Bo Songvisava on Being a Female Chef
There is perhaps no better representative for Thai cuisine right now than Bo Songvisava, who joined us in support of the UNICEF Children's Ball. With her award-winning restaurant Bo.lan, which she runs with her husband Dylan Jones, she has taken the dining landscape in Bangkok beyond side-street spots and traditionally seasoned fare, promoting the slow food movement across Thailand.
The first thing we learn about Asia's Best Female Chef 2013 is that her favorite dish is nam prik gapi, a shrimp paste relish. As Chef Bo describes to us the hard work that goes behind creating this balance of texture and flavor, her passion for Thai fine dining shines through even in casual conversation. In her eyes, it makes no difference to her whether one is a male or female chef; what truly matters is the combination that comes together on a plate.
"For Thai food, if you're looking at fine dining, there are many female chefs in the industry, just as much as men," she shares. "If you look back at the history of Thailand, it’s always females who are cooking, especially in the royal courts. In French cuisine, the men are the ones who are cooking for the king, but in Thailand, it’s the females who do that job. I cooked for the princess once, a long time ago."
Working in close contact with local farmers is profoundly important to Chef Bo Songvisava, while her advocacy for taking care of produce is a valuable lesson that she inherited from Amanda Gale, who, together with David Thompson, planted Chef Bo firmly on the culinary map. "If David Thompson taught me the foundations of Thai food and how to cook Thai food essentially, Amanda taught me how to love the produce," Chef Bo says. What I get from Amanda, I combine with David."
Today, the Thai chef continues to be one of the industry's most highly admired figures. For Chef Bo, whose career never lets her stay in one place for too long, it grounds her to zone in solely on the food. "I don't live up to others' expectations, I only live up to my own. If I think this is the correct way to do it, then this is how I like it to be."