International Women's Day 2022: Leaders in F&B

Written by Christopher Menning | March 8, 2022

Day 2022 (1)

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International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women every year on March 8.

On this day, the world acknowledges a pivotal event in the women’s rights movement that encouraged positive change for women across all industries. A new generation of women entrepreneurs and achievers are breaking down glass ceilings in every field, and in the F&B industry as well. 

In honour of this we wanted to raise a toast to these seven achievers who have carved out a path for themselves, achieving success and inspiring others in the process.

Kwang Patra

Director of F&B at The Okura Prestige Bangkok

International Women's Day 2022.

1. What inspired you to be in the F&B industry?

I think i was born already in this industry! (kidding kaa)

Food and beverage has always fascinated me since I was young. You know, in the beginning I wanted to be a pastry chef. It was kind of dream job at one stage when I was young. But then what actually really inspired me was something in my university where every year we have to organise a stage play.

We all had to be divided into teams with tasks and responsibilities to make the stage play happen. So I put myself actually to take care of the meals of all my classmates and all the staff for the stage play. It was my responsibility to order a food box each week and to plan the daily menu for the team and to cook dinner once a week for them.

You know it was kind of fun and yes I am very fascinated by doing that, especially seeing and feeling when people are happy from the food or drink we arrange or actually cooked or made for them. And that’s how it began.

After graduation, I started my first career as a flight attendant, I would say that was my first job in hospitality industry where I also had a chance to fly and explore more about food and beverage in different places.

It is also not about only eating in fine dining restaurant but it was more about, “oh i’m flying to that city, what should I try “. Sometimes it’s really very local thing like hidden shops where you can find best home baked scone or fluffy omelette. And that become part of my life, enjoy good food and good drink and yes it also made me want to be a part of it.

2. What have been some of the obstacles you have faced to get where you are?

I think my only obstacle was about the opportunity for locals and for ladies in this industry to be at this level.

I mean if you know we used to have less local F&B directors in five star – Luxury properties. You can count how many in the past we have here , especially in Bangkok. I have to say ,it seems there was less opportunity for locals, which to a certain extent, I can understand for specific brand but it also doesn’t mean we are not capable of doing this job.

Also being a woman, doesn’t mean we cannot take this role.  Today, there are so many opportunities available to us and I really appreciate them

Working in this industry is tough and it takes balls for real.

Sometimes you have to sacrifice your own private life but it also depends on what your goals in your life are and how you prioritise them.

At the end of the day, you need to make sure that every day when you wake up you have something that you are looking forward to each day.

3. What does it take to be a great Director of F&B?

To have soft skills/ People skills.

Working in this industry means we deal with a wide range of emotions and perspectives every day, whether it be with our team, with our guests, with our partners, with our connections or with our communities that we are part of. People skills are essential to our job.

4. Please can you give some words of encouragement for young women who wish to be in your position?

It’s important to never give up on your passion because someone says no or that you cannot achieve it, or for any other reason that may demotivate you.

Be brave and Be bold.

Stick to your goals, follow your passion, believe in yourself, do your best, make progress and count every single step . I am sure one day you will reach to a point where everyone around you would be very proud of you and definitely make you feel fulfilled which is the best most important and essential part.

Nan Pattira

Owner & Co Founder at The Wine Merchant

International Women's Day 2022.

1. What inspired you to be in the F&B industry?

I have worked for various large organisations in the F&B industry for many years and always had the vision to be a business owner one day. 

This became a reality several years ago when I met my good friend and partner, Aman Sachdev, who shared my ideas and vision. We both felt it was the right moment to establish our own wine distribution company, The Wine Merchant Company.

2. What have been some of the obstacles you have faced to get where you are?

Fortunately we did not face too many obstacles establishing our wine distribution company, due to the goodwill my partner and I have built in the industry over the years. 

We just needed to assure our clients and business partners that we are here for the long haul, and demonstrated clearly our transparent way of conducting business by respecting commitments to our business partners, and consistently following our business philosophy of offering wines at fair and reasonable prices to our clients.

3. What does it take to be a great business owner?

Sincerity, transparency and consistency!

4. Please can you give some words of encouragement for young women who wish to be in your position?

My business philosophy has always been to be fair and honest with our business partners, clients and our staff, and I would encourage all young entrepreneurs to do so. 

I am proud of the entire ‘The Wine Merchant’ team whose dedication and hard work is a clear demonstration of their appreciation of our organisation – and to each and every one of whom I am very grateful.

Michelle Goh

Head Chef at Mia Restaurant

International Women's Day 2022.

1. What inspired you to be in the F&B industry?

Honestly, I became a chef because at the age of 8 or 9 I watched Jamie Oliver make fish and chips on TV. It was the first time in my life that I felt like food could be more than just food and it excited me enough to make me want to make a career out of it.

