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Poonchai Thanongkiat in 10

10 questions: answered. Answers nearly good enough to eat, we delve into Poonchai's world of culinary wonder and creativity. what can our Head Chef never live without? All is revealed...

Hello Poonchai, how long have you been working as Head Chef at the College?

I’ve been working at the College for around a month now.

What do you love most about your role?

I just love the opportunity to be creative in the kitchen!


Poonchai, it’s quick-fire round time!

Can you share your story? How did you get into cooking?

Initially I didn’t know how to cook – as a student I was working part-time as a Kitchen Porter in Ascot. I loved watching the Chefs and observing their creative methods with their dishes.

After graduating in Business from Reading College I came to the realisation that I wanted to become a Chef, so embarked on training at the Culinary School within Le Cordon Bleu in London. This was a real learning journey and gave me so much exposure, learning how to cook different ingredients with specialist techniques. During this time I actually also worked as a Chef in the evenings – usually working 14-16 hours a day. These hours aren’t usual for Chefs and it’s sadly the reason why many decide to pursue a different career. For me, I absolutely love it and enjoy being in the kitchen – but please note: it’s out of passion, not because I want to run away from my wife! It gives me such pleasure to see others enjoy my culinary creations and there is no bigger compliment than an empty plate!

Since working at the College I do have a much better work/life balance: more time for my family, and more energy in the kitchen meaning there’s much more room for creativity in the future.

As a Chef, we’d imagine there are many foods and cuisines you love, but what is your absolute favourite thing to eat and why?

I grew up in north-east Thailand, in a province called Nakhon Phanom. There are a lot of immigrants from Vietnam after the war, which has brought an amazing culinary cultural crossover. The dish I love the most is “Pho”, a broth noodle soup. Broth is made from aromatic spices and herbs usually served with rice noodles and crunchy vegetables with garlic chilli oil. It’s so refreshing, light and really healthy.

We’ve booked a trip to Thailand – where shall we visit, and what should we eat?!

I really recommend my hometown of Nakhon Phanom. My wife visited with her family three years ago and loved it! The people are friendly, it’s not overcrowded, the street food is delicious – you’ll find everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to fresh fish from the Mekong River.


Can you teach us a commonly used Thai phrase?

“Sa Wad Dee, Sa bye dee Mai?” Hello, and how are you?


What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I wouldn’t say I have much spare time… but when I do, it will be spent doing…not so much!

What can a Head Chef never live without?

Support. It is so important that I am supported – by family, co-workers and customers. Without the support, it’s very hard to accomplish the goal.

What’s something new or interesting you’ve learned recently?

We have a lot of new and exciting business plans for the College kitchen – I’m very exciting to see them come to life.

If you could describe the Newbold experience in just three words, what would they be?

God Bless Newbold!