We may have varied responses to the question: how many chefs does it take to change a lightbulb?
Despite the little joke, in August last year Bangkok witnessed that it took only 19 of them to raise some 12 million baht in one evening for the improvement in the quality of lives and education of hundreds schoolchildren around the country. And, though it might sound too saccharine a sentiment, that's simply because they all have truly charitable hearts.
Eleven weeks from now, the City of Angels will experience a repeat of this magnanimity.
Presided over by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, the 2012 Bangkok Chefs Charity Gala Dinner is scheduled for Friday, August 17, at the Royal Ballroom of the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok.
The event, which was initiated in 2009 and has successfully maintained its philanthropic hallmark for four consecutive years, expects to indulge 370 guests with a nine-course, wine-pairing gourmet dinner prepared by a team of top chefs in order to raise funds and extend its continued support to underprivileged students nationwide. To make the event even more fruitful and memorable, this year it will enjoy the kitchen camaraderie of 22 highly respected chefs from Thailand's most prestigious hotels as well as Thai Airways International.
The grand menu for 2012, though presented with more modern touches, will continue to highlight the genuine flavours of the prime-quality ingredients, according to the Mandarin Oriental's executive chef Norbert Kostner, who has been leading the culinary team since its inception.
Nuntiya Hame-Ung-Gull, general manager of Gourmet One, a fine food supplier and initiator of the Bangkok Chefs Charity Gala Dinner; Ittipol Wittjitsomboon, F&B manager of the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok; executive chef Norbert Kostner of the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok; and Patcharin Hame-Ung-Gull, general manager - operation of Gourmet One.
This year will see, for example, grilled Atlantic lobster accompanied by macadamia nut pillar and Australian bush lime salad; slow-cooked Les Dombes quail with fleur de sel financier and pistachio oil La Tourangelle; porcini and chestnut cappuccino soup with roasted chicken oyster; and a duo of ambassador lamb with a hint of smoke and red Burgundy and new potato gratin (see the complete wine-pairing menu plus four canapes on page 9).
''While we are following some universal trends, we have to make sure that our guests are highly satisfied. We cannot conform to extreme fashions when it comes to cuisine,'' Chef Norbert explained.
''We still have to respect our diners and also our ingredients. As the Italian people usually say, elegance is in simplicity, so we have to use the best of our cooking skills with the best ingredients so that they can bring out their natural flavours.''
The affair will also present all 22 chefs working in pairs according to their nationality or region. This novel concept is designed to ensure that all the guests taste dishes that truly represent the distinct culinary culture and influences of their origins.
''Although the chefs' cooking styles may vary according to their native regions and the seasonal materials they use, the fact that this year there are a good number of young chefs participating promises that we will also enjoy new innovative cooking techniques from around the world,'' said Nuntiya Hame-Ung-Gull, general manager of Gourmet One, a fine food supplier and initiator of the event.
Of course, the most extravagant dinner of the year can not turn out superbly without great support by the food and beverage team of the venue host.
''Since we have as many as 22 chefs going through a lot of behind-the-scene challenges and putting in their passion, effort and extraordinary skills to come up with wonderful creations, we cannot afford to compromise such high value by presenting them in a less than perfect setting. It's our job to deliver the food in as perfect a packaging as possible,'' said Ittipol Witjitsomboon, the Mandarin Oriental's food and beverage manager.
To ensure each course will come out faultlessly, all 110 service staff attending the event have been hand-picked from all the hotel's outlets, he said.
''To attend to 370 A-list guests at the same time is always a challenge. But practice makes perfect, I believe.
''So although all of our service personnel are professional and regarded as tip-top, we still have to rehearse. At least we must have one big rehearsal so the staff can be familiar with the floor plan and table positions, just like when we expect to have a state visit.''
Ittipol added that with seven types of wine and 2,100 wine glasses, for example, the service team simply can't afford to take wine serving for granted.
''We have a wine butler team to take special care of the matter, while I will coordinate between the kitchen, the bar, the dining hall and the stage to ensure that the overall picture comes out perfectly,'' he said.
The F&B manager said that with the Mandarin Oriental's 136-year reputation of five-star service and the fact that the average length of career experience of its employees is 16 years, if some mistakes do happen, they will be smoothly taken care of by the good sense of the highly skilled staff.
''Every year we use our new flaws as a ladder to raise our standards,'' Ittipol said.
''We can not stay still while the world is evolving so speedily. So while the food and service are world class, we have to make sure that the ambiance is top-notch too.''
Decked out in a theme of white and blue to symbolise childhood purity and a bright-sky future, the dining hall will be lulled by sweet tunes courtesy of blind pianist extraordinaire, Yuttana Srimoonchai, who will take turns with the Krungthep Light Orchestra in providing melodies throughout dinner.
As significant as the graceful air of the dining venue is what is what will go on in the kitchen. Certainly, as the F&B manager suggested, on top of the 22 executive chefs and their assistants, the kitchen will take in more than 100 members of the Mandarin Oriental's kitchen crew. However, the reason why they are there is more important than the number of them, Ittipol said.
''It's definitely a rare opportunity for anyone to observe this many executive chefs from different five-star hotels working together and sharing their know-how'' he said.
''So for our crews, it's a once-in-a-lifetime chance to learn, in their own kitchen, from many chefs at once as well as to take part in this grand charity affair.''
As in past years, the highlight of the evening will be a series of chef auctions to raise further funds which will go directly to HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's Border Patrol Police Schools Foundation.
Another portion of the funds will benefit underprivileged schoolchildren in remote schools in Chiang Mai province.
Last year, with the 12 million baht raised, the event's committee donated 10 million baht to the foundation and spent the remainder helping people affected by the flood. Four motorboats were donated to the Provincial Police Legion to help flood victims in Ang Thong province. Meanwhile, more than 10,000 flood relief supply bags were delivered by the event's committee members as well as the chefs to deluge victims in Bang Yai and Thawiwattana districts.
''This year, apart from the amount that we are going to donate to HRH's foundation, we also plan to support six needy schools in Omkoi, six hour's drive from Chiang Mai town,'' said Patcharin Hame-Ung-Gull, the other half of the Gourmet One sibling team.
''With help from the national school district, we've undertaken research and found that those schoolchildren were living in poverty. Their classrooms, if you call a ramshackle hole-in-the-roof structure a classroom, were in very poor condition.
''So the money we raise will help to improve the school facilities _ the classroom, the kitchen and the toilets _ and the living quality of the children. We will provide each school with a proper water-filter system and a playground.
''Also we will supply teaching equipment for the teachers and stationery and other items for the students. Anything that will help improve their educational quality we would definitely support. We will provide what is needed.''
As an organiser, Patcharin said she is not really in a position to claim whether this event is world class.
''It has to be defined by the guests and everyone who takes part in the event. All I can say is that everyone in the operating team has always put all their passion, faith and effort into this special ongoing project. And the fact that the tickets have been booked several months in advance and that most of those attending are returning guests has given us great encouragement and we would like to thank all of them for that.''
THE TOP CHEFS, THE EPICUREAN MENU, THE FINE WINES
For its fourth edition, the 2012 Bangkok Chefs Charity Gala Dinner & Auction, at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok on Aug 17, sees 22 executive chefs from five-star hotels in Bangkok, Pattaya and Chiang Mai and one from Thai Airways International, blending together their culinary expertise to create an epicurean nine-course menu for the evening.
They've been working on the nine-course menu in teams of two, except for the canapes and hors d'oeuvres, which has a team of four chefs presenting a nice selection of delicious items.
Each dish will be paired with some of the finest wines provided free of charge by suppliers with charitable hearts _ Wine Gallery, Italthai, Wine Dee Dee, Canpac Beverages, Vanichwathana, G Four, Italasia and Siam Winery.
Here, from the canapes to starters and main courses and desserts is the full epicurean offering that guests at the 2012 Bangkok Chefs Charity Gala Dinner & Auction can look forward to.
Atlantic lobster, Hass avocado, macadamia nut pillar, coral lobster mayonnaise with Australian bush lime salad and brown miso vinaigrette.
