Executive Chef at The St. Regis Bangkok
He started collecting restaurant menus at the age of 6. He had his first job with a Michelin-star chef at 18. He’s now 35, and he’s living and sharing his passion for food and wine in Thailand’s capital.
By Anita Zaror
Some children grow up knowing that one day they want to become a chef. Others don’t know what they will do after graduating from school, and they take a six-week internship in a golf club, where they spend 14 hours a day washing salad and peeling carrots under the supervision of a Michelin-star chef, only to realize they actually like being in the kitchen and decide to make a career out of it. Such is the case of chef Bastian Mantey.
Nowadays, Bastian doesn’t cook as much as he did during those six or seven years he spent working for Michelin-star restaurants in Europe. Being the executive chef of The St. Regis Bangkok hotel, a post he has held since February 2013, requires more time managing and training the kitchen staff than standing in front of the stove.
Although Bastian loves cooking at home, he finds a lot of competition for his own kitchen here in Thailand. “When you have a day off, there are so many good restaurants, and the street food … there are so many spots to explore. I’ve been here only nine months and I haven’t even seen 10 percent of what I want to see,” he says. When he cooks, however, his favorite places to buy groceries are Villa Market, Tops, and Gargantua, a French butchery in Silom that produces its own sausages, pâtés, and rillettes. And although in these markets—or through suppliers specializing in products from France, Italy, Spain, Germany, and all over the world— he finds many of the flavors he couldn’t normally do without, there is one that he misses: pumpernickel bread from his hometown, in the northwest of Germany, which back home he would eat with butter and air-dried ham.
– Leaving aside being in a corporate environment where you have to follow a certain style, what is your preferred line of cooking?
It’s European cuisine, definitely – south of France cuisine or French techniques. But then I like to cook with fruits in the starters, in the main course, doing salsas, or chutneys. I see fruits as a kind of vegetable, and I love them because they bring freshness into the dishes.
Amazed by the color and sweetness of the tropical fruits he found while working in Maldives, Kuala Lumpur, and Bali, Bastian started incorporating papaya, watermelon, and mangoes into his dishes when he lived on the Indonesian island. “I love the fruits you can find here, and combining this with traditional techniques and the best of every product is my guideline.”
An oenophile, he claims Thailand doesn’t have a good enough selection of wines available. “The good entry wines from the States, or Europe, or Chile cost so much money here, or you’re not even getting them because they wouldn’t sell—no one would pay USD 100 for wine that costs USD 10 to 15. In terms of variety of grapes, you can find everything, but for ridiculous prices. But because I love it so much, I pay USD 50 to 70 for a bottle of wine that normally is USD 15 to 25; every time it’s a little bit insane, but I always do it, because I don’t want to miss it […] I’m a big Champagne lover as well, so I go for the Champagne, but …” and he sighs again at the cost.
– So you drink with pain, then.
No, no, I don’t drink with pain; I order with pain.
Like other food and beverage professionals, Bastian foresees that the new tax structure on alcohol implemented by the Thai government will affect the hospitality sector. However, for those like him who refuse to leave Dyonisus’ side, he suggests fresh and fruity wines to pair with Thai food. One such wine is Riesling, Germany’s flagship varietal.
Because his family liked to dine out, since he was around 6 years old Bastian started collecting restaurants menus, and he had around 600 at some point. Now he collects mugs and, although only 50 of them are here with him in Bangkok, he still keeps the other 250 back in his hometown.
There is no doubt about his passion for food and drink. But as much as he loves wine, guests and visitors of the restaurants at The St. Regis Bangkok are fortunate that the six-week internship that led him to the success he has achieved at 35, was not pouring wine, but rather washing salad and peeling carrots.
(all of these wines are available in Thailand):
Papaya salad (som tam) + Riesling, Dr. Loosen, Mosel Valley, Germany
It’s “off dry,” so it works well with chili. Indelible lemon and lime edges are the perfect match for the salad.
Green curry + Sauvignon Blanc, Cloudy Bay, Marlborough, New Zealand
Nectarine and lemongrass tone; fresh and focused, with ripe citrus and mineral notes that go well with the curry.
Thai crispy pork belly (moo krawp) snack + Pinot Noir, Hemel en Aarde Valley, Hamilton Russel Vineyards, South Africa
A focus on heavy fruits and just a little barrique, which works very well with the crispy pork skin.