“The most selective global guide of restaurants, pastry shops and hotels, for gourmets and international travellers”, La Liste was launched in Paris in 2015 as a list of the 1,000 best restaurants in the world. It has since grown in reputation and expanded its repertoire.
On Sept 7, La Liste celebrated its first anniversary of the “World’s Best Pastry Shop Selection" in an inaugural global “Pastry Special Awards” in Paris, France. The first La Liste Pastry Special Awards, chosen to recognise outstanding talent, creativity, diversity, innovation and commitment had 11 categories and recognised 25 pastry chefs and owners across 15 countries.
Among them was Thai pastry chef-patron Dej Kewkacha of Kyo Bar, who was awarded “La Liste Pastry Talent Of The Year”, an award given to the most promising pastry chefs of the year (across bakeries, tea rooms and dessert restaurants).
Chef Dej first opened his food business at the age of 22 with his brothers, and now operates more than 50 F&B outlets, including one of Thailand’s most popular Japanese dessert cafés, Kyo Roll En. “But it’s Kewkacha’s passion project, Kyo Bar, that demonstrates his outstanding skill and creativity in the pastry field, marking him out as an exemplary talent, even though he is self-taught,” says La Liste. Kyo Bar serves an omakase dessert-only menu of Japanese and Thai ingredients, such as pear and black pepper “ravioli"; “Zen Garden” with sesame, white bean paste and cheese; and the chef's sweet interpretation of “BBQ”.
“I feel very proud to represent Thailand as La Liste is amongst the most prestigious awards in the world. To have shared the same stage, at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, with some of my idols like Pierre Here and Jordi Roca still feels very surreal. I’m self-taught but 15 years ago, I attended a masterclass by Herme and it inspired me more ways than one, especially to be daring in my flavour combinations. More importantly, I’m very happy that such an esteemed organisation like La Liste has given recognition to the art of pastry. We live in a world of awards and lists for restaurants and chefs but rarely do people talk about pastry and pastry chefs. I hope this will inspire more aspiring chefs to take up the art and craft of pastry, especially in Thailand,” chef Dej tells the Bangkok Post.
Kyo Bar and even Kyo Roll End have “no boundaries”; look no further than their mooncake selections. “I’m very much inspired and influenced by Japanese food and culture but lately, I’ve worked a lot more on local produce, especially Thai fruits. At their core, my desserts are ‘light, fresh and natural’ — I try to use as little sugar as possible and only work with fresh fruits instead of commercial purées, which are more ‘consistent'. I prefer to bring out the fresh and natural taste in fresh fruits and serve them ‘as it is’," emphasis chef Dej.
Another aspect of his desserts is to intentionally blur the line between sweet and savoury (try his banana and curry course). “I don’t run a restaurant but if I did, I wouldn’t put all desserts at the end — just like I do when I cook with other chefs in a tasting menu format. I see a bigger role for pastry chefs to play in modern day fine-dining restaurants — we can do more than just palate-cleansers, a main dessert and petit fours! For example, I’ve enjoyed creating desserts using curry, vegetables and even caviar — the sweet and savoury combination when done right is magical.”
The La Liste recognition for chef Dej is like “somebody is actually taking notice of what you’re doing”, he says. “I’ve been doing this for 16 years and never once had I imagined receiving any award. At the same time, I don’t think it will make much difference to me because I’ll just continue to do what I’ve been doing, which is serving and delighting my customers through my desserts at all my outlets, whether it is a piece of roll cake they are after or ‘dessert omakase’.”
Now that he is in even more of the limelight, chef Dej is busy relocating Kyo Bar to a new specialised location outside a shopping mall (the current location is in one of Bangkok’s swank shopping malls). “In the meanwhile, Kyo bar will become a pop-up at my new Jerome Cheesecake/Mont Blanc outlet in Thong Lor [Soi 13], which I will launch in early October. I will also partner with one of my best friends — a famous chef from Japan — to do a dessert concept in Thailand, which I aim to launch by the end of the year."
You first heard it here, folks!
Along with chef Dej, Eunji Lee of Lysée in New York; Mayada Badr of Pink Camel in Jeddah & Alula, Saudi Arabia; Tejasvi Chandela of Dzurt Patisserie & Café in Jaipur, India; and Ophélie Barès of Encore in Asnières-Sur-Seine, France were also awarded.
Pierre Hermé received the La Liste Pastry Award of Honor 2023, for his contribution to the industry, repositioning pastry as high art and reshaping the global pastry scene. Amaury Guichon, a Las Vegas-based pastry chef, was awarded La Liste World’s Most Creative Pastry Chef 2023, for his outstanding innovation, chocolate masterpieces and vast community of online pastry lovers.