One of the few chefs to be awarded Gordon Ramsay’s prestigious scholarship, West Ireland born Jamie Raftery has since spent his illustrious career working alongside some of the world’s best chefs, including Michael Caines, Thomas Keller, Heston Blumenthal, Gordon Ramsay and Corey Lee. Jamie is renowned for his unique style of flavoursome, creative cuisine inspired by ancient Ayurvedic philosophies and his world travels. Jamie was our favourite guest chef at Soul Circus 2018 setting a gold star standard for The Circus Café.
Jamie is currently head chef at Thanyapura Health and Sports resort in Phuket developing a range of vegan, raw and Ayurveda inspired dishes.
Ella joins Jamie to talk about his experiences of 2020 and how he has stayed inspired and positive through twists and turns of lockdowns in a foreign country.
Ella: 2020 has been quite the year! How has it been for you over in Thailand?
Jamie: 2020 has certainly been an unforgettable year! We started off the year hitting record numbers of tourists in Phuket, the Island, tourism and businesses were booming. We were all set for a record year. Then Covid-19 gradually hit. The 1st case outside China was found in Thailand. Thai government took drastic and necessary action. In the middle of peak season an emergency decree was put in place and entire country locked down. Alcohol sales were strictly banned, curfews in place, all service businesses closed, face masks compulsory and track and trace rolled out. Phuket island bridge was closed off, only essential services allowed to pass through.
During this time, I found myself in a tropical paradise. For the first time in my 20-year career I was forced to stop working and slow down. I was locked down in the middle of a tropical jungle with my girlfriend and all I needed - good food, exercise and WIFI! This time reminded me of summer holidays as a kid, endless days of no responsibilities or work commitments to attend to.
Ella: What have been your highs and lows of 2020?
Jamie: My highs of this year are being immersed in Thai culture and experiencing working and living in this incredible country. Also, meeting my beautiful girlfriend and making the time to be creative and developing so many new recipes
My lows were having to reduce my team at Thanyapura from 104 to 41. Having to let employees go who have been working with the company for up to 10 years was painful but necessary for the survival of the rest of the team. Also, not been able to travel home to see friends and family. However, my lows are very mild in comparison to the sacrifices and pain so many people have had throughout the world and I feel very lucky and grateful for this.
Ella: When things have felt hard what did you do to stay positive and inspired?
Jamie: Easy, turn off the news! I also ate healthy delicious food, meditated daily, exercised and did the things I enjoy like cooking. I took deep breaths and always looked for the silver lining. I developed my stoic philosophy towards life which helped build my mental strength and resilience. Finally, food has been my savior, I find a limitless source of continuous creativity and inspiration through this.
Ella: Is there anyone in particular that has inspired you in 2020?
Jamie: Firstly, my parents and my girlfriend as well as my entire team at Thanyapura who show up to work everyday and work together to get through these challenging economic times. Also, the local growers and market traders who work their ass off every day just to put food on their table and still smile. Thailand does not have the same social security support as USA and Europe and for so many there has been unimaginable hardship.
Ella: Have you changed the way you think about life this year and how?
Jamie: Yes absolutely, I believe challenging times like these are vital for personal growth. We have to remind ourselves that in tough and uncertain times we have the opportunity to grow stronger and more resilient. I’ve found even more gratitude for the smaller things. I’m more grateful and conscious of my time and what I spend it doing. I care even less about any insignificant and material items. There is so much unnecessary bullshit and distractions in life, we all have a choice as to what we focus our attention on and how we let situations impact our mood and life decisions. Shit happens, but complaining, moaning, gossiping, trolling, bitching does no one any good. I believe there is a silver lining in every dark cloud. We have to look for this and find the opportunity in crisis and dire situations. In tough times the weak get weaker and the strong get stronger. Life Has become even more precious and we all have a part to play. Yes, we have to look after ourselves and our nearest and dearest, but we also have a responsibility for the environment and playing our part in making this a better world. It’s not all about taking, we have to make a positive contribution to this world and the people we interact with.
Ella: What positive changes will you take into 2021?
Jamie: I’ll continue growing in the same direction I’m going. I’ll continue to invest in myself with good, nourishing and delicious food (I also still like a beer, pizza and chocolate!) I’ll keep doing my gratitude journal, daily meditation, daily exercise, movement and eliminate negative speak, gossip or anything that’s not aligned with the world I want to see.
Ella: What has been your favourite creation of 2020?
Jamie: I developed my own recipe website to share my healthy recipes with people all over the world. It’s a lifelong project which I will continue to grow and share:
Ella: Can you share a seasonal recipe with us that relates to this topic?
Jamie: Yes indeed! Check out my Thai vegan green curry recipe:
You can also follow Jamie at: