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Game Changers

Written by Gastronomer Lifestyle

Innovation issue, 2024

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As an indispensable guide to the inner workings of Thailand’s food scene, we believe that is it part of our duty to recognise the talented individuals and businesses that are propelling the industry forward. So, welcome to the first F&B Innovators List from Gastronomer Lifestyle. In this inaugural list, we highlight 22 individuals or brands excelling within five categories: Entrepreneurial Creatives, Conscious Leadership, Hospitality Pioneers, Empowering Educators, and Creative Design. Here’s what to expect from each category:

Beginning with Entrepreneurial Creatives, innovators in this group range from culinary artists to business owners and importers who are shaping the gastronomic landscape through a unique fusion of art, culture, and business acumen.

Next, in Conscious Leadership, we highlight the disruptors within the industry who not only stand for environmental stewardship through eco-friendly business practices but also use their ventures as vehicles for positive social change. From community-driven initiatives and fair-trade practices to collaborations with marginalised groups, these disruptors are leveraging the power of F&B to address societal challenges and create a positive impact on local communities.

In the following section, we honour the Hospitality Pioneers who are leading the charge in redefining the guest experience, experimenting with flavours, and pushing the boundaries of innovation within the realm of dining and drinking.

Empowering Educators are the ones reshaping the culinary or mixology landscape through knowledge, mentorship, and food-led learning. These visionary individuals are not only skilled experts themselves but are passionate about nurturing the next generation of talent.

Finally, in Creative Design, we spotlight innovators who go beyond the kitchen and business aspects, contributing to the gastronomic world through their unique approach to design. These individuals seamlessly integrate aesthetics, functionality, and innovation to shape the ambience, branding, and overall visual experience of their F&B establishments.

Entrepreneurial Creatives

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Pattira Phuksawan & Aman Sachdev

Pattira Phuksawan and Aman Sachdev, the visionary founders of The Wine Merchant, have successfully positioned their company as a prominent player in Thailand’s fine wine distribution scene. Renowned for their exceptional collaboration with top-tier winemakers worldwide, The Wine Merchant boasts a unique advantage of intimate rapport with esteemed vineyards, enabling them to secure prime allocations and present customers with an unparalleled selection of exquisite wines and rare gems—all at equitable prices. The duo’s focus extends beyond transactional success to brand building, recognising that longevity and market recognition are paramount. In March 2021, The Wine Merchant proudly inaugurated its flagship store at the prestigious Mandarin Oriental Bangkok. Functioning as more than just a retail space, the store offers a comprehensive wine concierge service, with expert specialists guiding enthusiasts through selections, and aiding in the establishment of personal wine collections. Expanding rapidly, The Wine Merchant has opened additional stores and “Tasting Rooms” in Sukhumvit, Langsuan, and Phuket over the past two years.

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Taln Rojanavanich

The dynamic group bar manager of Bar Us, Taln Rojanavanich is a driving force in Thailand’s evolving bar scene. Bar Us – The Drinking Room opened a year ago, offering a unique drinking course with cocktails segmented from starters to afters, each tailored to distinct styles. Known for her avant-garde approach to flavours, Talk’s previous success, Messenger Service Bar, thrived for four years as a speakeasy haven for experimentation, while Bar Us has quickly earned acclaim as Thailand’s best new bar, ranking seventh among the country’s top 20 bars for 2023 in the BKK Bar Show Bar Awards. (Messenger Service Bar secured the nineteenth position.) Rojanavanich envisions Bar Us as a transformative space, redefining the perception of bars in Thailand by emphasising the lifestyle aspect of food and beverage.

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Rohit Sachdev

CEO of Soho Hospitality, Rohit Sachdev has been at the helm of this pioneering F&B group and integrative creative studio since its establishment in Bangkok in 2010. Under his leadership, Soho Hospitality has become a trailblazer in innovative culinary and bar concepts, expanding its influence from Bangkok to Dubai and beyond. The group specialises in delivering end-to-end, experience-oriented hospitality concepts, highlighting well-known ventures like Soho Pizza, Above Eleven, and Havana Social. As an F&B professional in Thailand, Sachdev’s mission is threefold: to establish Soho Hospitality as a global leader in lifestyle F&B experiences, uplift the livelihoods of its employees, and ensure sustainable business practices. A significant accomplishment for Soho Hospitality is the international expansion of Above Eleven and ongoing negotiations for its other brands. Sachdev expresses immense pride in taking a Thai-grown brand to the global stage.

"Turk" Sitthan Sa-Nguanku

“Turk” Sitthan Sa-Nguanku, who kickstarted his career as a bartender at the renowned The Bamboo Bar, has evolved into one of Thailand’s foremost craft cocktail pioneers. His journey led to the establishment of syrups company Socrates Delicious, which was swiftly followed by the opening of Sugarray You’ve Just Been Poisoned, his inaugural cocktail bar, in 2013. As a prominent figure in the Thai cocktail bar scene, Turk has left an indelible mark on the industry, contributing to the success of other renowned bars like Q&A, Thaipioka, Alone Together, and Rimshot. Boasting an educational background in design, Turk has leveraged his skills to create some of the city’s most iconic and visually stunning venues. His impact extends beyond mixology, encompassing the aesthetics and ambience that contribute to the allure of these establishments and raise industry standards.

Conscious Leadership

Sonu and Eva Shivdasani

Operating in the Maldives and Thailand, Sonu and Eva Shivdasani’s Soneva is the exemplar of carbon-neutral luxury resorts that truly respect their environment rather than encroach upon it. Constructing their award-winning properties out of natural materials and building around the existing landscape, Soneva resorts, in addition to providing world-class guest experiences, are also respected for their waste-to-wealth operations, on-site drinking water production and organic farms, plastic ban, and numerous environmental rehabilitation programmes, including the preservation of endangered species in the areas the resort chain operates.
The luxury hotel chain has its own foundation—funded by the two per cent carbon levy on room revenue and drinking water profits—which is responsible for 500 projects to improve access to safe drinking water or basic sanitation in over 50 countries. In true sustainability championing spirit, The Soneva Foundation also activates other entities to contribute positive change in the world by hosting annual summits at their resorts and inviting scientists, business leaders, NGOs, policymakers, and other stakeholders to discuss pressing socio-environmental issues and solutions. Soneva has been setting an example for what hospitality businesses can do and should do.

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Samantha Häberli

One of the hard-to-swallow truths in gastronomy is that going plant-based is better for the environment, for our health, and, of course, for the animals. It’s a path many in the industry are unwilling to undertake. However, Earth House, led by vegan chef-owner Samantha Häberli, is a restaurant that’s not just championing the ethos but doing it in a way that makes plant-based cuisine more accessible to the hedonistic foodie. Using her background in nutrition, Sam and her Earth House team craft meatless recipes that are full of flavour, texture, and protein to ensure that their guests leave feeling just as satisfied as they would from their regular non-vegan spots—if not more. In addition, the restaurant has partnered with the Mercy Centre to grow its own fresh ingredients locally and further minimise waste and carbon footprint. Other products such as wine are sourced from small producers to support the community of creative up-and-comers within F&B. Earth House also champions holistic wellness for all (staff included), hosting workshops, such as meditation and yoga, on their premises and giving everyone a small sanctuary of ample nature in the middle of Bangkok.

Kenneth Rimdahl

When it comes to tea companies, there is none quite like Kenneth Rimdahl’s Monsoon Tea. Promoting the real charms of Thai tea leaves to the world, at the heart of Monsoon Tea’s operations is a commitment to sustainable farming practices and the protection of Thai rainforests and biodiversity. Eschewing conventional tea plantations as well as pesticides and fertilisers, the company opts for natural methods, which involve harvesting tea leaves directly from the wild rainforest. The result is not only teas that are healthier and full of character but also the preservation of precious natural ecosystems in Northern Thailand. The brand goes even a step further, actively encouraging the local tea farmers and other community members to engage in reforestation efforts. So far, Monsoon Tea has been able to put back two thousand trees of 50 different species in the mountains of Northern Thailand, and they’re not stopping any time soon.

