Thailand in Transition – USMEF Returns with Chef Training

Although racked by politically motivated violence and widespread flooding, Thailand is showing indications of economic recovery and rebounding tourism. With those positive signs, USMEF’s ASEAN team returned to the region recently to provide training and education on U.S. beef and pork to a group of chefs from top international hotels with funding support from the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) as well as the Beef Checkoff and Pork Checkoff programs.
Thai chefs watch Sabrina Yin's cutting and cooking demonstration

Thai chefs watch Sabrina Yin's cutting and cooking demonstration

Led by Sabrina Yin, USMEF’s ASEAN director, the intensive two-day training program covered a broad range of topics of importance to the food service audience that included 10 chefs from top Bangkok hotels, one from the seaside resort of Pattaya and one from top U.S. beef and pork importer Gourmet One.

“The last two years have not been conducive to working effectively in Thailand,” said Yin. “But with the improvement in the economy, the timing is right to work with those top chefs who are the first to see the tourists and business travelers who expect and appreciate higher-quality products like U.S. beef and pork.”

The program included information on the different cuts and specifications of U.S. beef and pork, the difference between grain-fed and grass-fed beef, and background on proper storage and handling of chilled and frozen meat.

Cutting and cooking demonstrations were done on a range of U.S. cuts including beef top blade muscle, short plate, boneless chuck short ribs, chuck tender and prime grade chuck flap tail. Pork cut demonstrations included CT butt and brisket bone. The session also covered assorted pork sausages and precooked bacon.

“There is a range of business skills and knowledge among the attendees, so we provide foodservice-related modules to help them market and sell more U.S. meat products,” said Yin.

Using technology to increase the chefs’ effectiveness also was addressed in the seminar. USMEF introduced various culinary websites as well as software programs such as U.S. beef and pork profit planner and U.S. beef portion control. In addition, the seminar included a food service management module that addressed sanitation practices.

“An important focus of this seminar was to help chefs understand the alternative cuts available that can work well in their menus,” said Yin. “Many remain focused on the prime cuts, but importers like Gourmet One are planning to increase their range of cuts.”

While interest is strong in U.S. products in Thailand, Yin notes that challenges remain. Pork exports face import restrictions designed to protect domestic production. Similarly, U.S. lamb is currently ineligible for export to Thailand. However, with many chefs expressing interest in learning more about the product, Thailand may hold promise for U.S. lamb if it gains access to the market.