2. What have been some of the obstacles you have faced to get where you are?

I come from a small town in Malaysia and never really had access to the best ingredients or any type of “fine dining“. I didn’t even realise that mushrooms did not come from a can till I was like 14. 

When I finally went to culinary school, it was a little bit of a culture shock because I had never worked with most of the ingredients available before. Besides that, I was also one of the youngest at the time. I would say that I really had to work hard to prove that I was just as good as everyone else around me, and had to educate myself a lot regarding my “ignorance”. 

For example, when I was first offered a gooseberry, I didn’t realise you couldn’t eat the leaves covering the berry itself. I just plopped the entire thing into my mouth and everyone stared at me like I was a cavewoman.

3. What does it take to be a great Chef?

Most people think that being a good chef is just about knowing how to cook and make good food, but it’s so much more than that. To be a truly good chef, you must also be clean, organised, fast and humble. 

You need to be able to work in a team, because working in a kitchen is not a solo game but a team effort. You also need to be humble enough to admit you don’t know everything and not be selfish with your knowledge. 

Most importantly, you need to have self-discipline, holding yourself to a high standard everyday in everything you do.

4. Please can you give some words of encouragement for young women who wish to be in your position?

Being a chef is not an easy career path but it is a very rewarding one. Don’t get discouraged when you realise that you are the only woman in the team (because it does happen, and I’ve been there) but instead get determined to show everyone else that you are just as good, if not better than your male counterparts. 

It may be tough going for a while in the beginning but don’t ever forget why you chose this career in the first place. It’s about working together with others who all share the same love and passion as you do in creating delicious and memorable meals.

Marine Lucchini

Master Distiller at Chalong Bay

International Women's Day 2022.

1. What inspired you to be in the F&B industry?

My father distributed rum Agricole in Africa when I was a little girl and then we all moved to Russia at the fall of USSR, where both my parents worked in the industry, and developed the distribution of Remi Cointreau. 

I grew up around spirits and passion for their story, making, tastes and brands. I was fascinated by the making of spirits, I also loved biology as a teenager and always wanted to integrate this in my career path. The science and art of making a spirit from scratch in a premium and sustainable way passionate me. 

Developing premium sustainable spirits from natural ingredients promoting the Thai terroir and marrying it with the French tradition of distillation resonate deeply in me, and became my mission and my motor. In addition, I find people in the F&B industry to be very passionate and it feels great to be part of this community.

2. What have been some of the obstacles you have faced to get where you are?

Building a distillery from scratch at a young age without big investments in a foreign country is challenging in many aspects. Finding people to believe in this dream, invest, and/or work with us was the first challenge. 

Having little investment behind is a big one too as we had to do everything by ourselves. In this case our limits are only our own ones. And it’s also exciting because we had to go beyond our own doubts and limiting beliefs and push them. 

Think that we can make it and we will make it, even starting with and from nothing.

Another big obstacle was proving legitimacy and quality as well as opening a market that did not exist. When we started this project 12 years ago, there was no premium spirit made in Thailand, and no craft scene. Both Thais and foreigners had a bad image of the quality of spirits made in Thailand, and international products and big brands were much more valued than local craft ones. 

It took us years, a lot of communication, opening the distillery, many gold medals at international spirit competitions, support and recognition from international spirit experts to shift this general belief and prove the legitimacy of making a cane spirit in Thailand. Being a young woman did not make it easier. 

Sugarcane was born in Southeast Asia, and Thailand is the fourth largest producer of sugarcane in the world. The Thai terroir offers many agricultural treasures. What more legitimate than making a qualitative sugarcane rum in the birthplace of sugarcane?

The spirit market in Thailand is quite challenging too. It consists of a few very large actors with a lot of power that limit the penetration and distribution capabilities of smaller ones. 

There are also a lot of barriers to entry in terms of production that limit the capabilities and opportunities of small players to grow and develop quality consumption of local products. It limits our ability to be competitive, our speed of development, and the variety of products we can offer.

3. What does it take to be a great distiller?

A lot of passion. To be passionate about our product, about finding the best raw ingredients that will develop amazing flavours, to investigate ingredients and all the different ways to work with them individually to extract their best potential, to always keep looking for ways to improve our spirit. 

It requires to be curious, detailed, consistent, to always push the limits to make things better, to have high standards and never accept something average and to choose quality over profitability. 

It requires a lot of dedication, not to be scared of weird shifts, long hours, and be practical and hands on.

4. Please can you give some words of encouragement for young women who wish to be in your position?

We are our own limitation, we can do everything we set ourselves to do, all we got to do is believe in ourselves, jump, and then take it a step at a time, be patient as nothing is built overnight, and never give up. 

Believe in yourself, do not let what others may say of you or of your dream influence you in a negative way or limit you. Feel the fire you have within and express that. There is a solution to every problem, and difficulties are often gifts in disguise.

