He’s finally graduated.
Kitsanin “Bright” Thanyakulsajja arrived in the Netherlands in 2015 ready to focus on his bachelor’s in humanities. Instead, he ended up serving omakase menus in his dorm room and going viral for it. Now he runs a sushi bar in a five-star hotel, plans to open his own restaurant and is about to star in a documentary series about culinary rebels. He tells us how it all unfolded.
Being self-trained, how do your skills stack up in a professional kitchen?
There are certainly limitations of being self-trained, but being in Amsterdam means that I’m the only one doing omakase—other chefs are still doing casual sushi. If I were in Bangkok or Tokyo, I don’t think my level would be high enough to open a full-fledged omakase restaurant quite yet.
“Being in Amsterdam means that I'm the only one doing omakase.”
What did you learn from your dorm room days?
Resourcefulness mainly, but it’s also a feedback loop—you have to start with a certain resourcefulness and self-reliance to begin a concept like this in the first place. In my dorm room, it was my personal space and so people were much more ready to listen to what I had to say. Now that I’m running my project in a hotel, people walk in with a more classical sense of what sort of hospitality this type of dinner should come with.
How did you source your ingredients?
I started using ingredients from the market. As I started doing more and more fine dining, I got to know more chefs and they connected me with their suppliers. So, I was using the same bracket of ingredients as these Michelin-starred restaurants, which was quite an absurd experience.
Tell us about your upcoming restaurant.
The deadline that I’ve set for myself is June-July 2020. It will have a total of 15 seats—nine on my main bar and six on the secondary bar, which my assistants will run at a lower price. Both will be omakase with a focus on raw seafood, but I also want to expand on the use of European vegetables within the concept.
Any plans to open in Thailand?
At some point it would be cool to have my own place in Bangkok—for now, it’s more a fantasy than an actual plan. The problem is that the market is rather saturated for a form of dining that is supposedly meant to be niche. In Bangkok, we’ve got some superlatively skilled individuals, but we also have frozen farmed fish marketed as wild, aged Japanese imports sometimes. I might not be ready to handle this sort of post-truth consumption yet.
What’s the best/worst feedback you’ve received?
My guests are mostly without reference points, because omakase doesn't really exist in this country. So, they compare me to any form of exposure they’ve had with sushi, like all-you-can-eat and boxed sushi. They then believe that [mine] is the best sushi ever. I’m happy that they love it, but positive feedback doesn't carry much constructive weight to me.
Do you find it ironic that top chefs lined up to dine amongst broke uni students?
For students, it’s a question of priority. Most of the students who claim they’re broke could save up money for concerts and festivals, which cost more than a Michelin-starred meal. As for chefs, I do find it rather absurd. Usually you have to work for hundreds and thousands of hours to develop yourself to the point where top chefs would be interested in your place.