Chef Randy Noprapa of Fillets Redefines the Hotpot Scene in Bangkok with Mrs. Wu
If you live in Bangkok and you’re a real foodie, then you might’ve heard of Chef Randy Chaichat (Front) Noprapa before. He is one of the most well-known Thai celebrity chefs who has found overwhelming success at his restaurant Fillets in Soi Langsuan, a farm-to-table modern Japanese dining, known for its modern interpretations of traditional Edomae-style sushi.
Before moving back to Thailand after his studies in the United States, Chef Randy had a chance to work alongside world-class professionals at the Mandarin Oriental in Washington DC before becoming a protégé of Japanese chef Masaharu Morimoto, one of the original Iron Chefs.
He gas recently opened up 100 Mahaseth with his peer Chef Chalee Kader of Surface to bring nose-to-tail dining back to Bangkok with an unyielding Northeastern cuisine made from some of the most intriguing local ingredients. Now, he’s back with more delight for the foodies of Thailand to enjoy.
In another collaboration with Chef Chalee, Chef Randy decided to redefine the hotpot scene in Thailand with his brand-new restaurant and bar called “Mrs. Wu”. Inspired by the vibrant Chinese-American food scene in the Bay Area, Chef Randy aims to expose Thai people to a vintage-yet-modern dining vibe and premium Chinese-style hotpot that sets itself apart from the usual mall-dwelling hotpot chains.
We had the privilege of speaking to Chef Randy ahead of his grand opening of Mrs. Wu at The Portico Langsuan. Read on to find out more about his story, the inspirations behind Mrs. Wu, and his thoughts on the food industry of Thailand.
First of all, can you tell us a bit about your journey into the culinary world?
It all started with my parents who had the most influence on me. My father was in the hospitality business, and my mother owned a Japanese restaurant, so I’ve been exposed to the kitchen since I was as young. I basically spent most of my time in the kitchen, before school, after school, and even during my free time. It came to a point where I couldn’t see myself taking up any other career for the rest of my life. But come to think of it, food is actually the only thing that I see and understand right away, how it’s made as well as the idea and inspiration its trying to communicate. Just like other people who may be able to solve a mathematical problem at a glance, I actually feel like I was born to be a chef and nothing else.
After switching from Japanese (Fillets) to Northeastern Thai (100 Mahaseth), you’ve made another leap with Mrs. Wu into a whole new category like “Chinese Hotpot”, how did this idea come about?
It all started with something as simple and a casual meal with friends. I had a chance to try out the hotpot restaurants in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau, and then I realized this is something Thailand is lacking. We’ve got premium Japanese omakase dining and top class Yakiniku, so why do we only have hotpot buffets going for 299 THB? What I wanted to do is introduce Thai people a real premium quality hotpot that doesn’t have to just be Japanese Shabu. That’s why we went the other direction with Mrs. Wu and made a Chinese-style hotpot instead. We went all the way with the American Chinatown look, bringing in neon-lit signs, old-school metal shutters, street art, and Old-school hip-hop music that’ll be instantly nostalgic to those who’ve studied in the states before.
Let’s talk about Fillets for a bit. How’s the renovation coming along and what kind changes can we expect?
If you’re in the restaurant industry, then you’d know that things can turn from new to old in a matter of 3-4 years. It’s about time for Fillets to move on from being a super serious place for fine omakase dining to become a more casual spot for everyone to hang out, but still maintaining our top-of-the-line food and services. The omakase zone will be transformed into a really long sushi bar that sits up to 18 people. The main dining room will be fitted with more sofas to accommodate Japanese sake and whiskey nights, making it more of a restaurant and bar.
As one of the leading chefs of Thailand, what do you feel that is missing from the Thai restaurant scene? What do you think can be improved in this industry?
Honestly, Thailand’s restaurant scene had grown exponentially in the past few years and could be considered one of the fastest I’ve ever seen. Within just 4 years, the dining habits and behavior have changed so much. From a population that knew Japanese food as only salmon sushi to embrace omakase and fine dining with such understanding is truly amazing. The only thing that I feel is still far behind are the local suppliers. For example, Thai fishes are actually up to standard to use in omakase dining, but because fishermen are still using the same old methods in preserving and transporting them, we still have to import our fishes. If fishing boats had cold storage or fishermen knew how to kill fishes like how Japanese people do, local Thai catches would be worth way more than it is today.
What do you do during your free time?
Eat! If I’m not cooking then I’d be eating most of the time. That’s basically what I do!
It’s been a pleasure talking to you, is there anything you’d like to say to Siam2nite readers?
I was actually surprised that I’d be interviewed by Siam2nite because I thought you guys were focused on only nightlife. Thank you for taking interest in the food scene of Thailand and having me today. Mrs. Wu plans to open late into the night so be sure to drop by for an after-hours hotpot meal, drinks, and Old-school hip-hop tunes after our grand opening! There’s also a lot more interesting culinary projects coming up for me, be sure to stay tuned!