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Jim Ophorst handing over the first Michelin Green Star in Thailand
Jim Ophorst handing over the first Michelin Green Star in Thailand

AN UNIQUE INTERVIEW WITH JIM OPHORST FROM PRU RESTAURANT ON PHUKET

When we heard that a Dutch chef was cooking the Michelin stars out of the sky and also was been awarded with Thailand’s first Michellin Green Star, we were obviously extremely proud. As some of our readers may know by now, we are from the Netherlands. The combination of our home country, the LOVE for Thailand and good food made us want to ask Jim some questions… 

But we also thought an interview with Jim would be much more fun if we put a spin on it. Therefore we asked some of our relations and friends if they also wanted to send some questions to Jim through us. One thing led to another and eventually we asked people who are close to Jim himself. Below you find the result with a big THANK YOU to all involved!

Jim + team, we feel your passion all the way to our own kitchen here in the Netherlands! Keep up the great (green) job you all do!  

Questions from Thailand Magazine

Hi Jim! Nice of you to let us send you some questions, tell us a little more about yourself.

Hi all, I’m Jim Ophorst, raised in the always beautiful Honselersdijk in an area called the Westland in the Netherlands. I always dreamed of becoming a professional footballer, unfortunately I didn’t get any further than the team Honselersdijk 1. At that time I had already decided that I wanted to become a cook, and not just an average cook, no I wanted to go for the highest level. Eventually I ended up in Phuket, where I now have a beautiful restaurant (PRU Restaurant in the Trisara Resort) and a very nice family.

My job is my hobby, I go to work every day feeling like I get to do something I love so much that it’s not bad at all to work 14-15 hours, because it’s not work. The infinity of creativity, it’s something that’s not available to many people. So I’m eternally grateful to my wife and family that this is possible to do.

Jim Ophorst, the chef de cuisine of PRU, the only Michelin-starred restaurant on Phuket

Jim Ophorst, chef de cuisine of PRU, Phuket’s only Michelin-starred restaurant (2020 / 2021).

What snacks and/or dishes and/or ingredients do you miss most from the Netherlands?

Calvé pindakaas (peanut butter brand) en Old Amsterdam cheese 🙂

What Thai food and/or street food should we definitely order when we are back in Thailand?

My personal advice is, try as many as Thai food you can! Every dish is a discovery and there is almost nothing I don’t like.

What do you miss the least from the Netherlands?

The complaining Dutchman, the cold rain, the many rules and crime.

What is your favorite destination in Thailand?

Phuket is my home, that’s why this is my favorite destination in Thailand.

The Big Buddha of Phuket, Thailand

The Big Buddha of Phuket | Credits: Narong Niemhom

Have you ever cooked a typical Dutch dish like stamppot or kale with smoked sausage for your kitchen staff? If so, what did they think of it?

Haha, no I have never made this for them, simply because I don’t like it myself. Just give me a nice exotic bite, that’s much tastier than a plate of stew.

During this time (April / May), what vegetables, herbs and fruits are you growing on the farm right now? What time for what produce is it now?

In Thailand there are two seasons, the rainy season and dry season. But in these seasons there are maybe ten more different seasons hidden. Therefore, we grow per experimental, that is, just to see what we can and can’t do. The other vegetables we get from other small farmers who can use the money hard enough.

What is your all time favorite dish to prepare and to eat?

At home I like to cook lasagna for my son :-). At the restaurant, I usually get bored of a dish quickly, so we change the menu all the time.

Dish at PRU on Phuket

A dish on the menu of PRU Restaurant right now (April 2021).

Which young Thai chef (new generation) should we keep an eye on?

There are many talented people out there, the new generation of Thai chefs are game changers and Thai cuisine has a very bright future ahead of it.

Can you give some great tips about Phuket? What are nice places, bars, coffee shops? Beautiful beaches and places we really must have seen?

PRU Restaurant at the beautiful Trisara should be at the top of your list anyway. Furthermore, look for it at the lesser known places like Mai Khao for example. But also Phuket Town is for me a great part of the island with all nice restaurants, bars and so on. Phuket Town has it all. The most beautiful beach for me is still in Ao Yon, in the southern part of the island.