CANAPES & HORS D' OEUVRES
Hokkaido scallop tartare with kalamata olives served with mascarpone mango sauce Cauliflower puree served with rougie smoked ''magret de canard'' Brandade de morue with citrus flavour, coriander and tomato confit Foie gras egg royal with tofu and shiitake mushroom Modern mieng kham, spicy meringue with green mango and crispy lemongrass Leek and potato mousse in black truffle jelly on sour toast Chilled duck liver soup in red Porto bonbon.
The champagneLouis Roederer, Brut Premier, Reims, France (by Wine Gallery).
The chefs Freddy Schmidt, Conrad Bangkok Vladimir Siljegovic, Siam Kempinski Hotel Dominique Bugnand, Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai Santo Zoppis, Thai Airways International.
STARTER Sweetcorn panna cotta, gazpacho mirror with crab escabeche.
The wine Sauvignon Blanc,
Discovery Point 2009, Marlborough, New Zealand (by Italthai).
The chefs Leslie Stronach, InterContinental Hotel
Mark Hagenbach, Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel.
FIRST COURSE Atlantic lobster, Hass avocado, macadamia nut pillar, coral lobster mayonnaise with Australian bush lime salad and brown miso vinaigrette.
The wine Pouilly-Fume, Domaine Blondelet 2007, Loire Valley, France (by Wine Dee Dee).
The chefs Paul Hoeps, Centara Grand & Bangkok Convention Centre at CentralWorld Michael Hogan, JW Marriott Hotel, Bangkok.
A spicy meringue with green mango and crispy lemongrass canape.
SECOND COURSE Slow cooked Les Dombes quail supreme pistachio and fleur de sel financier, red grapes and flax seed bonbon, simple jus with pistachio oil La Tourangelle.
The wine Tavel Rose, E. Guigal 2009, Rhone Valley, France (by Canpac Beverage).
The chefs Philippe Gaudal, Landmark Hotel Pierre Andre Hauss, Grand Millennium Sukhumvit Hotel.
THIRD COURSE Pan seared foie gras, rhubard and apple compote, Port jus, citrus brioche.
The wine Pinot Gris, Omaka Springs 2007, Marlborough, New Zealand (by Wine Gallery).
The chefs Nicolas Schneller, Four Seasons Hotel, Bangkok Frank Bohdan, Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok.
FOURTH COURSE Porcini and chestnut cappuccino soup with roasted chicken oyster and wild mushroom mousse on crispy sunflower bread.
The chefs Aurelien Poirot, Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit Thibault Chiumenti, Plaza Athenee Bangkok, a Royal Meridien hotel.
FIFTH COURSE River prawns and pumpkin ravioli, red curry and coconut foam, hot coriander jelly, De Cecco organic extra virgin olive oil.
The wine Gewurztraminer, Leon Beyer 2010, Alsace, France (by Vanichwathana).
The chefs Jose Martin Ruiz Borja, Renaissance Bangkok Ratchaprasong Hotel Michael Gremer, Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit Hotel.
Porcini and chestnut cappuccino soup with roasted chicken oyster and wild mushroom mousse on crispy sunflower bread.
SORBET Refreshing pomegranate and fresh summer raspberry sorbet.
The chefs Andrian W. O'Herlihy, Dusit Thani Pattaya Spencer Kells, Sheraton Pattaya Resort.
MAIN COURSEA President's lamb duo _ shoulder slowly braised with a hint of smoke and Burgundy red wine and the loin roasted in aromatic herbs, natural pan-jus, confit Nicois, plum tomatoes, new potatoes gratin.
The wine Chateau Fonroque, 2006, St-Emilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux, France (by G Four).
The chefs Norbert Kostner, Mandarin Oriental Bangkok Erwin Eberharter, Dusit Thani Bangkok.
DESSERT Gateau au Valrhona chocolat Saveures: sour for the cedar, bitter for the cocoa, sweet for the mousse.
The wine Muscat Late Harvest, Monsoon Wines special label ''Bangkok Chefs Charity 2011'', Hua Hin, Thailand (by Siam Winery).
The chefs Nicolas Vienne, Sofitel So Bangkok Leonardo Concezzi, St Regis Bangkok.
COFFEE & PETITS FOURS Selection of fine teas and coffee Petits fours and mignardises.
CognacMoyet ''Fins Bois'' Cognac, France (by Italasia).
About the author
- Writer: Vanniya Sriangura
Position: News Reporter