096 791 3192

149 Sathon Soi 12 Alley, Silom, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500

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“Nikki” Visootha Lohitnavy

Leading her family’s 25-year-old wine business, Nikki Lohitnavy, as general manager and oenologist of GranMonte Vineyard and Winery, is focused on growing grapes and producing wine in the challenging tropical climate of Thailand. In her mission to showcase quality wine made exclusively of Thai-grown grapes, she is also committed to innovating in line with market trends and ensuring sustainable wine production. For instance, to minimise waste, the winery uses grape skin to make grappa, seeds and stems to make compost, and other byproducts to make useful pantry items, such as wine salt, which are sold at the vineyard’s onsite shop. GranMonte also promotes agro-tourism, hosting a restaurant and cosy accommodation on its premises.
In the last three years, the family winery has garnered several notable recognition, including Best National Producer at the Thailand AWC Vienna 2023, the Gold award for their Sparkling Rosé, and the Best Wine from Southeast Asia title at the HKIWSC 2023 for the 2021 GranMonte Durif. Additionally, the winery’s wines were chosen to be served at the celebratory events for the APEC 2022 Summit in Thailand. Looking to the future, Lohitnavy’s goals involve meeting market demand by producing more great quality Thai wine and introducing new and exciting varieties to further elevate GranMonte’s offerings.

Hospitality Pioneers

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Thomas Pho

Thai-Canadian Thomas Pho embodies the spirit of joy and warmth in the world of natural wines. Passionate about pouring happiness, Pho creates a welcoming atmosphere at his Mod Kaew Wine Bar, where the dining and drinking experience is intentionally non-pretentious. Mod Kaew’s commitment to inclusivity earned it recognition from local F&B publications. For Pho, every day is an accomplishment marked by satisfied guests, enthusiastic staff who look forward to coming to work the next day, and the overall camaraderie shared at his bar. Looking forward to 2024, Pho’s goals are simple yet impactful: to continue spreading the joy and encouraging people to delicious wines in the home-like atmosphere he has created

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Dicky Hartono

The crooning bar manager of Firefly Bar Bangkok, Dicky Hartono has played a key role in the success of this thriving establishment that emerged three years ago amid the challenges of a pandemic. Located at Sindhorn Kempinski Hotel Bangkok, Firefly Bar has become a standout destination in the city for jazz and cocktail enthusiasts. Hartono envisions the bar as the ultimate host, aiming to provide each visitor with an unforgettable experience that blends the luxury DNA of the European hotel brand with the warm hospitality of Southeast Asian culture. Recently, Firefly Bar was included in the competitive list of Top 20 Thailand’s Best Bars, a testament to Hartono and the team’s collective efforts in building the bar from its inception to its current success. Looking ahead to 2024, Dicky’s goals for Firefly are centred on delivering an even better experience to all guests, solidifying their position as one of the best bars in Bangkok.

Shinji Inoue

There are two reasons you would have heard of No Name Noodle: the hard-to-score seating for very tightly quality-controlled authentic Japanese ramen or the charismatic Japanese chef-owner behind the restaurant who can be referred to as “Ramen Shin Chan” or “Mentatainer”. No Name Noodle is owned and operated by Shinji Inoue, a Fukuoka-native funny man and ramen enthusiast. Besides getting to savour fantastic shio and shoyu noodle soups offered in limited quantities daily, part of the thrill of dining at No Name Noodle is meeting the ramen-entertainer himself, whose ikigai is clearly to spread the joy of ramen to all who walk through his small restaurant’s unmarked doors. He even has his signature ramen-eating pose, which has caught on organically among No Name Noodle visitors.


For those who have yet to experience No Name Noodle in person or are itching to revisit, Chef Shin shows a lot of his personality and passion on his Instagram account (@ramenshinchan). It’s his way of serving you from afar until you finally take your seat at his counter.

