I would have preferred to receive the title of GVCI Chef of the Year as recognition of my work rather than because of the unpleasant events that occurred in Bangkok in the months of April and May this year.
You will remember that the economic centre of the city was held hostage by a large group of protestors who were able to cut it off with nasty, rudimentary bamboo barricades. It happened one morning that I witnessed the dousing of innumerable rags woven into the barriers with big tanks of gasoline, ready to be set on fire whenever the army attempted to approach.
It was a sad period, not so much because of the lack of income of commercial activities; Thailand had given me so much so I was willing to reciprocate with a bit of sacrifice in the name of a better democracy. But as the days passed, between promises of the removal of the barriers followed by denials to do so, a frustrating situation of stalemate was developed, in which in the state of total impotence, I started to form serious doubts about the choice of Thailand as the country in which to spend the second half of my working life. In those circumstances, I was no longer sure that I was making the right judgement, and I started to think of going to other countries. All the same, having lived almost two decades in this, in spite of everything, marvellous country, the option of starting everything again in another place did not attract me in the least.
Those two months, the restaurant stayed open during the week to give service to the residents of what had already turned into the ‘Red Zone’, to those who dared to venture out of their homes and to those few who audaciously went back to their offices.
It was good exercise of business economy to cancel the products ordered that regularly arrive from Europe and to try not to waste those already in the refrigerator and in the stockrooms by inventing alternative meals. The personnel were given holiday till New Years Day, then we invented different maintenance jobs, amongst which was the painting of the kitchen and the stockrooms.
In the afternoons, when I walked around in the centre, I was under the impression that the majority of the demonstrators did not have a notion of why they were there; they were mainly simple people, recruited in the countryside that was still too dry for sowing rice. I bumped into men and women, equipped with towels and soap, looking for some unlikely current of water for washing themselves. Day and night, the centre of Bangkok was held hostage by the deafening choruses of the shift leaders, who, on top of enormous speakers, made the atmosphere quite sinister.
At night, I stayed alone at home, my family had lengthened its holiday in Italy and with the curfew that started at 8:00 pm, I spent the nights on the internet keeping friends and relatives calm.
After two months of the exhausting and frustrating lulls in the negotiations between the government and the demonstrators, the army finally started to recover the heart of the metropolis and the retreat of the protesters left behind a wake of useless devastation and indelible injuries.
During those two months of turmoil, the solidarity between restaurateurs and owners of commercial activities located within the area invaded by the demonstrators was great; and often a thought was passionately stated amongst us: to start again with even more decisiveness and determination, to roll up our sleeves to always raise the quality of our activities and to work with dedication and passion to elevate even more the culinary fame of our great city.
Thanking you for the recognition received, I wish you good work.
Gianni Favro, Bangkok