Behind Bangkok's one Michelin star restaurant, Canvas, is the creative mind of Executive Chef Riley Sanders. For Chef Sanders, food is not simply about flavours, but about the entire creative process, from ingredients to plating. On his busy culinary journey working with several award-winning chefs, Michelin starred restaurants and a private super yacht chef, he found a profound fascination and excitement in Thailand's capital, Bangkok. The culture, the people and the land itself drew Sanders to find the blank canvas for his art creations. At Canvas, it's all about the ingredients, presentation and experience. We chat with Riley Sanders about his culinary career and favourite markets in Bangkok.
1. When did you decide to get into the culinary industry?
I always knew I wanted to be a chef. I remember being so excited by food as a kid, always wanting to try new ingredients or types of dishes or cuisines. I started cooking for my family as a young teenager and have always worked with food and in kitchens since then. I couldn't imagine doing anything else and still have the same passion for food today, as I did as a young child.
2. Where do you find inspiration for your menus?
I want to cook an exciting type of food with punchy, bold flavors based on the best ingredients we can get our hands on throughout the seasons of Thailand. The inspiration and the excitement come from those ingredients first. Then it's about doing something unique with them and aiming to let them shine in some way. So first, we're inspired by special ingredients, then we're inspired to do something special with them.
3. Of all the countries and cities you have worked and travelled to, what made you decide to stay in Bangkok?
Bangkok was love at first sight for me. It was exciting, different, challenging, a city of contrasts and opportunities, with amazing food and great people. Having the opportunity to cook with Thai ingredients in one of the world's great food cities is a very exciting thing for us.
4. How do you source your ingredients? Any personal favourite market(s)?
Sourcing ingredients is a huge part of the job, and it takes a big effort. We do visit both Khlong Toey (for herbs, vegetables, wild ingredients) and Or Tor Kor (for fruit, organics, some seafood) markets daily. We also source directly from small farms and producers all over Thailand. Research is a big part of it - first understanding the seasonality of Thai ingredients, then using that understanding to predict when ingredients are coming into season for menu planning, and where they will be coming from so we can bring the best of the season to our guests every day. In the age of social media, we also do a ton of sourcing directly through Instagram and Facebook – finding small farmers, new suppliers, and searching for specific ingredients which are often very difficult to source. Our ingredients at Canvas are truly special, and we go through an incredible effort to source them – it's one of my favourite parts of the job.
5. What advice would you give to someone opening their own restaurant?
I think the key is passion – those most successful in the industry seem to really be doing it because they love it, and they love it for the right reasons.
For me, it's about hospitality and serving our guests, sharing our experience, and that's a reward you receive every day.
6. How would you describe the dining experience at Canvas?
It's fun, it's different. The menu revolves around the most special ingredients in Thailand, but it's not Thai or Western or Fusion or really appropriate to fit under any category. It's a visual experience, viewing our menu and our food, the interplay between food and art is a part of that. We intend for our guests to ask a lot of questions, and there are a lot of surprises throughout the menu. Of course, the most important thing for a chef is that the food should be really delicious.