Empowering Educators

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“Neung” Ronnaporn Kanivichaporn

Co-owner of Mahaniyom Cocktail Bar, this decorated Thai barman has played a pivotal role in the success of this Thai-inspired establishment since its opening in mid-2022. The bar’s current menu, “Resourceful Cocktail”, is a testament to its innovative approach, incorporating flavours from different parts or timings of an ingredient in each drink. Mahaniyom Cocktail Bar has swiftly gained international acclaim, securing the 19th spot on the World’s 50 Best Bars list and the 22nd position on Asia’s 50 Best Bars list in 2023. Additionally, it achieved a remarkable Top 4 ranking in the International Best New Cocktail Bar category at the Spirits Awards 2023. Kanivichaporn takes pride in Mahaniyom being the first Thai bar owned and operated by Thai individuals to be recognised on such prestigious lists. The bar’s goals, as articulated by Kanivichaporn, is to continue sharing more about Thai culture, industry, and creativity to the world. This commitment reflects a broader aspiration to contribute to the global conversation and appreciation for Thai excellence beyond the realm of mixology.

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“Ton” Thitid Tassanakajohn

While Chef Ton’s meteoric rise to Michelin and 50 Best stardom seems to have happened only in the last couple of years, in reality, Ton has been laying the foundations for highlighting Thai produce on the global stage for a decade now. When he first opened his flagship Thai fine dining restaurant, Le Du, in Bangkok back in 2013, the chef experienced a lot of pushback from the community for charging so much for Thai cuisine. The challenge only fueled him further, creating a goal to prove that local ingredients deserved to be valued just as much as imported ones and believing also that without such support, Thai agriculture can never advance.
He has since been a key part of not just a Thai but global movement in gastronomy to return to one’s roots and embrace local produce. Ten years since opening Le Du, Ton is reaping the fruits of his labour and planting them back into the ground as he opens other ventures highlighting the charms of Thai F&B, including Nusara and Samut fine dining restaurants and Nuss Bar with fellow Game Changer Ronnaporn Kanivichaporn. Ton’s accomplishments and now fame have helped to ingrain a newfound respect for heritage cuisine amongst Thai diners.

“Radek” Radoslaw Zarebinski

Radek Zarebinski is the Polish-American co-owner and charcutier at Larder, one of Bangkok’s first artisanal charcuterie and butchery restaurant. Utilising exclusively local products to craft their breads and cold cuts, Larder has positioned itself as a showroom catering to other culinary establishments. Zarebinski’s current focus involves developing custom charcuterie recipes for fellow chefs, such as Baan Tepa’s signature spice-infused Coppa, as well as demonstrating that local products match, if not surpass, the quality of imported ones. In particular, Radek is on a mission to educate the local market on Thailand’s exceptional pork quality. He finds personal gratification in the support from chefs and F&B professionals across Thailand who frequent Larder. Looking ahead, Zarebinski’s goal is to continue growing within the community, expand product offerings, and collaborate with more chefs to create custom cold cuts for their respective restaurants.

“Jay” Thanakorn Bottorff

The head sommelier of Inddee, Thanakorn Bottorff has been instrumental in crafting the wine programme for the restaurant since its opening in June 2023, specialising in Indian fine dining pairings. As a long-time F&B professional in Thailand, Bottorff envisions Bangkok becoming a key wine hub in Asia, with aspirations to secure exceptional wine allocations akin to those in Japan and Hong Kong. He has been educating Bangkok’s curious gastronomers by curating wines from small producers and lesser-known regions or grape varieties, as well as other interesting products like rice wine. With him on the team, Inddee has already achieved remarkable recognition in its first year of opening, including a Michelin Sommelier Award 2024 alongside a Michelin star. Despite these achievements, Bottorff takes particular pride in creating a dream wine list at Inddee and is looking forward to taking the Advanced Sommelier exam by the Court of Master Sommeliers, in order to continue in his journey of professional growth and expertise in wine.

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Laurent Casteret

Frenchman Laurent Casteret is the director of The Food School, a progressive culinary arts institute located in the heart of Bangkok, which aims to equip and empower the next generation of great chefs with the tools, skills, and knowledge they need to succeed in a modern gastronomic landscape. One of the school’s USPs is its strong bonds with renowned culinary institutions from Thailand, Japan, and Italy—countries whose cuisines are in high demand in the local market. Offering not just the basic techniques all chefs must learn, the school also shapes its pupils to become culinary leaders and innovators themselves, placing, for instance, a strong emphasis on running a sustainable kitchen. As school director of this crucial educational institution in Thailand, Laurent hopes to reach more students and expand the curriculum along with the new developments in the world of F&B.