Mai Khao Beach in the north of Phuket

Mai Khao Beach in the northern part of Phuket | Credits: Serg Zastavkin

Carla Ophorst, Jim’s mother

The basics were handed down to Jim from home. Partly thanks to his mother who has always shared the passion for cooking with little Jimmy. We got to know Carla as a committed and honest woman with a great love for Thailand and the Thai cuisine that goes with it.

Jim Ophorst cooking Christmas dinner for the family with his mother at home in Holland in 2007

Christmas 2007, Jim and I cooked together for the whole family, 25 people in total. This was the moment that he not only learned techniques from me but I started to learn techniques from him, a very precious moment.

Jim, what is your best childhood memory, thinking back to food.

Every meal was a feast at our house back in the day, the best memory I have is that every day there was something different on the table for our dinner, I thought that was very special.

The moment you came home, your mother was cooking dinner, what did you always do to “just to check”?

Finger in the pan to taste ;-).

There was a high hurdle to overcome during your international chef training. It had to do with things you like least. The hurdle you successfully cleared.

Theory was never my strong suit, I much preferred to be busy with me hands :-).

Chef Rob Smink, owner of Smink Culinair in the Netherlands

Rob Smink has been at the forefront of Jim’s developments in the kitchen. During Jim’s training at Smink Culinair, Jim’s culinary cooking school, Jim learned the techniques and intricacies of the trade.

Rob Smink, Jim’s teacher and owner of Smink Culinar on his training.

At the time, you (Jim) was allowed by your parents to choose which school you would attend; Le Cordon Bleu in Paris or London. What was the reason you chose us anyway?

To be fairly honest, I just wanted to get my papers as quickly as possible and with you guys it was the fastest way. After a deeper research, I found out that with you I could learn the basics that I hadn’t had in my previous apprenticeships. But most of all, you were a 2 star chef with a very good reputation, this would only benefit me in the rest of my career.

I try to teach the participants the classic French cuisine with a lot of technique. What can you do now with these techniques?

These classical techniques are still my basis for cooking, it’s what I learned from you that is now the basis for my cuisine.

Jim, what has stuck the most from what you learned with us and what can you still use now?

The first time I was in charge of the kitchen and I went completely wrong, waiting for the second chance to do better came with the final dinner. This was where I finally figured out what it took to lead a kitchen brigade.

Has having a Michelin star been a goal or a logical consequence of good cooking?

It has been a combination of both, my passion for cooking goes a long way, along with being a very ambitious chef, I set high goals for myself. I think this is the result of a Michelin star.

Promotional video from the Michelin Guide regarding awarding of stars in 2019 where Jim won his first star.

DID YOU KNOW?
In 2012, Rob Smink, owner of Smink Culinary achieved a Guinness World Record. He cooked for a whopping 36 hours and 58 minutes straight on!

PRU’s fabulous kitchen team, part of Trisara on Phuket

Of course, Jim Ophorst has played a big part in achieving the Michelin stars of recent years. But what would he and PRU have been without his amazing team from the kitchen!

PRU's team after winning a Michelin star in 2021

The team at the Trisara resort where PRU Restaurant is a part of after winning the 2021 Michelin Star and Michelin Green Star.

What do you think your staff think it’s your catch phrase?

Gas erop! (meaning Let’s go warp speed!)

Normally you cook Michelin starred food, what do you cook at home for your family?

Everything that my son and wife loves, simple and honest food.

Name three most important things in your life.

My wife and son, my family back home and last but not least, my knives!

How do you feel being called “Uncle Jim”, “Crazy Man” or “Sensitive Man” and why do you think your staff calls you that?

I always try to be one of my team and keep them happy as much as possible. If they are not happy to work for you, you will never get the results you’re looking for. Maybe that’s why they call me like that :-).

Crazy Man as Jim is called in the kitchen by his team luminary in 2021
Jim Ophorst, chef of Pru at the Trisara Resort on Phuket

You always start your morning at work with a cup of coffee, then you would grab some stuff and start working while dancing, singing, and making music from kitchen pots. It makes us happy and puts us in a good mood, but did you know that we take the video of you?

Focus is most important, but starting the day with fun, will bring a smile on everybody’s face. The video I don’t know about haha.

You are very crazy with the new ingredients, always eager to taste some new ingredients that mostly do not look edible. You don’t even know if they can be eaten or not, or if you will be allergic to them. Aren’t you afraid of dying from eating those things?

Don’t be scared in life, it will only bring limitations to you and no possibilities.

