Swedish Professor in Thai Food

Christer “Chris” Kridrakorn-Odbratt has his roots both in Bohuslan on the windy southwest side of Sweden and in the capitol, Stockholm. Since his father worked for Ericsson they moved around a lot and Chris was raised in Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, former Yugoslavia and other places. Still he never ever thought that he one day would settle down in Thailand.
     It is however not very surprising that he, after wandering various paths, ended up as a chef. His beloved grandmother was a cook in the neighbourhood of the old harbour in Gothenburg. Very often, almost daily, she was accompanied by curious Christer in the kitchen. Happily he helped out and tasted everything in the pots and pans. He looked and listened carefully. All his knowledge on cooking is based on what he learned from her.
     “She was a great cook,” Chris says and looks with a warm glimpse in his eyes past the palm trees towards the sea.
     There is evidently a major difference between granny’s simple Swedish cooking, known as “husmanskost”, and the Thai equivalent that is taught at The Royal Thai School of Culinary Arts, But actually they do have one quality in common, the importance of excellent and fresh groceries and the feeling and care that is put into the moment of cooking the dishes as delicious as possible. Thai food is continuously becoming more popular, it is tremendously tasty and also low on cholesterol which is of course well seen by many of today’s health conscious gourmets.
     According to Chris the Thais themselves eat at least six times a day.
     “A lot of people don’t have a kitchen. Therefore most meals are eaten away from home. Thais often buy food from street vendors or eat at small restaurants,” he explains.
     He ought to know. Thailand is the country where Chris quite some time ago decided to lay his hat and he doesn’t seem to regret it. Still his life has gone through many changes since he left Sweden.
     “I first came to Thailand on Christmas in 1982. I got married and remained here, Chris tells and sips one of the at least eight black ristrettos that starts his day.
     In his early days back in Sweden, Chris has been the chairman for Swedish student organization SECO, he started a military career, he studied at The Stockholm School of Economics and he was a pioneer in the computer business. Quite a varied background to say the least. Maybe that’s why his desn’t find the latest change in his life very surprising.
     During his first years in Thailand, Chris lived in Bangkok working as a financial consultant for the Thai Ministry of Agriculture. Later he joined a financial company and taught finance. It was not until a couple of years after he met his second wife, M.L. Pratabjai or “Too”, that the plans of a restaurant, that deep down had been there all the time, crystallized. Too is the granddaughter of King Chulalongkorn, but the down-to-earth Too with her waist long hair is not at all snobbish. The magnificent house, where the couple lives and where the school is situated, served as the summer residence for Too’s father and his family.
      Today the prestigious place has been delicately renovated with the original details carefully preserved and modern things added as a pool and two spacious and well facilitated kitchens. The needs varies a bit hence there is one for western cooking and one for Thai .
     After having attended the education for chefs at The Cordon Bleu in London Chris had long conversations with the Thai Ministry of Education regarding the demands for starting an academic education. Finally in 1998 the Royal Thai School of Culinary Arts opened as well as a restaurant. The school, which is the creation and the pride of Chris and his wife Too, is situated by the sea in Bang Saen. It takes a little less than two hours to drive to the small seaside town from Bangkok. The extraordinary house is surrounded by a beautiful garden with a pond and a pool.
     All kinds of cooking classes are arranged here. People who have a private passion for cooking comes and stays for some days and distinguished chefs who wants inspiration and new knowledge are around for some months. Chefs from exclusive yachts and luxury hotels are among those who have learned Thai cooking at Chris’s and Too’s school as well as former president Clinton’s chef from Camp David. Chris himself has cooked for the Thai crown princess and been a judge at innumerable international competitions in Thai and western cooking. His answer when describing his favourite dinner for a Friday night is therefore somewhat surprising.
     “Steak with a sauce made of cream, gorgonzola and rose pepper. To go with that a creamy potato grating and a bottle of nice wine. Having tasted around 250 Thai dishes in one week you want something totally different for the weekend!”

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