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Jonathan Fairfield

Interview: Gaston, Owner Of La Pallote

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Interview: Gaston, Owner Of La Paillote

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Hua Hin:-- How I came to Hua Hin A very long time ago, I was doing business in the industrial field and was a factory representative for European factories making turbine chargers and hydraulic equipment.

Later on I had my own company selling to the Far East, which involved a lot of travelling to countries like Thailand and Singapore. In the mid 90s when I sold that company, I was very happy but something was missing; the Far East. I felt that the country where I wanted to come back to would be Thailand.

I had travelled to many countries in the Far East but the country where I felt the most relaxed and happy was Thailand. I decided to try to build something new as I didn’t want to continue in the industrial business and I wanted to develop my favorite hobby, cooking great food. I had the opportunity to meet with several people and finally decided that the right partner for this new venture was Eve Gaudry with whom I started La Paillote.

He is a very good chef with a lot of experience, but after 5 years he wanted to retire and enjoy life, which I fully understood. I then became the sole owner and started changing and upgrading the menu gradually to where La Paillote is today.

When I was travelling to Thailand, I often came to Hua Hin to play golf, a hobby that I enjoyed very much.

The best handicap I ever had was 18. Coming back to Hua Hin so many times, I got to know the town better and better. At that time (late 90’s) Hua Hin was really a village with great character and only 3.5 hours from Bangkok.
The roads at that time were not as good as today. Hua Hin stood out from other places, with Thailand’s oldest golf course and the Railway Hotel (better known as the Sofitel), things that you could only find here. It was my dream place where I could relax and meet many interesting people. The security and climate were also big factors in making Hua Hin my favorite place in Thailand.
Almost a hundred years ago the advisors to the King advised him to come here because of the good climate and proximity to Bangkok. La Paillote I wanted it to be a true French restaurant, with a French chef, authentic French cuisine and of course I speak French. In everything I’ve done in my life, I learned in time that it is best to focus on what you know you are good at. Food is my passion.
I have studied food a lot and have been fortunate to learn so much from many famous chefs with high standard restaurants in Europe teaching me how to prepare delicious dishes from a few basic ingredients. My Vision for Business What I haven’t told you yet is that I also had other another business.
I had a business in Belgium in construction and to make a good team you have to know the people, feel the people, select the right people and then create a long term team.
At La Paillote most of my staff have worked here for a long time. My Manager has been here for 9 years, another for more than 7 years and 2 others in the kitchen over 5 years. Proof that it is possible to have a long term team in Thailand. The lady in the kitchen couldn’t speak English at all when she joined, but now she does! I am not an easy boss; you can ask all my staff. I am demanding but I am also there when they need help.
I will promote people that try hard and work well. You have to start with selecting people with a good heart and that want to be part of a team. Only as a good working team can we be successful. fWrohmat mI lye awronrekd experience Searching for excellence is something that I have done all my life. I was working for a company selling hydraulic equipment. I was representing one of the best companies in the world and I could sell because I had a great company behind me and a great social network. My ambition in the food industry is always to increase the quality.
I am now extending the kitchen to give more space and give my staff the tools to bring food to the next level. Customer feedback also helps, with many customers coming back every year. I make a point of introducing our staff to the customers. I rely on them as I am not here all the year because of my work in Belgium.
Three years ago I got married and my wife is helping me to keep the business going strong, but it is important to let your people know that you are proud to trust them to do a good job. Once you have people working for you for a long time can provide your support when they are in trouble and help them out. This has happened to almost all my staff. I help them to understand that I am also here to help them when they need my help.
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Provide high quality food and service and you get loyalty. If you work for me you have to be proud working for La Paillote. One of my advantages is that I come and go, when I return I always come back with fresh views on how to improve things.
When you are here all the time, it is sometimes hard to have an objective view. When I go to Belgium I eat outside at different restaurants and I get new ideas. The Restaurant My main idea is to offer the best. With the same ingredients you can create something great or something which is rubbish, this is where a real chef makes the difference. The secret is the way that you put the ingredients together and the way you cook them.
Timing in preparing food is very important. For example, you should cook sea scallops one minute each side no more. If you leave it longer it becomes like chewing gum. We prepare our steaks in six different ways. When making the menu you have to think about pricing, if you supply good quality you will have good customers.
If you have many customers and have good staff, they will get some good tips for providing great service and good food. People are not stupid, they want to have good quality at a reasonable price and this is how we price at La Paillote. We aim to make authentic traditional French food and not become too fancy with our meals. We are in a beach town, which is quite different from Bangkok when it comes to dining.
Customers are looking for good value; we have priced our wines to be very competitive with small margins. People are on holidays looking for great food, reasonable prices and good service.
This is what we aim to deliver. My Wine Policy Wine is part of French culture and as a French speaking person and having a French restaurant I like to promote wine. Our policy is to give a wide range of French wines; we have 25 French wines and about 50 wines from other countries.
We have 10 very nice wines under THB 999 because I don’t see any reason to mark up stupidly. I like to see people drink wine with a French meal instead of beer. It was clear to me that I needed to offer wines at attractive prices to achieve my aim. We do not have wines over 2,000 THB because this is not the kind of city where you can really have customers willing to pay more. The only wine over 2000 THB is French Champagne.
My personal recommendation is the Belleruche red and white wines from France (Rhone) which is sold at 1,190 THB. Hua Hin Developing Hua Hin is developing tremendously well and has some many good things going for it. It is a safe city and many of the tourists are affluent and looking for high standards. For me Hua Hin is the place to be, I don’t like some of the other cities in Thailand. I think that Hua Hin is very attractive because it is still growing and is a dynamic place.
You still feel young in Hua Hin because you are pushed by the dynamic of the city itself, everybody is looking to improve on their services in the restaurants and hotels.
Many new hotels, entertainment parks and restaurants are coming and all these new developments make you want to come back to Hua Hin. Every time something new going on. Of course I should mention the two main attractions in Hua Hin, the famous beaches and the beautiful golf courses.
Unfortunately I have not been able to play golf in the last 2 years because of an injury. Personal Word I love having La Paillote and having repeat customers is what I love the most. Over time I have become real friends with many of them. “Don’t forget to enjoy life, don’t regret neglecting your friends or family and bring them to Hua Hin.”
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-- Hua Hin Today 2015-05-03

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