The living definition of a banner year.
Supaksorn “Ice” Jongsiri has had a stellar year. The executive chef’s southern Thai heavyweight Sorn cracked the top 10 in Top Tables, ranked in Asia’s 50 Best and most recently earned two Michelin stars. We sat down with the ever-so-humble Ice to discuss his personal relationship with food, southern Thai farmers and putting culture and sustainability into every bite.
What does earning two Michelin stars mean to you and your team?
It really means a lot to us and makes us feel so proud to offer what we do. It might not be the right way for some, but I always follow my heart. I put everything into Sorn, including a bit of my son’s college savings! Every single person at Sorn was at [my grandmother’s restaurant] Baan Ice before. The team has heart—maybe not culinary school training, but they know their food, their homes. They’re born with it. This is validation for us.
Can you talk more about your process at Sorn?
We travel all over the south. We cook from early morning to serve our dishes for just one seating a night—just like my grandma always did at Baan Ice. She would go to the market, prepare meals all day and then they would appear like magic on your table. You can taste the love she put into her food. Compared to that, skill doesn’t matter nearly as much.
What do you think your accomplishment means for Thai chefs on the global stage?
I can’t really say what others might be thinking, but our focus is our hometown. You won’t find us making pad Thai here—I don’t even know how to make it. I hope that other chefs will feel encouraged to cook the food they know.
How has your collaboration with head chef Yodkwan “Yod” U-Pumpruk benefited the restaurant?
Chef Yod and I went to school together since elementary school and he’s pretty much my best friend. We were the kids that chose cooking over playing football. When I opened the Thonglor branch of Baan Ice, Yod was working at a communications office, and I called him up and said, “Hey, come work with me. I need someone I can trust.” He agreed, and it completely changed his life. He’s a natural cook, and he cooked his way to becoming the head chef. I’m only at Sorn about three days a week, but Yod is here all the time. I’m a shy guy and don’t like to be in the front of the house, but after we got our first Michelin star, he encouraged me to put on my chef jacket and step out of my shell.
Why did you mention mangosteen farmers on stage at the Michelin reveal?
To be honest, I was so shocked when I got on stage that the only thing that crossed my mind was to thank the famers—especially the mangosteen farmers. There’s no demand for mangosteen. People are selling them at B3 per kilo, and the prices get lower until it comes to the point that they have to throw it all away. It brings me to tears. I try to use them as much as possible to make sauces. I put them in the curries. I use them at Baan Ice. And not because of the price. I do it to support these farmers who work so hard and because they are good.
How does local produce factor into your work at Sorn?
Sometimes our ingredients are 100 percent sourced from the south (all 14 provinces), but it’s safer to say about 90 percent because sometimes ingredients aren’t available. One beach in the south has the sand mole crabs we use; they’re delicious, but the fishermen were going to stop selling them because there was no demand. If we wait another five years, we won’t have these things to eat anymore. I don’t want these ingredients to disappear, so I work hard to maintain relationships with local farmers and fishermen. We talk a lot about food waste, but it’s just as serious to waste great produce that hasn’t been turned into dishes yet.
What do you think about the future of sustainability in Thailand?
It’s ancient knowledge for us. In the past, anything that wouldn’t be turned into food would be made into medicine, paint, beauty products. We just need to share these ideas and values—whether rich or poor—and appreciate our local produce more. The problem we have now is that farmers of good produce have to grow rubber to survive, because no one appreciates their products and they can’t sell them. I think there are many people and restaurants in Thailand that are pushing for change, though, and it’s inspiring. You see chefs who have built lifelong relationships with producers and restaurants that are aiming for a sustainable way of life. At Sorn, we use everything we can. When it’s not for our guests, we use it for staff meals. You would be surprised to see our garbage bin.
As diners, what’s our responsibility?
Go local, eat local, support local. Be the change.
What are some of your favorite restaurants in Bangkok?
How can we actually make a reservation at Sorn?
We have one incredible woman who not only handles the reservations, but also takes care of the front of the house. We open bookings one day a month and phone is the preferred method. We will set up a reservations page on our website in the future. We have a maximum capacity of 40 seats and only one seating [per night]. But do know our reservations process is always fair.