Interviews

Suree Coates, The King & Thai

We talk to the chef of The King & Thai restaurant in Broseley, Shropshire.

What inspired you to become a chef?
During my younger years I, like many Thai girls, was taught how to cook at school. This included the basics and how to cater for larger numbers of people. On leaving school I progressed into further education where the food course included everything from hygiene to decorative fruit carving. I knew that cookery would be my path because I enjoyed watching people eat the dishes I’d produced.

What would you be doing if you weren't a chef?
Buying and selling property. I love buildings and doing them up, so I could have been a developer. I guess I develop dishes in the kitchen instead. It’s less lucrative, but more fun.

What's your favourite junk food?
I like sweet things – chocolates, sweets, puddings.

What food could you not live without, and why?
Thai food. I love the freshness and how it makes you feel. Creating it is like a therapy. Flaming and the stirring of the wok is also therapeutic.

What is the vital ingredient for a successful kitchen?
Passion. It gets you through a long, hot and stressful service. But you can help relieve the stress with good organisation – and a bit of laughter.

What’s your favourite dish on your menu?
Beef massaman. Beautiful local Shropshire beef, slow cooked with fragrant herbs, spices and seasonal vegetables. Our customers love it. It’s so colourful, too.

How do you start developing a new recipe?
I get inspired from dishes I eat and by reading lots and lots of cookbooks from all around the world. There are some wonderful chefs with amazing talent, but at the end of the day it has to come from within your own heart and soul to go on your own menu. I love the reaction of the customers when they try my dishes, and keep coming back for more.

If you could cook for anyone, who would it be, and what would you cook for them?
My dad and my grandmother. She taught me a lot and encouraged me to cook for the monks in the village, which is how I started my passions for the land and flavours. She loves real food with deep flavours.

Who is the most interesting person you have cooked for?
It was actually a group of people in Spain. We were visiting my husband’s mother and some Spanish friends who share our love of food. They brought me some fresh fish from the coast, and I infused Thai herbs with Spanish ingredients. We cooked the fish in the open air on a charcoal griddle. The flavours were amazing and so fresh.

What is the strangest request you have had from a diner?
I was asked to cook a vegetarian curry, but they didn't like vegetables, so I created a curry with cashew nuts, lemongrass and chilli, and they loved it.

Which chef do you most admire at the moment?
Any chef or domestic cook who shares my passion for food.

And finally, tell us something about yourself that will surprise your diners
I would have liked to have been an architect! I have always been fascinated by buildings and structures. I even studied it at school, but my belly kept telling me to cook and eat.

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