By ITTHI CT special to Thai Newsroom
BEAUTY and brains are a powerful combination. Add youthful energy and the result can be explosive.
Ines Chardonnet, still in her early thirties is one such firebrand. In six short years, she grew a startup to become one of Thailand’s more reputable food exporters.
The managing director of Blue Spice heads two factories manufacturing fine foods worth around 250 million baht (US$8 million)
“I joined Blue Elephant, the parent company, 10 years ago in Brussels,” she recalls. Six years ago, she landed here to head the food operations.
“Initially our factory in Don Muang served the restaurants but soon export demand drove us to manufacture for European markets, including big distributors and supermarket chains like Carrefour.
“We are opening our second factory, also located in North Bangkok. Sales 50 per cent up from last year,” she adds.
The Covid pandemic brought opportunities for Blue Spice to increase sales. “More people are now cooking at home as restaurants shut during the past 15 months in many countries.”
“The trend is intact for some time to come as the habit of cooking at home will be hard to break.”
Ines has a MBA and trained as a hospitality manager.
But she found the food division suited her talents.
She is fast to establish business relations and expand on the reputation of Blue Elephant, which is very well known among diners in Europe.
“The name Blue Elephant needs no introduction. Its Thai food is considered among the very best.
“The magic of the Kingdom’s kitchen is its use of so many plants, herbs and spices. I found only Thailand offers the best ingredients and selections. For example, you cannot purchase roots of many plants used in Thai cuisine in Europe as they throw it away.
“But for the real flavour to come alive, you need the roots, sometimes the bark and other rare segments of the plant as well.
“We sell everything from jasmine rice, noodles and curry pastes,” she adds. The list of 80 main products continue to grow as the restaurant continues to infuse local herbs as well as gastronomical ideas from the region.
“Last year, Blue Elephant was recognized by a Singapore based Peranakan body for its Baba cuisine at its Phuket outlet.”
Peranakan is a growing popular school of cooking that can be traced to the times when ancient Siam occupied much of Peninsular Malaya.
The tradition sprang from Malacca, then a crossroads between Hindu empires, Portugese traders, Sumatran and Javanese invaders as well as Imperial China.
“Baba” originates from people of mixed race from this period in Malacca. Today Phuket associates itself with this Baba tradition.
For the moment, things look grim as tourism took a dive in Phuket from the pandemic.
“Our Phuket restaurant now serves a fraction of the 250 people we used to receive,” Ines said, but is confident good days lie ahead. “We are no strangers to overcoming challenges.
“When we started the Phuket restaurant had to be rebuilt. The floors were so bad we had to move from the sides where the foundations were solid. The wood was so brittle the floors could break and you could fall.”
The restoration of heritage buildings in Bangkok and Phuket further enhances the firm’s reputation for corporate social responsibility, a subject close to Ines’ heart.
“To succeed,” she concludes, “you need to stay committed, provide consistent quality in products and services; and establish a reputation for reliability.”
Top: Ines Chardonnet is from Pau, France, a region known for spectacular landscapes and Franco-Spanish dishes.
Below: The classical architecture of Blue Elephant’s restaurants enhances its reputation.
Home Page: Blue Elephant’s brand is globally recognized, which helps to boost its Blue Spice food exports.