Chiang Mai, Thailand – Oxygen Dining Room, located at Cross Chiang Mai Riverside, offers an exquisite dining experience that combines Thai fusion cuisine with a touch of French technique. Executive Chef Wathit “Khem” Rungrojwattana shares his culinary philosophy, inspirations, and thoughts on experimental dining.
From Kitchen Apprentice to Executive Chef
Chef Khem’s passion for cooking began at an early age while assisting his father in their small Chinese restaurant. After completing his education, he trained under renowned Chef Roger Van Damme at the One-Michelin Star Het Gebaar Restaurant in Belgium. He then honed his skills at prestigious establishments such as Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai and Anantara Chiang Mai before taking the helm at Cross Chiang Mai Riverside.
A Philosophy Rooted in Passion and Skill
Chef Khem believes that passion and skill are essential ingredients for success. He constantly seeks improvement and enjoys learning from his peers. His cooking philosophy revolves around using real, locally sourced ingredients, embracing concepts like Farm to Table and Head to Tail dining. Zero waste is also a core principle, with a focus on repurposing leftover ingredients.
Exploring New Frontiers in Dining
Chef Khem observes that diners now seek more than just a meal; they desire unique and memorable experiences. Experimental dining, such as Chef’s Table concepts, has gained popularity. Additionally, there is a growing demand for healthier beverages featuring functional ingredients like ashwagandha, hibiscus, and matcha. Despite these trends, classic flavors like cheddar cheese and caramel remain beloved in nostalgic favorites.
Innovative Culinary Flair: A Memorable Dish
Chef Khem invites diners to savor his signature sweet corn soup with scallops—a delightful blend of freshness and sweetness. The corn is sourced from the Royal Project, while the scallops come from an organic farming group. This acclaimed dish was featured in Thailand’s Michelin Guide 2022 and is a testament to Chef Khem’s culinary prowess.