Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, Thailand
- P.O. Box 18, Chiang Saen Post Office, Chiang Rai 57150, Thailand
Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 2010
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Current
- Anantara Hua Hin Resort; JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa; The House Restaurant & Wine and Tapas Bar, Chiang Mai; Thai Africa Restaurant, South Africa; The Peninsula Hotel Bangkok; Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino, Saipan; Montien Riverside, Bangkok
- Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Thai, English
If destiny is like the toss of a coin, Pisan Torphet, Camp Chef at Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, believes that the coin is in your hands. “Whether the outcome is heads or tails, ultimately you’re the one with the power to choose your own destiny,” says Torphet.
A humble man with an infectious, warm-hearted smile, when asked what made him the way he is today, he replies, “I was born and raised in a poor, remote area of Chiang Mai province in the north of Thailand. The food I ate growing up was mostly leftovers from the monks at the local temple. I didn’t dare to think of sampling delicious food, nor had I ever had the opportunity to have any food preferences – liking or disliking food wasn’t something I’d ever thought of. Having something to fill my hungry stomach was already good enough.” In this situation, it would have been easy for Torphet to make some bad life choices and choose a darker path, but instead he chose to make his own destiny. He flipped that coin, and became what he is today – a very successful and highly talented chef.
Pisan set out on his culinary adventure when he was 17 years old at a restaurant in Bangkok where he accompanied his aunt to work as a dishwasher. But what was it that made him start cooking? “The kitchen was very busy all the time. The chefs really had their hands full. They produced the types of food that I’d never seen or tasted in my life. Even though I was also busy at my dishwashing station, I could not take my eyes away from their pots and pans and what they were making. The food fascinated me – its smell, its taste, its colour, everything.” Thorpet spent a few extra hours after his regular working hours in the kitchen to help the chefs, as well as to learn how to cook from them. His efforts paid off, as he was finally promoted to be the restaurant’s commis cook.
As Thorpet’s ambition grew, the hospitality industry started calling to him, and he joined one of the local Thai hotel chains in Bangkok, the Montien Riverside, as a commis cook. And in the hotel environment, he also had the chance to broaden his culinary experience by exploring something new to him – ice sculpture. “I’d never seen anything like it. It was fascinating to me to see block of ices crafted beautifully into different shapes.” Thanks to his fascination – and another flip of that coin of destiny - he won a gold medal at the Thailand Food Fair’s ice sculpting competition in 1995, and this created the opportunity for him to travel internationally a few years later.
Thorpet spent a few more years learning more about kitchen operations before he was recruited to work as a demi chef at Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino in Saipan in the Northern Marianas. “I had a dream to go abroad one day. I wanted to know what it felt like to get on an airplane. I had a lot of great fun working in Saipan, making friends from around the globe as well as improving my English.” He returned to Thailand a year later and continued his culinary adventure in many different places around the country and further afield, including Andaman Marine Ship, The Peninsula Hotel Bangkok, Thai Africa Restaurant in South Africa, The House Restaurant and Wine Bar in Chiang Mai, JW Marriott Resort & Spa in Phuket, and Anantara Resort in Hua Hin as executive sous chef, before joining Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle as Camp Chef.
“The North has always been my true home. My heart and my soul belong here,” says Thorpet when asked why he decided to join Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle. “Since the first day I left Chiang Mai 20 years ago I knew that I would definitely come back. I enjoy living close to the mountains, speaking in Kam Muang, the Northern Thai dialect, and I love eating Northern Thai food. And, of course, the chance to join the great team at Four Seasons Tented Camp was another reason for coming back home.”
Thorpet now oversees the Camp’s main restaurant, Nong Yao, as well as Burma Bar and all of the special, unique venues around the Camp for private dining, including the Wine Cellar, Elephant Camp, Camp Peak, in-tent dining, and jungle picnics. He also looks after the Camp’s organic garden that he helped put together along with the Camp’s gardening team, and he’s also involved with the new “Jungle to Table” foraging program and private cooking classes. “It’s great fun showcasing what we’ve grown in the garden to our guests. There are more than 200 kinds of fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices, all grown here onsite. We can also arrange cooking classes in the organic garden too.”
When asked what his favourite cuisine to cook is? Thorpet answers that “Both Western and regional cuisines are fine with me. I believe cooking is a kind of art. It gives you an opportunity to learn and to create. There’s no right or wrong, but it has to taste good.” And what about his favourite food to eat? “Northern Thai food, of course!” confirms Thorpet, with his brightest smile. “Taking advantage of living in the Golden Triangle, I really enjoy discovering local food in the area. I love driving with my family and my staff to Mae Sai, a town on the Thai-Burmese border, to eat the food and to chat with the local people. A very simple dish like larb gai, or spicy Thai chicken salad, tastes different there. You eat then learn something new from the local experts every time you try something.”
When asked what challenges him the most as Camp Chef, Thorpet doesn’t hesitate to answer. “Myself! I am lucky to have had the chance to work in many incredible places and to learn so many different things from many amazing people. And now, I ‘m working with a fantastic team in one of the best hotels in the world. I have to make sure I don’t disappoint any of the people who believe in me.”