I've been in the restaurant business for about 22 years now, both as a Chef and as a Restauranteur. So I'd like to take this opportunity, in this CI Talks episode, to share with you my difficulties, the inspirations I have had, and all my past pushes I've done to better myself in order to succeed in the restaurant business or the restaurant industry in Thailand.

Hi, my name is Chalee Kader.
I'm a Chef and Restaurateur.

I've always enjoyed cooking. I've always enjoyed getting into the kitchen, whether at a young age with my family, cooking for friends. After the financial crisis, I was sent away to a family friend in San Francisco to live there, and he had a restaurant where I could work at and I started doing everything from washing dishes to being a busboy.

I've never actually taken culinary classes. I've always wanted to, but while I was in the States, I did go and check out some schools and it was a bit too much for me to afford. I couldn't get a loan as well to actually go and get a degree in culinary so I just had to work in restaurants and try to gather enough experience. In 3 or 4 years I got to hop into the kitchen and do some cooking or hang out with the chefs in there and I felt that this is something I really want to do.

Once I came back to Bangkok, I also tried to pursue this career but it was a bit difficult to jump in right away, so I worked for a food import company for a few years before getting the opportunity to go work at the French Embassy in their kitchen.

The reason I wanted to open a restaurant is, I think, I had a passion for it and I had the energy and the fire to cook and show people what I can do in the kitchen. Right now I have around 4 restaurants that are still going on.

To be able to run different concepts and different businesses at the same time, you're going to need help, you're going to need people around you that understand what you want and also can live and breathe the same air that you do, can make the decisions for you and are not shy to actually put up their word when they want to say something that is in their mind, to actually help you.

In order to develop new ideas and new concepts, you need to be unique and you have to have your own identity. You need to stand out and not be a knock-off of something else or be a copy of something else. You need to be original and that originality with your ideas that you are confident with surely make your business more successful.

I have 5 tips for you guys to take away in order to open your own business or your restaurants.

One, I think you need to have a strong and solid idea, an idea that resonates with you, something you're proud of, you're confident with. This will be the spark of your passion, and make you want to do it and be happy doing it because it's coming from you.

Two, you're going to need a strong business model, a strong marketing plan which will then help your proud idea or your passion follow through nicely. Without a strong business plan and without a good target through your marketing plans, you will struggle a lot to find a proper identity for yourself and for your brand.

Three, your brand needs a proper identity. It needs to be what you are special for that people can relate your brand with. I think having a proper brand identity will give you this mark in whatever industry you're going to be at.

Next one, four, you need to have focus, certain focus to the brand. It's easier to understand, it's easier to relate. People outside looking in will know exactly what you're selling, what you're trying to do with the brand and what your brand is representing. And that's very important for people to understand.

Five, you need to be able to take criticism to harness your ego in a way that you're not overly confident. I'm not saying that you have to listen to everything that people tell you and people criticize you over and critique you over, but I think having some sort of filtration on those things is good; taking the good out of the criticisms you get in order to make yourself better, make your business better.

But if you have too much of an ego and you're too confident, sometimes when you try to blind all these things out, it could ruin it for you in your future or in your career as well. The most important thing about being a chef is, I think, to be focused and then to have a solid and a concrete idea backed up with a good business model.

In order for you to succeed, you can't really go onto a business which is just passion and you can't just go into it blindsided too much. I think you need to put all those things into a solid block and make sure it's strong enough. After you have that, you need to put in your 100%, or more than that, day in and day out, making sure your business is going to work.

Ultimately the joy of cooking, whether it be in a proper restaurant for business or even at home is, I think, the happiness that you can send through, the energy you can send through to whoever is eating your food. I think if you can feel the joy and the happiness from the table, from the people that are around you eating, I think that's the ultimate goal of cooking.

CI Talks - Stories That Spark Change.