You like to sing Thai Song and Northeastern Thai songs while working. Have you considered singing as a career?

Haha once in a while it’s okay, but I don’t think a lot of people will listen to my singing talents anyway :).

ALSO READ
Our article about Trisara on Phuket, the particularly beautiful resort that PRU is a part of.

Jim and a part of his team from PRU on Phuket
Jim at work in the kitchen of PRU on Phuket

Chef Alessandro Frau from Acqua Restaurant in Phuket and Bangkok

The always friendly Alessandro Frau is chef and owner of one of the best Italian restaurants on the island of Phuket. Acqua Restaurant is internationally acclaimed and now also has opened a location in Bangkok (since 2021).

Alessandro Frau from Acqua Restaurant Phuket

The sympathetic Italian chef Alessandro Frau of Acqua Restaurant on Phuket and in Bangkok.

What are the benefits of operating your restaurant on an island like Phuket and what are the challenges?

In Phuket I can be the only one, compared to Bangkok for example, I can only be one of them. This is a big plus, but it also comes with a lot of challenges. For example, the first few years we had to fight to survive, we’re new, somewhere in the North of Phuket, nobody knew about us or me. So you really have to believe in what you’re doing to make sure you will succeed. Plus always have a low season which will hurt everyone on the island, including a Michelin star restaurant.

What is the best compliment you received from a guest?

When a guest starts to be emotional because of the experience we just gave to them. This means much more than any words or stars on your door. We cook for the people, we want to make them happy. Guest happy, chef happy is our motto:)

What are the elements that you are looking for on your dish creation that makes you satisfy 100%?

I am a perfectionist, this is unlimited research for me and that’s why I will never be happy for 100%, cause I think you always can do better, you always can improve, even the smallest details on the plate, you can do it better.

Chef Thitid “Ton” Tassanakajohn from one of Thailand’s best restaurant Le Du and Nusara in Bangkok

Chef Thitid “Ton” Tassanakajohn is not only a very familiar face in the Thai culinary world but also a super friendly person! He owns Le Du, awarded a Michelin star and ranked number four among the best restaurants in all of Asia in 2021. Besides Le Du, Chef Ton also owns Nusara, another restaurant you must have eaten at some point in Bangkok.

Chef Ton of Le Du and Nusara in Bangkok, Thailand

Cooking has been part of Chef Ton’s life. As a little boy, he learned to cook from his grandmother and has always been grateful to her for teaching him the art of cooking. His restaurant Nusara, opened in 2020, and is therefore an ode to his grandmother.

What you like the most about Thailand?

The safety, the good care taking of the people, the living, my job:)

What is your future plan in Phuket? 

I am a very ambitious person, what my ambitions are will be out to the world as soon as I reach them, but it’s going for the highest possible. After that I would like to spend more time with my family :-).

Chef Sebastiaan Hoogewerf from the world-renowned The Okura Prestige in Bangkok

Sebastiaan is an executive chef at The Okura Prestige Bangkok. The Okura Prestige Bangkok isn’t only a fantastic hotel but in it you will also find the Michelin-starred Elements. In addition, Japanese restaurant Yamazato is one of the only two Japanese restaurants in Thailand to have a Michelin Plate.

Sebastiaan Hoogewerf, executive chef of The Okura Prestige Bangkok

Sebastiaan Hoogewerf standing at Up & Above Restaurant and Bar, part of The Okura Prestige Bangkok. Sebastiaan has been working at The Okura Prestige since 2013 and is now executive chef there. Another Dutch chef we are so proud of!

Ey Jimmy! Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

Cooking on a higher level then we are now in a new building :).

Where to look for inspiration?

Most of my inspiration comes from the unknown and new ingredients, that’s my biggest inspiration source

What is the difference between fine dining Thailand and the Netherlands?

I think that in Thailand you have a much bigger range in fine dining restaurants than in the Netherlands, this is also because the market is much bigger. In the Netherlands most of the fine dining restaurants are pretty much the same. You really have to look out for the restaurants that are standing on their own.

Chefs Mathias en Thomas Sühring from the similarly named restaurant Sühring in Bangkok

These two German twin brothers, Thomas and Mathias Sühring, are regular guests in PRU’s kitchen. Here they have teamed up with Jim to host several themed culinary evenings. Like many of the restaurants in this list, Sühring has been awarded a Michelin star. We are very curious to see what the future holds for these two amicable brothers.

