Potong comes naturally when we talk about becoming an immediate success. The restaurant quickly earned One MICHELIN Star (MICHELIN Guide Thailand 2023), and now it has received the first-ever MICHELIN Opening of the Year award presented by UOB. The talented Chef Pichaya ‘Pam’ Soontornyanakij is here to share her stories, lessons, and never-ending dreams to inspire us all.
Where did you get the inspiration for Potong? What obstacles have you overcome?
"I want Potong to help revitalise it. It’s financially risky to be located in a slow zone. But now, I’m very happy that guests appreciate everything Potong does. I love the charm the historic Sampeng gives to Potong."
How do you feel about being the first recipient of Opening of the Year, alongside the MICHELIN Star you quickly earned?
"Potong’s idea is to 'capture memories' or create new ones for every guest through the 5 senses and 5 elements. Each dish is the result of complicated processes and ideas aimed at delivering newfound experiences. I also believe in retelling my ancestors' stories through food. When I received the award, it was so overwhelming that I cried. I’m grateful that MICHELIN sees and recognises what we have been trying to do."
What does this award mean to you?
"This award represents everything I have dreamt of my whole life. I always wanted to be a chef. My fondest memories were the time spent in the kitchen with my mum. I attended CIA (The Culinary Institute of America) and worked at New York’s Jean-Georges (which held three MICHELIN Stars at the time). I was always inspired by international chefs. I strived endlessly before being recognised with this award."
"I still get goosebumps every time I see the MICHELIN Guide Star plaque at my restaurant. It drives me to do better, to create something unique. I want Potong to become a destination for tourists visiting Thailand. I want them to leave with good memories and Potong imprints on them. I want my teams to become internationally recognized, and myself to represent female chefs. I believe, 'The only way to do great work is to love what you do.' I won’t stop here. This recognition fuels my desire to become even better."
“This award represents everything I dreamt of my whole life. I believe that the only way to do great work is to love what you do. I will not stop here. This recognition fuels my desire to become even better.”
As Potong opened during the COVID pandemic, what is your lesson from the outbreak?
“The pandemic taught us to not just adapt, but to do it fast. It also taught us kindness – both giving and receiving ends. We got help from fellow chefs, and we helped them back. We coped and overcame together. I think this is the most important takeaway.”
Do you consider yourself successful? What’s the secret behind Potong’s success?
“I don’t think I’m there yet. I achieved some of the dreams, but not the ultimate goal. I believe I can still strive for more.”
“Our team is what makes Potong a success. I trust that my team always does their best. From when customers just walk past our restaurant, to when they learn about us, to when they really come to dine, to when they leave, I cannot do everything alone. Teamwork, practice, and trust drive us to where we are and into the future.”
What do you value as a chef?
"Of course, Potong’s philosophy has 5 senses and 5 elements in everything. I want every guest to appreciate the memories we create. If we do it right, the experience will surely be whole. To sum it up in one word, the core value of a restaurant is the guest's happiness."
What’s the tip for chefs who look up to you?
“I’m thankful that I can be an inspiration. There’s this quote I’d love to share: 'Dreams are just a dream without a goal. You need to act.'"
What’s next for Potong?
“There are investors inviting Potong to expand overseas or branch out. I rejected them all because my idea for Potong remains unchanged. There is and will be only one Potong, here on Wanich 1. My commitment is to develop and drive Potong to the next level, to represent Thailand on international stages. I’m constantly active, and I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty. I always strive to create something exciting—things that elevate Thai food even further.
“For Potong, I insist on pushing it further. We’re working to enhance our menus as well as other aspects – drinks, services, ingredients, etc. Apart from the Made in Songwat project that was recently launched, I’m working with AWC Thailand to start a Scholarship for Female Chefs (WFW).
“Lastly, I believe Potong will put Thailand on the global map and become a decided destination."
Chef Pichaya ‘Pam’ Soontornyanakij is the first female to ever receive both a MICHELIN Star and the MICHELIN Opening of the Year award. She is a culinary consultant and a cooking reality show judge. Her commitment and talent, praised by diners, are recognised by the Opening of the Year Award presented by UOB.
The award honours chefs, owners, or managers whose restaurants become rising stars within 12 months of public opening. The establishments must showcase unique culinary creativity that sparks conversations throughout the domestic F&B industry. UOB is not only a financial service provider but also a friend to foodies and talents.
Illustration image: © Anuwat Senivansa Na Ayudhya/ MICHELIN Guide Thailand
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