Paroxysm in food

Working for three years in Cambodia can leave you feeling a little detached from the outside world.

When it comes to your own growth as a professional chef I can’t stress enough how important the inspiration that you receive from your fellow peers is.

Simple things that you might take for granted when living in a more developed country did not exist for me in Cambodia when I worked there. Taking the time to visit suppliers (local markets were awesome in their own right but I am talking more about the more modern food movement) or reading food magazines were pretty much out for me. Parcels from my folks via the Khmer mailing system would take months to arrive, so a glossy magazine with pretty pictures of food were out too. You could pretty much forget about attending food expos and dining at others restaurants. Let alone the simple pleasure of meeting up with like minded cooks at a local bar after a difficult days service and drinking the night away while discussing the differences in an egg cooked at 63°C versus one cooked at 64.5°C. All very exciting and important stuff but an after work conversation was more likely to be on the lines of “Hey Pascal where the fuck can I get some butter? You got any butter? Don’t lie to me now, Sophea said you had some”

Luckily I was surrounded by a few (read two other chefs) and I was lucky enough to work with one of them . The French national "Jo". (check out his second cook book here his first is only available in French)

J-Lo from the Block.jpg

Sure we created some cool stuff, that we are both still proud of.

That both didn't stop us at the time from wanting to know how did that crazy little fucking Spanish chef do that?

While valium, xanax, heroin and mangosteens were readily available to us, Iota, xanthan or methocellulose was not.

My only real contact with the international cooking scene was through a very slow slow and unreliable internet connection (Think $300 USD a month for a service barely faster than dial up).

That’s when I came across Ideas in Food.

Thankfully because of Aki’s and Alex’s generous sharing of ideas via their blog from early ‘05 until now it has allowed me to feel as though I might be able have a small understanding of the latest techniques floating around the culinary world.

So whilst in NYC, why not take the F train from Manhattan and spend a day catching up on some new techniques?

So it came to pass that when Maytel and I decided to go to New York for a holiday I would take a day off from eating oysters, hamburgers and the likes and spend the day in Queens.

So like a true fanboy, I found myself mid morning inside the cutest little house on the sweetest little street about million miles away from the complete normaility of life in Bangkok, the city that I currently call home. I spent an amazing, eye-opening six hours with two extremely lovely and passionate people.


When I arrived we chatted over donuts and coffee about this and that, then Alex plated up an incredibly pure tasting artichoke dish that he had been working on, this set the tune for what really was an amazing day.


From this tiny, but crazily-equipped, kitchen we ran through the topics that I really wanted to become more familair with.





Some whipped products. No, those are not egg whites.



To some fruit glueing.






Like all good chefs they offered the perfect lunch.


Then we ended the day with some other variations on pectin.


What I loved about watching Alex work was other than the fact that he was mad excitable, he also couldn't help but let his true chefiness slip out. Although we both tried to be on our best behaviour as this was the first time we had met face to face Alex was swearing like a trooper towards the end of our session. I have worked in four different countries and all chefs seem to behave the same way if not for swearing then maybe a good dick joke, why is that?

Alex and Aki were right. After the days class was through my way of thinking about food would be different. They could not have been more right.

The days experimenting wasn't perfect mind you.

After not allowing the above pectin bath to cool properly the little sauce orbs didn't come out the way they should have. "Don't do that, wait for the bath to cool" was Alex's advice.

"Do you make many mistakes or have many failures?" I asked.

"I fuck up all the time" he replied.

I personally hope to be fucking up over the next two months and have high hopes for next year too.

Here is the shopping list that I am currently working on.

Activa YG
Liquid Nitrogen local supply?
Liquid Nitrogen Dewar small shallow dish
Liquid Nitrogen Dewar holding 25 - 30 ltrs
Pacojet coup Blade set
New and larger chamber vacuum machine
Plastic acetate strips
Pectin LM
Pectin LMA
Fruit powders
Methocel A15C
Methocel F50 
Maltrin M100 Maltodextrin
Calcium Lactate
Locust Bean Gum
Calcium Glunconate
Calcium Lactate
Carrageenan (Iota)
Carrageenan (Kappa)
Kelcogel Gellan Lt-100 (elastic)
Kelcogel Gellan F (Firm)


    LoL about the lunch.
    Very exciting, and inspiring post.
    How cool that their kitchen looks so normal (on first glance)

    Good luck with your list to Santa Claus!


    You guys are really pulling out all stops here at Gut Feelings. I should start pulling my weight instead of just swanning around in the mainstream press.


    Nice entry, Hock; you're a good writer. So when are you going to whip me up a dish of warm, frothy Methocel A15C?


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