Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Follow the Chef: Charlie Jones, focusing on the basics

Everyone who has been living in Bangkok long enough should know Quince. I personally feel that it had an important part to play in the city's casual dining scene. It was one of the successful pioneers of offering a casual yet classy space that's equally adequate holding a family-style brunch in the day or a cool night out with close friends over some cocktails at night. It has held its ground pretty firmly over the last 5 or 6 years, and that's why they caught my attention when they recently put a 29-year old at the head of its kitchen.

quince bangkok
Charlie Jones
Enter, Charlie Jones, a local from Chiang Mai with a Thai mother and South African father, hoping to stamp his character on a menu at Quince (which needs to please everyone, given its highly-mainstream market positioning and its hordes of regulars). If his start is anything to go by, he's already on the right track. Take his braised-oxtail stuffed donut starter for example, it's not something we typically expect to appear on the table at Quince, but I feel it's going to become a firm favourite in no time.

Despite his young age, Charlie has already spent nearly an entire decade in the kitchen, being part of the opening team at Rocket in Bangkok, and having spent a few years in Singapore at Esquina then Maggie Joan's, before taking over at Quince.

However, he shared that most of his cooking philosophies were honed right at the beginning of his journey, at Elliot's, a cafe based in London's Borough Market, which creates its menu solely on the best ingredients found at the market daily. He learnt that the best cooking, is simply getting hold of the best produce and doing them justice. I love his philosophy, because it is close to my heart, and what I feel is the essence of good cooking.

Charlie is an absolute workaholic who devotes himself to the kitchen. He simply loves cooking. I can see him quietly staying away from the limelight and enjoy his life tending a simple eatery back in Chiang Mai, roasting chunks of meat over slow wood fires, serving a small number of customers every night who will leave wondering why food as "back-to-basics" as his can taste so unforgettable.

Speaking of limelight, the last Bangkok-based chef featured in this series is now BK's Young Chef of the Year. I am not one to make predictions, but I have a feeling it will be difficult for Charlie to run away from attention if he continues his natural progression in this cooking adventure of his, and that's not a bad thing.


"Follow the Chef" is a new blog series where I sit down face to face with chefs and help them tell you what they want to say, in their perspective. My inspiration for this series stems from the fast-changing dining landscape in Bangkok, which is both exciting yet confusing for consumers like us. Do we follow the restaurants, or follow the chefs? I hope I can help you make a better decision.

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