Chef Pongtawat “Ian Kittichai” Chalermkittichai’s path to culinary success started from very humble beginnings in Bangkok. Every morning he would rise at 3 AM to accompany his mother to the wet market to select the best meats, seafood, and vegetables for her neighborhood grocery. While Ian was at school, she would cook a dozen different types of curries. Upon his return home, Ian would push a cart through the neighborhood to sell his wares, shouting: “Khao Geang Ron Ron Ma Leaw Jaar!” (Hot curry coming!).
After completing high school in Bangkok, Ian moved to London to study English with no intention of becoming a chef. Fate seemed to have other ideas though – while working part time at the Waldorf Hotel THF, the hotel chef saw something of great promise in young Ian. Before long, the hotel sponsored him to attend culinary school in London. He subsequently completed his culinary studies in Sydney, Australia and then spent his years of apprenticeship absorbing French fine dining cuisine at the famous Claude’s.
In 1993, Ian decided to return to his homeland and work for the prestigious Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok (formerly The Regent) as a Demi Chef. He quickly rose through the ranks while mastering various cuisines and winning acclaim in multiple international culinary competitions. His career path in the Four Seasons organization took him to culinary exchanges around the world where he was able to further perfect his talent and craft. At restaurants and hotels such as Georges V in Paris, French Laundry in Napa Valley, El Bulli in Spain, and Four Seasons Chinzan-so in Tokyo, Chef Kittichai was free to fully spread his culinary wings. In 1998, Chef Kittichai became the first Thai national in the world to become Executive Chef of a five-star hotel property. In 2001, The Bangkok Post dubbed him “The Golden Boy”. He began hosting the weekly cooking show Chef Mue Tong (The Golden Hand Chef), which presently can be seen in over 70 countries.
In 2004 Chef Kittichai relocated to New York and created Kittichai Restaurant, in 2004. While Chef Kittichai was at the helm, Kittichai Restaurant appeared in Food & Wine magazine as Best New Asian Restaurants 2005, Travel + Leisure magazine as Best New American Restaurants 2004, as well as appearing in Harper’s Baazar, Vogue, GQ, New York Magazine, New York Times, Gourmet Traveller, and Vanity Fair, amongst numerous others.
In 2008 he left Kittichai Restaurant, formed his international food & beverage management and consulting firm, Cuisine Concept Co., Ltd., and opened the highly acclaimed Restaurant Murmuri (now closed) in Barcelona, Spain. Currently his Cuisine Concept Co., Ltd. has some of the most recognizable international hotels, restaurants, and food companies on its client roster.
In January 2010 Chef Kittichai opened Bangkok’s first gastro bar, Hyde & Seek. In August 2010 he opened the celebrated Koh by Ian Kittichai, his third signature Thai restaurant, located at the Intercontinental Marine Drive Hotel, Mumbai, India. In February 2011 Chef Kittichai opened Ember Room (now closed), a progressive Thai comfort food restaurant, with Chace Restaurant Group in New York City. In 2011 Chef Kittichai also created a signature menu series at the Intercontinental Hotel Abu Dhabi. In June 2011 Chef became a partner in and the culinary director of Spot Dessert Bar in New York City. In December 2011 Chef Kittichai debuted his flagship Thai restaurant and lounge, Issaya Siamese Club, in Bangkok. Also in December 2011, Chef’s cookbook in Thai, Chef Ian’s Kitchen Revealed, won the prestigious Gourmand Best Chef Cookbook Thailand Award.
In January 2012 Chef debuted to a 15,000,000 fan following as one of the permanent Iron Chefs on the Iron Chef Thailand television show. Also in 2012 Chef opened Smith, Bangkok’s first international “nose to tail” concept eatery, Asian bun eatery, Jum Mum, on St. Mark’s Place in New York City, and a second branch of Spot Dessert Bar in New York City. Chef Kittichai’s first cookbook for the English-language market, Issaya Siamese Club: Innovative Thai Cuisine by Chef Ian Kittichai, was released in April 2013. He is also a founding council member of The World Street Food Congress, along with Anthony Bourdain, KF Seetoh, and Claus Meyer, amongst other culinary luminaries. In September 2013 Chef was honored as the first Asia Geographical Indication Ambassador by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Thailand’s Department of Intellectual Property, and the Agence Francaise de Developpement.
Chef’s upcoming restaurants and projects in development include and Issaya Siamese Club Cooking Studio in Bangkok in partnership with Sub-Zero & Wolf Appliances, a second branch of Hyde & Seek Gastro Bar, more branches of Spot Dessert Bar in the greater New York City area, and a pastry and dessert cookbook.