Creative Design

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Haoma

Haoma has solidified its position as one of the premier Indian fine dining establishments in the region, thanks to Chef Deepanker Khosla (DK) and his innovative approach to crafting a distinctive dining experience. With international acclaim, including a Michelin star and a Green Michelin star, Chef DK has redefined the perception of his home country’s cuisine. Haoma, in itself, epitomises a multisensory journey, characterised by atmospheric lighting and elegant plating. The customer experience is meticulously curated, starting with the tranquil garden ambiance that sets the stage for what lies ahead. However, it is the artful plating of the dishes that truly distinguishes Haoma. From intricate geometric patterns formed by diverse food elements to imaginative use of dry ice, every aspect of the restaurant exudes meticulous attention to detail and precision. Over the past four years, Chef DK and General Manager Vishvas Sidana have established a benchmark for creative fine dining and positioned Bangkok as a must-visit destination for discerning food enthusiasts.

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Potong

Hiding within a bustling market alley at the heart of one of the largest Chinese communities outside of China lies Potong. Once a five-storey historical Sino-Portuguese building that housed Pam’s family’s Chinese pharmacy, it has since transformed into Asia’s most renowned restaurant as of 2024. Chef Pam (Pichaya Soontornyanakij) has garnered a slew of prestigious awards, including the “Michelin Thailand Opening of the Year Award,” and Potong holds the esteemed position of #35 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list. What distinguishes Potong from its competitors is Chef Pam’s heartfelt tribute to her heritage, honouring her family’s legacy. It epitomises an experiential journey, guiding diners through the landmarks that have shaped her life and culinary narrative. The journey begins with glimpses of heirlooms and a historical narrative about the house. Each course embodies meticulous artistry, seamlessly blending modern standards with Thai-Chinese culinary traditions. The progressive tasting menu serves as a masterful storytelling device through food, bringing the creative prowess of the entire team to life with every flavour sensation.

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The O.S.S. Bar

The new O.S.S. Bar at the Jim Thompson Heritage Quarter is a tasteful example of bridging a colourful heritage with the present. As cocktail bars continue to grow in popularity in Bangkok, Jim Thompson has opened one of its own and uniquely themed it after the American WWII-era covert operations famously part of the brand’s story. NEXT Hospitality Group and renowned design firm HBA designed the bar, fitting it with modern-retro furnishings and fabrics from the Jim Thompson Home Furnishing line. Displays of old images and paraphernalia help set the bygone-era tone, while the drinks menu reinforces Jim Thompson’s East-meets-West mystique with creations like Fort Monroe, The House on the Klong, or The Unsolved Mystery. Meticulous selections of ingredients and glassware, including Bencharong tea cups, do not go unnoticed. In terms of storytelling and memorable identity, The O.S.S. is one of the bars to beat.

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Fat Boy Izakaya

Previously known for its sushi, once Fatboy exchanged its Saladaeng address for Ekkamai, it transformed into a modern izakaya Bangkokians simply couldn’t overlook. Adding more Japanese soul food to the menu, the new Fatboy Izakaya concept also made a name for itself through its design. We Design Shanghai and MTM Design—the design studio of Barcelonian architect Max Trullas Moreno—joined forces to execute the izakaya’s traditional-meets-a-twist interiors, combining some classic Japanese izakaya elements with contemporary or Western-retro features, such as booth seating and white mosaic tiles. Indeed the tiles, along with the playful, tile-like 8-bit motifs all over the venue, are some of Fatboy’s most memorable physical traits, carried out even on the logo on the staff uniform, the restaurant’s noren curtains, and the paper table setting.
Designed at the level you’d expect from a fine dining venue, Fatboy truly thought of all the details, including the ambient lighting (done by award-winning lighting design consultancy Infusion) and the F&B offerings that either mimic or inspired the venue’s fusion vibes in the first place.

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