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Q&A with Jamie 
Bissionnette

Time Out Bangkok sits down with the founding chef of Toro, an award-winning Spanish restaurant from Boston’s South End, prior to the official debut of his first restaurant outside the United States.

Why Spanish?
My partner, Ken, and I are American- born and we started cooking classic French food. And we both were traveling independently to different parts of the world, when we were in Spain, working with Spanish chef we fell in love with the culture, we fell in love with that style of food and that style of eating. So it’s just natural progression for us to start cooking Spanish food. 

What the main differences between Spanish and other kind of food?
Spanish food is packed with flavors. And they do small portion, the whole model is eat a little bit often. So American is about getting appetizer and a big entrée, but in Spain, it’s about a little of this, a little of that, so you get to try more variety. And what’s awesome about Spanish food is indicative of the culture that it’s around. Spanish chef coming to America isn’t going to look for just Spanish ingredients, they;re going to cook with all fresh ingredients around them. So it makes it lean itself really well to adding any kinds of flavors together, which is why we’re really excited tobe in Bangkok. 

I’ve heard a story that before becoming a chef, you were a vegetarian?
I was a vegetarian, and vegan, for a long time. And that’s probably why I was a chef because in the early 1990s in the States, being a vegetarian was difficult. My mother would not cook for me. School lunches are not vegetarian. I loved food, so it was only natural that I started cooking at home and me watched Jacques Pépin and cooking show on PBS. I was mimic food so I fell in love with cooking. And then I went to culinary school, and throughout the culinary school, I was a vegetarian. And then when I graduated, I moved to Paris. There, my chefs told me, ‘you need to start eating to understand the flavors. So I become an omnivore. 

Did you remember the first time you taste meat?
Yeah. It was steak tartar. And I remember the texture and everything were so great. Because no matter what you do, vegetarian there are certain textures and flavors that you cannot mimic, my juts remember eating that and salivating and feeling s on primal. It was awesome. 

What should be expected from Toro Bangkok?
What Zack [chef in residence] here you would expect to have a lot of classic Spanish-inspired food. Even in the United States, we don’t do just Spanish food – we do Spanish-inspired, and we use ingredients from all over the world from our travels. The things that we love to eat. In the United States we actually use a fair amount of Thai and Southeast Asian flavors; we use a lot of fish sauce, we use a lot of chilis, we use a lot of dried shrimps and carapace. So here, what I think it’s gonna be fun, is taking the idea of Spanish dish and adding the local ingredients to make it feel natural. And you know one that that Zack is really excited about, we’ve been talking about finding local inredients that indicatively Thai, but not treating them in an Asian way. So instead of doing long bean with something different but the same Southeast Asian floavors. 

Toro in the States also emphasizes on cocktails, you are doing them here too, right?
Yeah, we have really fun cocktails. Our goal with cocktails are things that you can be like, ‘Man, this is delicious!’ A kind of thing that you’re always like you can’t put it down. 

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