Chef Pichaya “Pam” Soontornyanakij, a well-known figure in Thailand’s culinary scene, has been named Asia’s Best Female Chef for 2024 by Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. Chef Pam is the chef-patron of the Michelin-starred restaurant Potong, which debuted at No. 35 on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2023. The award recognizes women in the gastronomy industry who demonstrate excellence through their skills, expertise, and creativity.
Chef Pam expressed her gratitude for the award and acknowledged the hard work of her team. She emphasized that the award is not just for her but represents the dedication and effort of her entire team, particularly at Potong, where the majority of the kitchen staff are women. She hopes that the award will inspire her team to continue striving for excellence and fulfilling their own culinary dreams.
Chef Pam credits her culinary influences to figures such as Julia Child, who pushed the boundaries of French cuisine in America and had a significant impact on the industry. Her mother, who always cooked at home, is another inspiration, as she instilled in Chef Pam a love for cooking. Chef Pam sees her current work as a way of fulfilling her mother’s own culinary aspirations.
Chef Pam honed her skills at the Culinary Institute of America and gained experience at Jean-Georges restaurant in New York before returning to Thailand. She established The Table, a private dining experience that garnered recognition from local and regional gastronomes. With the opening of Potong in 2021, Chef Pam brought her Thai-Chinese heritage to the forefront, offering a 20-course Thai-Chinese tasting menu that focuses on the five senses and five elements. Potong is situated in a traditional shophouse that formerly housed her family’s Chinese herbal medicine business, blending Sino-Portuguese architecture with contemporary elements.
Apart from Potong, Chef Pam also owns the multi-outlet restaurant Smoked, which showcases her passion for BBQ. She has a strong presence in Thailand’s culinary scene, making television appearances and participating in empowerment programs.
Chef Pam recently launched the Women For Women (WFW) scholarship program in collaboration with the American Women’s Club of Thailand (AWC). The program aims to support female students in rural areas of Thailand who aspire to become chefs. Through the WFW Scholarship program, one aspiring female chef will have the opportunity to gain valuable experience and start her culinary career through a one-year internship at Potong. The program also raises funds to help disadvantaged females in rural areas access university-level education.
Chef Pam advises aspiring female chefs to stay focused and not be deterred by failures, as they are part of the journey to success. She believes it is important to increase diversity in the workplace and embrace gender differences. Recognitions like the Asia’s Best Female Chef award empower and inspire female chefs to push boundaries and pursue their dreams.
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