn a new way of tasting.
Thankfully, his efforts paid off. In 1983, Four Seasons hired Rewat as a chef trainee in Bangkok. Since then, Rewat triumphed at a Thai cuisine competition. He was also invited to Italy for an international contest on Italian cuisine, where he finished third, beating out many up-and-coming European chefs. During his Four Seasons career, Rewat was promoted eight times until reaching the level of executive chef. (Rewat is the first local Thai to become an executive chef at Four Seasons.)
What he likes about cuisine is the creativity and freedom, he says. Rewat loves watching guests discover his home’s unique recipes and flavours for the first time. He also enjoys the challenge of adapting local fare to make dishes delightful for foreigners. Over the years, Rewat has defined his own style and philosophy. He’s reinventing the regional cuisine by combining what he’s seen and learned from around the globe. In other words, if you fancy top-notch traditional Thai, inventive Western signature dishes or original fusion creations, Rewat is your man.
During our class with Rewat, we learned to prepare a mouthwatering recipe typical of Southeast Asia: fried rice. But not just a run-of-the-mill fried rice; a delicious and beautiful rice covered with an “egg net”—the chef’s signature. After a demo and instructions from the chef, we could all whip up our own fried rice customised to our own preferences. Héloïse gravitated toward chicken, egg, white onion, tomato, oyster sauce and mushroom-soy sauce. You could also add pepper, garlic and spring onion. Then she used the wok and proudly prepared her rice.
Héloïse especially loved making the egg net, an attractive egg-based cover to decorate the fried rice. While we learned, Rewat talked about his passion, about cuisine and imparted some valuable tips: As always, the plate should be nicely decorated so it’s as inviting to the eyes as for the stomach. We garnished our plates with cucumber, tomato and spring onion. Then we dined on our own delicious fried rice creations al fresco on the terrace near the “spirit house,” the home temple that you find everywhere in Thailand.
At one o’clock, we headed back to our suite after having had a lot of fun. And the following days, we got to take advantage of Chef Rewat’s masterful cooking at every meal, like we do in the fantastic fine restaurants of Paris.
So next time you come to Paris, no need to dine in a fine restaurant; just come to our place. Heloise will cook you a wonderful egg net-adorned Thai fried rice a la Four Seasons Chiang Mai. And, guess what, you will love it.
This post is one in a multi-part series.
Read more about Chiang Mai in Four Seasons Magazine.
Read more about Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai and its Kids For All Seasons (KFAS)*/Gecko Club kids’ club.
*Kids For All Seasons (KFAS) is a Four Seasons complimentary recreational and educational program for children of resort guests. Most KFAS clubs are designed for youth four to 12 years old, and open daily from 9 to 5. (Younger children can often join KFAS with a nanny or parent, or resorts can arrange for babysitting.) But details vary from property to property, so check the resort’s website for more information.
Kids can go all day or just for an hour or two. Activities inside and out include games, sports, music, treasure hunts, swimming, arts and crafts, cultural education, environmental preservation work and yoga. Not your average camp, the VIP offerings are pretty extraordinary—for example, at Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora, kids can help the resort’s marine biologist graft coral in the lagoon sanctuary.
A French native, Frédéric Colas has travelled to 50-plus countries on five continents. Fred created the Digital Marketing Department for Procter & Gamble in 1996 and in 1999 was named one of 12 Global Media Mavens by Advertising Age. In 2000, Fred co-founded Fullsix, a Europe-based leading digital marketing group. An art lover and advertising exec since 1991, Estelle worked for most of her career for the Havas Group. She is currently Global Brand Director at BETC Euro RSCG in Paris. She wants to make a difference in her life, for her family and for others. The couple lives in Paris with their eight-year-old daughter Héloïse.
View all posts from Frédéric
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