Food Stories

Chef Rishi Arora introduces us to the art of private dining

Chef Rishi Arora introduces us to the art of private dining

Officially, Chef Rishi Arora began his culinary career as a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Dusit in Thailand. Unofficially, however, his culinary education began as a child in his grandmother’s house. 

“We had many cultures growing up at home,” Chef Rishi shares. “We lived as a joint family in a big house, and my grandmother had a cook. The cook used to come in the morning and would prepare lunch and dinner — a mix of Malay dishes with bold flavours. We would also enjoy other Singaporean food, obviously, since we were born and brought up here. Interestingly, my roots extend beyond these shores. My mum was born and grew up in Thailand, and culturally we are Punjabi, so you can imagine how we also enjoyed cuisines across India and Thailand.”

Throughout his career, Chef Rishi has had the opportunity to work across restaurants, and even co-founded the multi award-winning Tribeca Restobar in Bangkok. These days, Chef Rishi is better known as the chef behind Part Thai, a private dining outfit that showcases the breadth and depth of Thai flavours that he knows, loves, and grew up with. We are thrilled to have Chef Rishi kick off our series of one-time-only private dining experiences — join us for an intimate lunch on Saturday, 20 July 2024, to meet Chef Rishi in person, or find out more about his story below.

Chef Rishi’s Gaeng Keow Warn (Green Curry with Pumpkin and Eggplant), one of a trio of mains on the menu. Photographed in Wok Hei Free-Form Salad Bowl.

Running a restaurant versus private dining is entirely different. In a restaurant, there are many moving parts with different teams involved across the front and back of house. In private dining, I am able to provide a much more personal and curated experience to a diner and this makes it all the more special for them. 

I love the whole experience of inviting people into my home, the process of getting to know them, and giving them a glimpse into my own life and upbringing. It’s not only about the food (that's a bonus) — there’s an exchange of cultures and perspectives with these groups of diners. I am able to take them on a journey and add elements of surprise and wonder.

The private dining experience is about entering an artist’s space. Why did he make this dish? Why did he choose this ingredient? Why did he choose to have a hybrid version of these two dishes? There is an art to hosting because it’s like welcoming people into your mind, in a way. When they come into your space, there are so many things in your house that tell them about you.

Chef Rishi’s take on Yum Khao Tord, which he describes as a “super fun dish that is very me: punchy flavours balanced with something heavy, crunchy, and also saucy.” Photographed on Wok Hei Wave Rim Plate.

For my collaboration with KRA, I’m quite looking forward to making Yum Khao Tord (Crispy Rice Salad with Raw Mango) again. I first had this dish at Thai markets in Bangkok and Chiang Mai but wanted to add more layers to it. Traditionally, this is a crispy rice salad where the rice is fried into balls, crushed, and mixed with condiments. I was also inspired by another version I tasted where the rice grains were fried individually instead of as balls. My take on this dish adds elements of freshness and crunch with shredded green mango. People love this dish, and it’s also one of my favourite recreations. It’s sour, sweet, crunchy, and punchy.

Chef Rishi’s Moo Ping Kurobuta with Namchim Jaew, photographed on Charcoal Grill Free Form Oval Plate (extended collection).

As a chef, I always make sure I am fully prepped for every service. My day starts with purchasing the ingredients, which I do from fresh markets on the day of a private dining booking. Prep starts right after and goes on for 5 hours. Cutting, slicing, and making various components, including sauces, pastes, and marinations, are followed by the real cooking, mixing of dishes, and grilling meat. Plating is done when the group arrives.

Chef Rishi’s Kung Sarong with Sweet Plum Sauce and Kaotang Na Tang (Crispy Rice Cracker with Prawn and Pork Topping), photographed on Wok Hei Oval Platter. Available on the KRA x Part Thai Private Dining menu.

Home cooks are often limited to working with space and storage constraints, so we have to be quick in preparing dishes and we learn to adapt accordingly. We also have to get creative with our techniques to then serve the best version of a dish that we intended. 

I have always struggled with patience — and as a chef, I am constantly having to balance moving quickly and also appreciating that good things take time, something that culinary school reinforced. Whether you’re braising something, or you’re doing pastry, you need time and attention to detail.

When I was in culinary school in my twenties, we learned classic French dishes in both cuisine and pastry and this built my skill set and repertoire in cooking and even appreciating food. The experience added more finesse to my cooking and I learned to put names on techniques and cooking styles like mirepoix, julienne, bain marie. Interestingly, I started using spatulas for almost everything — stir-frying, mixing batters and sauces — spatulas can handle all forms of temperature.

Presentation in food is key. If it’s beautiful, it’s a feast for the eyes, which will look great on camera. But I also feel that it’s much more than just being a pretty plate. You eat with all your senses. Some dishes may not look great but they may smell and taste amazing beyond words. I do have a certain aesthetic that I achieve with my dishes, but I also like to leave a bit of room for the other senses. There’s nothing like being pleasantly surprised during a meal.

Join us and Chef Rishi in person at the one-time only KRA Private Dining Food Tour on 20 July 2024, where he will be reprising his crowd-favourite Yum Khao Tord just for us. Seats are limited — get your tickets here.