We partner with some incredible local talents for our classes and some of our retail selections. In our ongoing Extended Family series, we want to showcase their work and provide a glimpse inside their personal story.
Srisuda Dougherty is fairly new to Book Larder. She has been teaching Thai Home Cooking classes here since early 2017 and will teach a Lunch break class on June 5th. Sign up here!
Where are you from and what do you do?
I was born raised in Bangkok, Thailand and learned Thai cooking from my mother who is from northern Thailand. We would do a lot of tasting in between every step until we were satisfied – Thai’s spend a lot of time cooking and eating – it’s an important part of the culture.
When I got older, I got a degree in communications and worked in public relations for a few years. I remember I used to do news clippings at a hotel I worked at – and I started doing extra clips for myself – of all the food, herbs, spices and then I knew I had to cook! So, I continued my studies in Thai food and desserts at the Women’s College in the Court (initiated by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, and located in the Grand Palace in Bangkok).
After that I worked promoting crafts made by village artisans – I traveled all over Thailand and I remember being amazed by the foods they prepared for us – so many spices and dishes I had never tasted – I really fell in love with Thai people, food and tradition.
Finally, I started teaching Thai cooking to foreigners and children at schools in Bangkok. I moved to America with my husband, who is from here, and daughter in 2013. I knew that I wanted to teach cooking. I started by getting a job as a chef in a Thai restaurant – to me, to be a chef is to know all about the food preparation process, where to buy supplies, how to perform under pressure, and of course all the skills needed to cook quickly and deliciously. Then I started teaching private classes and gradually moved into teaching at different schools in Seattle.
What do you love about your job/business?
To me, food is a beautiful expression of culture. For Thai’s, our food culture has been developed over thousands of years and is influenced by local traditions combined with influences from India, China, Portugal and other western countries. It is a fascinating story.
I also know that we are losing parts of this tradition because markets change and people don’t pass down the old ways. We used to have Pla Salit – a river fish from east of Bangkok – but that area has been developed and the fish are now rare. Thai garlic is another example – it is small but has a very strong aroma. But these days we get garlic from China that is cheaper and bigger, so Thai farmers do not plant our garlic much anymore. And the way we live changes, people live in cities and don’t have time to cook the way they used to.
I grew up cooking with my mother in the kitchen every day after school. It was a big part of my life. As a daughter, I started by learning to make the smoky charcoal stove, peel garlic grate coconut to make fresh coconut milk. I pounded curry paste – and it was one of our noisy fun in the kitchen. I have learned so much since then and I hope to share the knowledge I have and pass these traditions on to others.
How long have you been in the business?
In many ways, I have been doing this my whole life, but I have been teaching formally in Bangkok and Seattle about six years.
How did your business evolve since its beginning?
In the beginning, I thought I could just teach what I knew, but the more I did it I realized I wanted to develop my own recipes and ways of teaching and communicating not just how to cook, but also the stories behind the food that create our culture. I am now planning to create a cookbook to pass on this knowledge.
What cook book do you reference most often (in general or just lately)?
When I develop recipes I always start with my favorite Thai cook book Ahaan Thai (translates as “Thai Food”) in Thai language. The author is my Thai Cooking teacher who taught me at The Royal Thai Cooking school (Women’s college in the Court). Then I usually work with two or three other books from my collections of current Thai cook books (both English and Thai) like Thai Food by David Thompson, It rains Fishes by Kasma Loha-Unchit, Hot Thai Kitchen by Pailin Chongchitnant, and Pok Pok by Andy Ricker. I especially love books that tell all the legends and traditions!
If you could take any cooking class, what would it be?
I love Japanese cooking. It’s very different from Thai food, which is complex, but Japanese food is so simple and pure. It is a great understanding of the elements of food. The presentation is also beautiful – and is important part of the experience of eating.