Raksha Sachdev

Master Brewer of Bangkok Booch

International Women's Day 2022.

1. What inspired you to be in the F&B industry?

When the pandemic started, I, like many others, tried my hand at baking, making bread and Marie-Kondo-ing my entire house – all without much success. Fortunately I found that I was pretty good at one thing and that was brewing kombucha. 

My love for kombucha all started when I was living in Vancouver, Canada and discovered this incredible drink that made my mind and body feel so at ease, that it naturally became part of my daily routine. 

When I moved back to Thailand, I found that none of the kombucha in Bangkok really utilised the beautiful and tropical fruits and flavours of Thailand, so I started making my own using my favourite fruits like mango and pineapple. 

I eventually made too much and sent some bottles to my friends and family who all encouraged me to start selling and thus Bangkok Booch was established in July 2020.

2. What have been some of the obstacles you have faced to get where you are?

Time management! As I am working full time as the business development manager at Masala Magazine and PHS, I have very limited time on my hands to work on Bangkok Booch. 

As a one-woman show I am not only producing the kombucha, but also handling the product design, marketing, operations and logistics of the product. I have now dedicated time after work and on the weekends to concentrate on Bangkok Booch.

Another obstacle I have faced is the limited knowledge about kombucha in Thailand. One of my main challenges is to educate my customers about this vinegary drink on the health benefits and the different ways it can be consumed. Kombucha cocktail anyone?

3. What does it take to be a great business owner?

Determination and Passion.

COVID has definitely been difficult for us as we would love for our customers to try our products at events before purchasing, but with little to no events now, we have been determined to try a different path. 

We are now selling online at bangkokbooch.com and also selling at different outlets such as Sourced Grocers and Dear Tummy in Icon Siam to reach a wider market. Without determination, I would have definitely given up when times were tough and sales were low. 

And passion because without this there would be no determination to succeed.

4. Please can you give some words of encouragement for young women who wish to be in your position?

If you have an idea in your mind that you’re truly passionate about and want to bring forth to the market, JUST GO FOR IT! Showcase your personality in your branding; reach out to people in the industry for help, do not be afraid to put yourself out there. 

If you fail, don’t fall, just see it as a lesson to be learned and continue on.

Nutawan Jumpanak

Wine Guru at Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel

International Women's Day 2022.

1. What inspired you to be in the F&B industry?

The food and beverage industry allows me to acquire a wide range of specialist skills in the things that I love; it gives me the opportunity to learn from industry specialists every day; it gives me the opportunity to experience and experiment with some of these most sought-after food and beverage products from around the world; and I get to share my passion and connect with people from all walks of life.

2. What have been some of the obstacles you have faced to get where you are?

In today’s global market where it has become easier to enjoy the culture and food and wine from the four corners of the world in your own backyard, it is a challenge to keep up with all the latest trends; the great products from other countries; and access to the source of these products. 

If you work in a specialist field, it is important to choose the right employer or partner who shares your passion for exploration and innovation; have access to the source, for instance winemakers and wineries; and gives you ample opportunity to study and educate yourself in your skills.

3. What does it take to be a great sommelier?

A sommelier’s skills can only be acquired from direct experience of the products, and not just theory, in order to talk about wine from the perspective of wine. 

Everyone’s palate is different, and it is very important for me to listen to my guests to understand what it is about wine that they like, and then either exceed their expectation with the wine that I recommend, or even surprise them with something totally different but immensely pleasing.

4. Please can you give some words of encouragement for young women who wish to be in your position?

Believe in yourself. Sometimes you might not be confident to step out of your comfort zone, but once you start to take every opportunity to experience something new, you will be amazed at what you can do.

Debby Tang

Co Founding Partner of The Foodie Collection

IMG_0614

International Women's Day 2022.

1. What inspired you to be in the F&B industry?

I had the opportunity to travel to many countries to enjoy their foods & drinks and their cultures. The enjoyment as a guest inspired me to want to create a place that I love to go and share the experience with my other people.

2. What have been some of the obstacles you have faced to get where you are?

I am very passionate about food & drinks but I have no background in F&B. Therefore, I have to work extra harder to know as much as I can about the industry – be it talking to mentors, learning on the job from the bottom, and getting people who know more than me in some areas to join our team. 

At the end, I am able to gain acceptance from both our guests and industry colleagues.

3. What does it take to be a great restaurateur?

Passion for what you do, be true to what you are and what you want, and have a clear plan in the direction you want to do are the 3 things makes a good restauranteur.

4. Please can you give some words of encouragement for young women who wish to be in your position?

Just do it! Many people are too afraid to take that leap before they even start. If you have the passion for it, you can always find ways to make it work. Always be true to yourself on what skills you have and what skills you lack. 

On the skills you lack, try to find someone who knows better than you to join your team. 

You don’t have to know everything, but as long as you have a clear vision and a certain people management skills, then everything is possible.

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