Chef Anuwat Morakotjantachote is set to rock the kitchens with his team at the new Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana.
The casino, located in Gary, opens May 14 and Morakotjantachote, simply known as Chef Nu, will preside over five restaurants as executive chef of the property.
"I grew up in the hospitality (and service) industry," said Chef Nu. As a youngster, he began working in restaurants owned by his aunt in New York where he started as a dishwasher and busboy and eventually became a supervisor.
Chef Nu, who was born in Chanthaburi, Thailand, said he was always fascinated by food and the cooking craft.
"I love to eat," he said, further explaining his attraction to all things culinary. Chef Nu said his experience with travel also enhanced his love and understanding of the culinary field through the years. His Thai hometown, he said, offered a real melting pot of cuisines.
"That's where I learned to adapt many ethnic cuisines," he said.
"I also love to learn. I've never stopped learning," he said. Chef Nu is also a big believer in passion for what one does but he stresses "discipline" in the culinary craft is more important than passion. He said he always strives to do "better everyday."
Chef Nu, 52, said what's ironic about his ultimate choice of career was that when he was growing up he was a "very picky eater."
But he was always ready to be educated about different foods and the industry itself. To achieve excellence on the job, Chef Nu believes "You have to look at yourself and how you do things and you have to look and figure out how to make it better tomorrow."
Chef Nu will preside over the teams at the casino restaurants Council Oaks Steaks and Seafood, The Hard Rock Cafe, YouYu Noodle Bar, Fresh Harvest and Constant Grind. The team of chefs, sous chef and other kitchen workers total about 140 so far.
The chef said his aim is to "bring the highest quality of food" to diners at the casino's restaurants. He said at Council Oaks, the team will also be "working with the seasons and working to support local vendors" when designing menus. Council Oaks Steaks and Seafood also features The Vault, housing dry-aged meat. Visitors to the casino can see the meat hanging through the restaurant's window and watch as a butcher will occasionally cut the product.
"We can have about 300 pieces of meat in there at a time," he said. "We keep the temperature in the room at about 36 to 38 degrees."
In addition to his aunt, Chef Nu said he was influenced in the cooking craft by his great grandfather who had a tofu market and his mother.
"I learned a lot from my mother," he said.
Chef Nu is a graduate of Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island where he studied the culinary arts and has worked for various esteemed restaurants and hotels through the years, including The Peninsula Hotel in New York and Chicago, The Ritz Carlton, The New York Athletic Club and Tavern on the Green in New York.
Chef Nu, who lives in Chicago, is married to Doungpon and the couple has two children. Visit hardrockcasinonorthernindiana.com for more information on the casino and its restaurants.