Hans Zahner introduced Healthy French Fine Dining to Bangkok
- Michelin-starred Elements Restaurant
- Contemporary Star chef in BKK
- Healthy French fine dining with Asian twists
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Chef Hans Zahner, although German sounding, is actually very French
He talks with Bangkok Foodies about what he plans to implement in the culinary scene of Bangkok, and we can assure you it’s not what you expect of European cuisine. Healthy French fine dining with a Thai twist.
Chef Hans Zahner, who studied at CFA d’Auxerre culinary college from 1997-2000, joins the Elements team having previously worked at the Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok as a Restaurant Chef at Tables.
Hans Zahner first came to Asia in 2015 as the Restaurant Chef of Sir Elly’s, the Michelin-starred contemporary French restaurant at The Peninsula Shanghai, and prior to that worked under the likes of Chef Eric Briffard at the renowned Four Seasons George V Paris, Chef Alain Ducasse at Hotel Plaza Athenee Paris, and in the kitchens of 2-Michelin star restaurant Lasserre under Chef Christophe Moret. The Elements restaurant in Bangkok appointed him as the new chef of its Michelin-starred Elements restaurant in 2019.
At Elements, which serves up a multi-course French dinner with Japanese influences, Hans Zahner, as its new chef de cuisine, skilfully merges Gallic techniques with Japanese refinement. As my most recent meal there confirmed, he is a real master in getting big flavours from the smallest elements.
Elements, the airy One MICHELIN Star contemporary French restaurant in Bangkok
With its elegantly minimal design, high-rise location, and views of the Bangkok skyline, the setting is radically contemporary.
But for the unfamiliar diner attracted to the label of “French contemporary,” the menus at Elements might give pause. Sure, there is foie gras on the menu, but the majority of the verbiage is hardly French – yuzu, dashi, wagyu, genmaicha – one might wonder if they didn’t accidentally walk into a Japanese restaurant instead.
Chef Hans Zahner made his bones in some of the greatest kitchens in France. Starting at the age of 14, he worked his way up through the ranks at places like Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athenee and Lasserre, temples of Gallic gastronomy that feature on many food lover’s bucket lists.
As one might expect, Chef Hans delights in the unexpected. When asked what is actually French about Elements, he didn’t hesitate to say, “The skills are French. The sauce, the technique. This is what is French. You know in France, we have (Auguste) Escoffier, we have all these traditional things. I think it’s good to make it more modern, more contemporary. We make classic dishes which are Japanese inside.”
In his mind, Japanese ingredients fit within French cooking perfectly. “We can play with many ingredients we don’t get in Europe.” And he pointed out that France and Japan have a mutual reverence for local produce, which he brings in from the best sources in Japan. “We can make a sauce bordelaise, but have wagyu beef.”
He also realises that this can be a challenge. “In Paris, you take a different route, people will kill you. It’s not like San Francisco, not like London, where chefs are more free.” There’s a double challenge as well, given that, much like in France, Japanese cuisine is highly codified, with the items on a traditional kaiseki menu heavily dictated by locality and by the formalities of Japanese fine dining. “It’s the same for the Japanese, we cannot touch their stuff.”
But he also knows things are changing in France. “For the younger generation, it’s not a problem.” Furthermore, he noted that he has the same conversation with Japanese customers. “We can start thinking differently. The dashi is not the same… but it’s interesting.”