What is the biggest challenge in going forward on sustainability in a restaurant?

To work with people you can’t control, such as suppliers who are still working with a lot of single used plastic, we would like to change that, but it’s very difficult to change the people’s mindset, especially if it costs them more money.

Mathias and Thomas Sühring of the Michelin-starred Sühring restaurant in Bangkok
Mathias and Thomas Suhring in the kitchen of PRU on Phuket

Chef Bo & Chef Dylan from the restaurants Bo.lan and Err in Bangkok

Chef Duangporn “Bo” Songvisava + chef Dylan Jones = Bo.lan, two unmissable chefs who mean an awful lot to local farmers in Thailand! These two heroes have been working on sustainability and cooking with ingredients in a more conscious way for at least a decade. We find it surprising that these two haven’t yet received a Michelin Green Star. From us they get the respect they deserve! Keep on going Bo.lan!

Bo and Lan in the kitchen of Bo.lan in Bangkok

“Bo” and Dy “lan” a duo with a drive and passion for local Thai ingredients. These days they are very busy with Err, a superb restaurant in Bangkok. This couple used to run the Michelin starred restaurant Bo.lan but we are confident in the future of Err and their other creations!

As a Farang (white foreigner), trying to engage with local producers, what is your biggest challenge (apart from language) and how do you overcome it?

We work with a lot of small farmers, but we also have our own Research and Development team who is always looking for the unknown ingredients. I am not alone in this:) But apart from that we also work with a corporation who is in contact with 80% of the organic farmers in whole Thailand, they just tell me what’s available and what’s in season for that moment and then we will work on that.

What’s the most difficult local ingredient you’ve tried to use but failed?

Without a doubt, Durian! This fruit is full of possibilities, but I haven’t got the right formula yet to use it in our menu. Many people use it in a dessert, but this is too easy for me so I want to use it in a savory dish, but it’s a challenge :).

Durian at a market in Thailand

The infamous durian, many people who smell this fruit for the first time do not know what they are experiencing. The durian stinks, so much so that this fruit of the kings, as the durian is also called, is banned in most hotels in Thailand. | Credits: Luca Conti (Flickr)

Chef Garima Arora from the unique restaurants Gaa and HERE in Bangkok

For us, chef Garima is a true hero! In November 2018, this smiling lady was the first Indian woman to win a Michelin star with her restaurant Gaa. She has since opened another fantastic restaurant in Bangkok called HERE. This is where you really need to go next time you visit Bangkok again. Also bring some treats for her lovely dog Aalooji cause we like this doggo so much!

DID YOU KNOW?
Gaa moved to a new location in Bangkok late 2020. The architect (Luke Yeung of Architectkidd) who designed this new home is featured in our In the Picture #15.

Gaa's new location in Bangkok designed by Luke Yeung of Architectkidd

The new location of Gaa designed by Luke Yeung of Architectkidd. Luke is not only a very good architect but also a great photographer and friend of Garima. By the way, well deserved credits to Wawara Design for executing the awesome design! We can’t wait to eat here!

What are your chef pet peeves?

People lying in front of your face. Be real, be honest, this will make you a better person in the future.

When are you eating at HERE?!

SOON!

Jim Ophorst and Garima Arora during a Michelin Guide dinner series in Thailand

Having fun! (Sanuk in Thai)! Jim and Garima together at a Michelin Guide party in Thailand.

Chef Richard Ekkebus known from Amber in Hong Kong, a restaurant with two Michelin stars

Dutchman Richard Ekkebus has been working at Hong Kong’s Mandarin Oriental Landmark Hotel since 2005. Since then, he has managed to achieve two Michelin stars on several occasions with Amber, the restaurant in the hotel. An unprecedented achievement and again a Dutchman to be proud of. Should you ever be in Hong Kong do not forget to dine in this heavenly restaurant called Amber.

Richard Ekkebus at the two Michelin-starred restaurant Amber. This restaurant is located in

Holland’s pride and joy, executive chef Richard Ekkebus of the two Michelin-starred restaurant Amber in Hong Kong.

What is your biggest challenge in sourcing ingredients in Phuket?

Consistency is the most difficult part in our job. It’s already hard to find the new / tasty ingredients, but once you discover them you would like to get that high quality for a consistent amount of time.

