Where are you from?
I was born in Chachoeng Soa near Bangkok – where the best mangoes in Thailand are grown. But I've lived for over 20 years overseas in Europe – in Brussels and Paris. My husband is from Belgium and he handles all the business side of things; the kitchen is my field of expertise.
When did you move to Phuket?
I'm based in Bangkok, but I do travel back and forth to Phuket. My son, Kim, lives there with his family and he also runs 'the mansion', which we opened four years ago.
Tell us something about your work
Apart from the actual cooking my work also involves a lot of travel promoting Thai food. The government is active in this area and I've been invited by the TAT, MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and DITP (Department of International Trade Promotion) to promote Thai cuisine worldwide.
Also, we have cooking classes designed to explain the 'secrets' of Thai cuisine and sometimes I attend food seminars tool. Recently, I was invited to attend a food seminar in Hat Yai and tasted Southern Thai cuisine, which is extremely spicy! I discovered some interesting dishes and totally love the flavours. It makes me want to promote southern Thai cuisine even more in my restaurant and worldwide!
You also promote what some term as 'forgotten' Thai dishes
That's right – some of the older dishes we like to serve up at Blue Elephant date from the time when Rama II was on the throne, before coconut milk was used in recipes. As a result, they're quite different. Examples include tumi curry with giant grouper – a Penang-influenced sweet and sour curry with dahla flowers, okra and cucumber. And then there's one of the oldest dishes around, gaeng som, another sour dish with no coconut milk. In fact it may be the oldest Thai dish.
Is Thai food actually good for you?
Of course, but you have to be sure to have the freshest of ingredients. People sometimes say it's too sweet and therefore unhealthy, but if you use natural palm sugar and make the right choice of oil it's extremely healthy.
Is the Phuket Branch of Blue Elephant different from other branches?
Yes! We're lucky to have an organic garden, where we grow local herbs and spices which we use in our cuisine. And we're located in the eight rai grounds of this amazing historical mansion, which gives us the chance to create magical events such as weddings and corporate events. Once my son, Kim, even organised an elephant polo game in our garden.
So each branch worldwide is different?
Slightly so; in some places sourcing food can be more difficult than others.
How old are you and do you have any children?
I'd rather not tell my age, but I do have three children: my eldest daughter, Sandra, and two sons, Kim and Kris. My eldest son Kim runs this Phuket Blue Elephant branch.
Where do you live in Phuket?
I usually stay with my son, his wife and my six-year-old granddaughter, Shanaya, in Chalong.
Do you own a house or rent one?
We're looking at buying a 'dream house' or a piece of land. In the meantime, my son rents the house he lives in.
What do you like most about Phuket?
Oh, it's far more relaxing than Bangkok. Here, the traffic's pretty heavy but not as bad as Bangkok – and at least you can have the chance to go and relax on a beach. And I really feel at home here in Phuket. The locals, especially in Phuket Town, are so friendly.
Do you have any favourite restaurants here in Phuket?
Yes, I have a few. When I miss Belgian food, I go to the Brasserie where the owners are very friendly. And I love to buy fresh seafood, grill it and eat on the beach.
What school do your kids go to?
One of my sons is studying hotel management at the Prince of Songkla University here in Phuket and my granddaughter goes to HeadStart International School.
How do you evaluate success?
Success for me is a team thing, with everyone pulling together in unity. I like working in a team and leading people in a gentle sort of way but defi nitely working together. We have many branches in many different locations and we couldn't do this sort of thing without a large degree of teamwork. That's success.
What do you do in your free time, if you have any?
Well, as I said, I travel a lot and that takes up a lot of my time, but I enjoy spending time with my granddaughter, Shanaya. She's very creative, loves to dance – and also to cook!
For more information
Blue Elephant Governor Mansion
Tel: +66 76 354355-7