In his caviar-black chef outfit, French native Eric Weidmann walks into the dining chamber of Café Claire within the Oriental Residence Bangkok holding a firm yet lively confidence that fits the genuine smile cemented on his face. It is nearly impossible not to recognise the most-recent Iron Chef champion, be it on the Thai TV program, at The Oriental Residence where he stands as the executive chef, or even at the local market, where you may see him sniffing and nibbling on fresh produce for new inspiration. Aspiring chefs or food devotees who want to pick his brains for culinary knowledge, read all about his insights and thoughts in our full and exclusive interview with Chef Eric Weidmann below.

How does it feel being the winner of Iron Chef Thailand?

Nothing special really. Although I am very glad I get to promote the name of The Oriental Residence Bangkok so people know more about all the cool things we do here.

What was your first job?

My first job was when I was still in school. It was a job in this agency in France and every day I got different random tasks.

Who is your role model?

My former bosses. I deeply appreciate everything they’ve taught me.

Warm Oyster with Burnt Leek and Seaweed Butter from the Iron Chef Menu
If you were to be an ingredient, what would you be and why?

Saffron. It’s the kind of spice that’s very fragrant and it would also shine – due to its bright yellow colour – in all the dishes you put it in.

What is one food movie everyone should see?

I’ll make it two actually: Burnt and Ratatouille. If you’re a foodie, you definitely should watch them.

What meal inspired you to become a chef?

It’s the dish my grandmother always made, Arroz Marinero, which is a seafood dish with rice coloured with saffron.

What kind of stories are you telling through your food here at the Oriental Residence Bangkok and at Café Claire?

We try to bring the fun to the table. I always look for local, small suppliers who have great, quality products to promote the local farming scene. We also try to incorporate local ingredients in most of our traditional French dishes instead of using just imported stuff.

What is the best meal you’ve ever eaten in Bangkok?

I tried this Thai beef wagyu at an Isaan-inspired restaurant, 100 Mahaseth. Totally blew my mind.

Grilled Oyster with Burrata and Basil from the Iron Chef Menu
What are the essentials in your pantry?

Olive oil.

Raisin or no raisin?

Raisin.

Wine or water?

Wine. Well, I’m French [laughs].

Pineapple on pizza: yes or no?

No pineapple.

What do you eat for guilty pleasure?

Bread, butter, cold cuts and cheese.

How often do you prepare your own meals at home?

Around once a month, because my wife cooks at home.

Crispy Lava Egg with Potato Espuma and Truffle from the Iron Chef Menu
What is your favorite tool in the kitchen?

The knife, because without it you can’t really do anything.

Do you find it challenging having to constantly create?

Yes and no. When you work in a small restaurant, you can always get inspirations from whatever you see in the market. When something is in season, you can always find great ideas of how to put it on a plate because fresh produce at its peak will already do half of the job for you, thanks to its tastiness. But when you work for the hotel, creating a dish can become slightly more challenging since you can’t be out at the market every day. So one thing I need to always do is to keep an eye on what is on this season and to find suppliers who you can always trust will bring you top-notch, quality ingredients. These inspire me to always think of ideas of how to best represent them on a plate. So all in all, creating a dish is never really challenging for me as long as I have seasonal and pristine ingredients to work with.


Shucked Oyster with Caviar Osietra and Hokkaido Sea Urchin from the Iron Chef Menu
Three things that make you a chef?

First, my experience in the kitchen. Because when you start cooking, you may not have your own style yet. Then after years of working, that’s when you really start developing your own style. Secondly, good management. Cooking can’t be the only skill; a good chef needs to know how to manage the business well to keep the restaurant going. Lastly, what makes me a good chef is creativity. It’s important because as a chef, I constantly want to surprise people with new flavours and new ways of cooking, which is the essence of the food I make.

What’s your biggest pet peeve in the kitchen?

Guests’ complaints.

Creamy Oyster Soup with Champagne from the Iron Chef Menu
What is your biggest regret in life?

No regret.

What is your greatest fear?

Not to always be healthy like I am now.

Your advice to aspiring chefs?

You need to really be passionate about cooking. No passion? You can’t cook. The work in the kitchen is also very intense. You always have to learn how to do new things every day so you can’t do it if there’s no fondness for it.

If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I don’t want to eat just one thing! If that happens I prefer to be dead [laughs].

Unexpected party. What do you cook?

Pasta.

It’s your last supper. What do you eat?

Simple! I’ll have a big table filled with my favourite family dishes.

Last but not least, what’s for dinner?

Salad – green leaves with whatever I have in the kitchen.

 

Chef Eric Weidmann is now serving 5 beautiful Iron Chef dishes, including Warm Oyster with Burnt Leek and Seaweed Butter, Grilled Oyster with Burrata and Basil, Shucked Oyster with Caviar Osietra and Hokkaido Sea Urchin, Creamy Oyster Soup with Champagne and Crispy Lava Egg with Potato Espuma and Truffle. 

Available now until April 2019, gourmands can indulge in his Iron Chef Menu as part of the special a la carte menu at Café Claire, the French-style restaurant with a focus on serving International comfort food. 

Kankanit Wichiantanon
Writer, Bangkok
Kankanit is a writer by day and a baker by night. If there’s one thing you should know about her, it’s that she can wax poetic about food 24/7. Her daily routine is writing, cooking, eating, repeat. They are the things that inspire her from morning 'til night.