How much do your local team members influence your cooking?

We work as a team and everyone is involved in the outcome of a dish, but we will always work though my vision and my taste pallet. Sometimes they give ideas that will result in a better outcome, but it’s my final taste that decides what will be on the plate yes or no.

What is your most favourite local ingredient, why and where do you use it for?

Everything I don’t know is my favorite ingredient, my whole menu and inspiration is based on the unknown. I would like to give my guests an experience they have never get before and therefore I should work with ingredients that most of the Thai people are not familiar with.

What is the biggest lesson the Thai people have taught you?

Be patient.

Khun Thanaruek Laoraowirodge owner of the famous Supanniga Group

Khun Thanaruek has been the founder of the well-known Supanniga Group since 2012. With several Supanniga restaurants in Bangkok and the yet to open Ging Grai in Chiang Mai. In addition, the Somtum Der restaurants fall under the Supanniga Group. These restaurants with dishes mainly from the Khon Kaen province, can be found in cities such as Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Tokyo, Taipei and New York. In New York, Somtum Der even received a Michelin star in 2016 and in June 2021 a restaurant will be opened in Beijing.

Chef Thanaruek Laoraowirodge known from the Supanniga Group of which Somtum Der in New York is also a part of

Khun Thanaruek Laowaowirodge is originally from Khon Kaen province in northeastern Thailand. He even wrote a beautiful piece about this province for our From Thailand with LOVE campaign. This kind man has meant more to Thai cuisine worldwide than he will ever know. Hats off to this man!

From the beginning of last decade, traditional and authentic cuisine was on the radar of foodies around the world and especially in the megacities. But as of the late 2010’s, it seems that this is changing. What do you think about the growth in popularity of traditional authentic cuisine, modern cuisine and fusion cuisine in the next decade?

I think the originality of the cuisine will return, because you can already see that more and more restaurants are going back to their “roots”, where they work with locally sourced ingredients, more than based on taste and flavors. The days of fusion and modern cuisine are over in my opinion. People want to know what they are eating and they want to see the real products on their plates. Our cuisine is based on nature and the products available in Thailand. Even we don’t cook traditional Thai cuisine, maybe you can call it “New Thai Cuisine”, where we use the rarest ingredients from all over the country, prepared with a European standard.

Chef Rydo from Gaggan Anand Restaurant in Bangkok

We really did our best to catch Gaggan Anand himself to ask some questions or at least one question to Jim. After all, Jimmy has done an internship at Gaggan in the past…. Unfortunately we didn’t get hold of him ourselves and Rydo, the chef of his new restaurant Gaggan Anand Restaurant sent us a question, unfortunately not the most original one. Let’s just say that they are very busy with their passion, which is cooking. Despite that, we remain lovers of Gaggan, his team and creations, we therefore hope to one day meet this character himself.

When will you join us for dinner at the new Gaggan Anand Restaurant?

I hope very soon! (For us the same Jim…)

Chef Rydo, chef de cuisine van Gaggan Anand Restaurant in Bangkok
Concept Star Wars au restaurant Gaggan Anand, à Bangkok

The final words are from Jim to all our Thailand Magazine readers

In these difficult times, we will always focus on what is important around us and the community of Phuket / Thailand is one of them. By winning the Green Star, the whole community got a big award, because this award is not for me, it is for everyone who has made PRU possible in the past 5 years.

I believe that by helping others, you will always see the results back. I am a very happy and satisfied man and grateful to work and live in Phuket where I have all the opportunities to do what I love most, create and cook!

I look forward to welcoming you all to beautiful Phuket and hope you will visit PRU if you are in the area!

– Jimmy –

PS
Check the official website of PRU and of Trisara, the super beautiful resort of which PRU is a part of.

Jim Ophorst of PRU with the Green Star 2021
Jimmy Ophorst

SOME OTHER GREAT INFORMATION ABOUT THAILAND!

Read all about Phuket in Thailand here
Read more about the super-luxury Trisara and PRU Restaurant here
Check all our Bangkok articles
Click here for all the best accommodations in Bangkok
Check all our In the Picture entries
Check our Thailand islands page for white sand beaches en clear blue seas
Click here for all our Picture This artikelen
Read here all information about Railay, one of the most beautiful destinations in Thailand.
Klik hier voor alle informatie over het natuurpark Khao Sok National Park in Thailand
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