Chef Pongtawat “Ian Kittichai” Chalermkittichai’s path to culinary success started from very humble beginnings in Bangkok. Every morning he would rise at 3am to accompany his mother to the wet market to select the best meats, seafood, and vegetables for her neighbourhood 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 neighbourhood 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, 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 organisation 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. From 2001 to 2014 he hosted the weekly cooking show Chef Mue Tong (The Golden Hand Chef), which could be seen in over 70 countries.
In 2004 Chef Kittichai relocated to New York and created Kittichai Restaurant. 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 Bazaar, 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 in Barcelona, Spain. Currently his Cuisine Concept Co., Ltd. has some of the most recognisable 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, a progressive Thai comfort food restaurant, with Chace Restaurant Group in New York City. 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, which in 2014 was listed as entry 31, in 2015 was listed as entry 39, in 2016 was listed as entry 19, and in 2017 is listed as entry 21 in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, sponsored by S. Pellegrino and Aqua Panna. 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 and placed third for the Best Cookbook of The Year 2014 by the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.
In November 2013 Chef launched Lamoon, a red wine he co-created with Jacobs Creek and Pernod Ricard to be paired with the variety of flavours in Thai cuisine. In May 2014 Chef opened Issaya Cooking Studio in partnership with Sub-Zero & Wolf appliances, as well as Issaya La Pâtisserie in Bangkok. In June 2014 he opened the sister restaurant of Hyde & Seek – Hyde & Seek Peek-A-Boo – in Bangkok. Also in June 2014 he opened his Asian gastro bar, Namsaah Bottling Trust, in Bangkok. In December 2014 he opened the third branch of Spot Dessert Bar in New York City. In June 2015 he opened a second branch of Issaya La Pâtisserie in EmQuartier Mall in Bangkok. In June 2016 he released a follow-up Issaya cookbook: La Pâtisserie Issaya Pastry Cookbook as well as a fourth branch of Spot Dessert Bar in Flushing, Queens.
Chef Kittichai 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 the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Thailand’s Department of Intellectual Property, and the Agence Francaise de Developpement honoured Chef as the first Asia Geographical Indication Ambassador. In September 2014, Chef Kittichai was appointed to InterContinental Hotels Group’s (IHG) Culinary Panel as a Culinary Ambassador, through which diners can enjoy a sampling of his signature dishes in IHG hotels around the globe. In February 2014 Chef took over the menu at Tangerine restaurant at the ESPA complex in Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore. In April of 2015, Chef Kittichai was awarded the designation of Officier de l’Ordre du Mérite Agricole by the French Republic for his outstanding contributions to gastronomy and agriculture. Chef Kittichai is the only Thai chef to have received the designation of Officier.
Chef can currently be seen as the lead judge on MasterChef Thailand. His upcoming restaurants and projects in development include a kitchen lab / training space / private event space in Bangkok, more branches of Spot Dessert Bar in the United States and various restaurant projects globally.