Since opening her flagship Potong in a historic, multi-floor building overlooking Bangkok’s Chinatown in 2021, chef Pichaya ‘Pam’ Soontornyanakij has received accolades aplenty with Potong debuting on both Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants and the extended ranking of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2023. Her success comes after almost 15 years of hard work and sacrifice that have seen her grow from a young cook starting out in the Thai capital to an internationally recognised chef who is now inspiring new generations.
Originally trained in communications, Chef Pam turned to cooking when she felt she ‘didn’t belong’ in the journalism world and was inspired by her mother, a fantastic home cook. She enrolled in a weekend course that ignited her culinary juices and sparked a career that took her to New York’s Culinary Institute of America. From there, she worked under renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, before moving back to Thailand, where she established The Table restaurant and private dining experience.
It was in 2019, when her family’s 120-year-old Chinese herbal pharmacy building became vacant, that she found the location for Potong. Together with her husband and business partner, Tor Boonpiti, she took on an extensive renovation project to develop a multi-storey restaurant concept. Through Potong’s tasting menu, she tells stories of her family’s unique heritage through some 20 courses of progressive Thai-Chinese cuisine, which she champions through signatures like her five-spice, 14-day dry-aged duck. She also oversees the multi-branch casual restaurant Smoked, serving Texas-style barbecued meats.
With the spotlight gained through her restaurants and her role as a judge on Top Chef Thailand, Chef Pam strives for better representation for women in hospitality. She has teamed up with non-profit American Women’s Club of Thailand to create the Women for Women scholarship, awarding a culinary internship at Potong with full financial backing to one young woman per year from an underprivileged, rural Thai background. With her new title of Asia’s Best Female Chef 2024, Chef Pam is keen to inspire young chefs, teaching them that dedication and discipline are part of the recipe for success.
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