Creating a Stir: Chef Banyong from Bangkok

Creating a Stir Chef Ba

korusin chef 248 (photo credit: )
korusin chef 248
(photo credit: )
Rungrueang Banyong was born in Bangkok, Thailand, 38 years ago. He grew up learning about the restaurant business from his brother who owned a restaurant. At age 16, he started at the bottom, cleaning up. By the age of 19 and 20, he was cooking Chinese and Thai food. He remained at his brother's restaurant for 19 years. Thirteen years ago, when Malha Mall opened, the owner of the mall operated all the restaurants. When he understood they needed to be run by people with restaurant experience, he sold the Korusin restaurants to Noam Elbion, who had been working in the restaurant business for several years. When Israeli-born Eyal Torgeman finished his military service and his world travels, he debated with himself whether to go back into the army or go into business. (His brother has the Caffit franchise in the mall.) Elbion suggested that he try the restaurant business for three months and see if he liked working as a manager. "I liked it," says Torgeman. "I saw that I had a lot of things to give to the system." He explains that five years ago Korusin was looking for a Thai chef - "people who know how to work in a kitchen." An employment agency sent him Banyong's resume and told him they could send someone to Thailand to taste his food. "We sent someone to Thailand to check his skills and experience, and he reported that Banyong was a very good chef." They brought Banyong and his wife over to Israel and helped them. Now the chef and his wife have a son, 17 months old, named Noam. Chef Banyong has helped change the restaurant's fare to Asian cuisine and upgraded the menu so that half the dishes are Thai and half are Chinese. Since Banyong only speaks a little English and a little Hebrew, the communication between the waitresses and the kitchen is by number. When a waitress takes an order, she writes on the computer in Hebrew. When the ticket is printed in the kitchen, it shows a number and on the wall is a list with the Thai or Chinese names next to the numbers. However, Banyong must return to Thailand in three months, so the restaurant has hired three new cooks from Thailand, whom Banyong is training. He also supervises the other two Korusin restaurants in the Malha Mall - Korusin Express, Chinese; and Tamaki Sushi Bar. "I like my boss," says Banyong. "He is a good man. He took care of me. I like to make the food. I would like to stay longer, but I cannot." At the beginning, cooking was a challenge, says Torgeman, because the restaurant is glatt kosher and some of the products were problematic. The most difficult thing was retaining the authentic Thai and Chinese flavors using Israeli products that met the glatt kosher requirements. But then we realized that if something was missing, it didn't matter." As the kashrut certification is mehadrin, the first step of cooking has to be done by someone Jewish; then the chef can put it on the fire. He can also do the tasting, the preparing of the plates and everything else, Eyal explains. Specialties of the restaurant include lamb chops and entrecote and chicken livers and mushrooms. The most popular dishes are Duck Chang Mai (fried duck strips with lychee sauce); Garlic Chicken; and Chicken Szechuan. Listed on the large English and Hebrew menu are soups, starters, hors d'oeuvres, healthy specials, noodles, Pad Thai, rice and vegetables, chicken, beef, drinks and desserts. Everything in the restaurant, from the furniture and chinaware to the linens and menu, follow the black, red and white color scheme; and in the background is soft Chinese music. Chef Banyong comes in every day at 11 and makes food until three; then he leaves and returns at 7 p.m. to work until 11. Torgeman goes to the restaurant at nine to make sure everything is okay and remains there most of the day, as well as several evenings a week. Married and the father of an 18-month-old child, he likes to spend some evenings with his family. There is a Korusin restaurant in the Ramat Gan diamond district, which Torgeman visits once a week; and there are three in the Jerusalem Gate Mall: Korusin Aish (a meat restaurant); Korusin Beit Cafe (dairy); and a small Chinese restaurant. Korusin is located on the third floor of Malha Mall and is open from 11 a.m. to midnight, Sunday through Thursday; until 2 on Friday and one hour after Shabbat until midnight Saturday night. Tel: 679-1088.