Chef Yakup: Cooking Up Change for Thailand’s Underprivileged Kids

Tara Abhasakun

03 May 2024

Chef Yakup is changing up Bangkok’s Halal cuisine scene, and helping underprivileged youth.

Tharit Tangsongsirisak, better known as Chef Yakup, is the owner of Fat Lamb, which opened in 2019 and was named Best Halal Restaurant of the Year by Koktail’s Favourite Restaurants. He was also appointed as the first Lambassador of Australian lamb in Thailand by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA).

Chef Yakup studied culinary arts at Kendal College in Chicago, telling Koktail that he learned many valuable career lessons during his time abroad.

“I learned to use great sustainable ingredients from local vegetables, and other things. How to respect different cultures, find about new ingredients, and always keep exploring and never stop developing myself.”

In addition to being an accomplished chef, Yakup also uses his talents to give back. He is involved with an organisation called Chef Cares, a collaboration of renowned Thai chefs contributing to charities. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Chef Yakup packed food with the organisation for doctors working flat out at that time.

Chef Cares also helps underprivileged youth from remote areas of Thailand to train as chefs. Aspiring chefs submit profiles to Chef Cares, and then attend selection interviews. Successful applicants receive a full scholarship to a five-month consisting of two months intensive instruction, and three months interning in the kitchen of a top chef from the organisation’s network.

“We train them, give them a chance to learn, and guide them, they are like sponges and they will succeed,” Chef Yacoub said.

He also believes that chefs can play a role in helping the environment by turning food waste into fertiliser, and using less plastic and more eco-friendly packaging.

Chef Yakup says that Halal restaurants are a niche in Thailand, but a growing market.

“I face challenges sometimes because other halal food is street food style and people like to compare those places with my restaurant, but it’s a different category, people can’t compare,” he said.

One of his goals is to offer a different perspective on halal food. He says that many people think halal food in Thailand is Malaysian biryani, satay, and oxtail soup. With his high-end restaurant, he says he wanted to “delete that image.”

Fat Lamb serves dishes inspired by the Mediterranean and the USA.  Chef Yakup’s favourite dish is his lamb shank sous vide, which comes with triple butter, mashed potatoes, briam, and jus.

Chef Yakup says future plans include opening a tea shop or a dessert shop, as well as selling spices. “I want to be a spice master, and to continue charity work outside of Chef Cares, including donating to orphanages.” He stated “I am a Muslim, and we have to do this.”