It’s the weekend in Bangkok, you wake up stomach-grumbling and a little hangry because the night before you went to an awkward dinner party where there was more wine than food and subsequently swayed home light headed and light bellied. To make things worse, your fridge is empty because the tropical rain made it less inviting to take that 5 minute detour to the supermarket on the way home yesterday. Enter Roast. A lot of food and coffee loving people in Bangkok would pull themselves out of bed and off to Roast, a kind of mothership that I like to think of as the refined modern day diner. At Roast, you can graze or stuff your face with their breakfast-y, brunch-y all day menu which is full of classics like stuffed French toast, all your eggy favourites, crab cakes, cobb salad, smoked salmon and guacamole open sandwiches, tasty pasta dishes, and lots more. Coffee is a really big part of their operation. They’re a destination if you enjoy a good cup ‘o’ Joe, and run an impressive bean roasting roster, dealing and distributing their beans around town. If you follow my daily breakfasts on Instagram, it’s where my morning brew comes from! The roasting team are a bunch of super passionate pals who live and breathe coffee, their weekends being their time to shine when they open up their roastery doors to the public and serve many cups of deliciousness to a caffeine keen crowd. Roast also transition into the evening with drinks and a sophisticated dinner menu that is made for sharing. These dishes are generous plates of comfort food that cannot be complete without a few of their timeless desserts for that secret compartment of your stomach that is never full from savouries. (I’m known to come on late-night pilgrimages for a sneaky chocolate soufflé or waffle).
I see Roast as a community that is inspired and connected by food and goodness. I am impressed by the whole shebang, but most of all the operation. If you go to their weekend roasting house, ‘Roots‘, you will find yourself sipping coffee watching the busy Roast bakers preparing the bread and patisserie that gets sent out to the restaurant as well as other coffee shops and eateries around town. This is a tightly run ship that is the work of an organised business strategy thanks to owner Varatt Vichit-Vadakarn who loves his job, food, coffee, and his family. As I do more and more of these #funnestlifepossible files, I am noticing a pattern amongst successful people in their many different fields. There is an understated grace that flows through the veins of people who are living out their passion and have a hunger for the goodness in life. This is what keeps Roast’s employees excited about their tailored roles, and what gives the air a vibrancy when you step into any of their spaces. It is also why I think they are the perfect candidates for Ponytail Journal’s ‘funnest life possible’.
This is the first time I have interviewed two people at once, but probably not the last. My other #funnestlifepossible candidate in the Roast operation is Somdej Luengthaviboon, a coffee mad, experience specialist who always wears a smile that starts at one ear and ends at the other. He has the awesome role of making sure that Roast FEELS good to be in. This is a really vague description of his job, but I want to tell y’all that a space cannot have a special type of energy without a genuine commitment to sharing goodness from it’s surrounding community. Somdej has his hand in starring local talent at Roast, may it be illustration, carpentry, textiles, or even horticulture. It is a fine web of creativity that holds all of Roast’s sensory elements together so that we just feel goodness but can’t pinpoint what it is exactly that we are feeling.
I sit down with Varatt and Somdej one afternoon at Roast to share thoughts on good life, good business, and good people. It is also the first time that I have been apologised to about my coffee being ‘too fresh’, as in roasted a few hours ago because the whole team had just come back from their tropical island holiday. Tough. When I pull out my interview papers, the two transform into school boys who want to beat each other with their interviews (even though it would be almost impossible to try to score them). Varatt shields his with his right arm, while Somdej keeps apologising about his bad handwriting. As you can see, the fun never stops at Roast. We nerd out on food talk and I sit watching them franticly scribble, impressed by the amount of time and care that they’re spending on these simple questions. The best part of it all is when they invite me to try next month’s specials at Roast; crispy battered local zucchini flowers stuffed with goats’ cheese and crab meat for the savoury, and roasted peaches with a mascarpone ice cream for the sweet. These guys are always open to feedback, and hungry for the simple things in the Universe that can create much happiness. Being honest and accessible is always so rewarding. The proof is in the pudding.
Varatt Vichit-Vadakarn & Somdej Luengthaviboon.
Q/ Describe WHAT YOU DO as if you were talking to a five-year-old.
Varatt: I have the best job in the world!
All day, people cook me food, make drinks, bake me yummy desserts. All I do is eat and say good or no good : ) and if it’s good, I share it with others.
Somdej: I make coffee on Sunday.
Talk to artists and make art on the weekdays.
Apart from that, I just enjoy life.
Q/ Tell us how you slipped into FOOD.
Varatt: I have always loved food and everything behind the scene of a F&B business. I made friends with bartenders and invade all restaurant kitchens since age 5. My first job was washing dishes in a restaurant. So in a way, I guess I was always destined for this. But the real turning point was when I first opened my first cafe in 2008.
Somdej: I just woke up and got hungry!
Q/ What did you have for BREAKFAST this morning / What do you wish you had for BREAKFAST this morning?
Varatt: It’s embarrassing! But I had only a pita bread with hummus and a few slices of prosciutto. Oh, and a Yakult!
Somdej: I had 4 pieces of bread and a french press of ‘Ethiopia Wote Konga’ coffee. It was the best breakfast for a while. I had the bread with butter and homemade strawberry & thyme jam. I couldn’t wish for more. [When I get home I receive a message from Somdej saying that he forgot to add that ‘the best part was having breakfast on my rooftop. That is why it was the best breakfast I had in a while… The morning breeze, coffee, and bread made my morning!’]
Q/ What does the word GOODNESS mean to you?
Varatt: Yes, Lauren, my lunch was definitely goodness!
GOODNESS = Caring for yourself, your family, your loved ones, your community.
GOODNESS = Understanding the true values & true happiness in life & sharing it with others.
Somdej: Sharing, passion, and honesty.
Q/ Draw us a picture of your STYLE.
[Varatt says that he can’t really draw but ends up drawing his nick-name ‘TAE’, with each stroke of each letter being a word in itself. The ‘SIMPLE’ and ‘EVERYDAY’ make up the ‘T’, ‘HONEST’, ‘HOMEY’, and ‘FAMILY’ make up the ‘A’, and ‘Passion’, ‘Natural’, and ‘Friendly’ are strung together with squiggles to make up the ‘E’. ‘You ARE too creative Tae! and by ‘HOMEY’ you mean like ‘homie’ right?]
[Somjed grins and draws a smiley face with square sunglasses on it. He then says that it’s him. I could already tell because of its gigantic smile.]
Q/ What is a typical SUNDAY in your world?
Varatt: My best day of the week! I get behind the coffee machine and brew coffee for people who love and appreciate my coffee. For one day, I don’t think about problems / business, ‘just focus on making good coffee 🙂
Somjed: Making coffee and be happy : )
Q/ What is always in your POCKET?
Varatt: Iphone 5 / car key / not enough cash
Q/ What was the last thing you GOOGLED?
Varatt: -Breakfast frittata sandwich
– When is game of thrones season 5 coming?
Somjed: Spell check of Silpakorn University – International College.
Q/ Who’s IG account distracts you MUCHLY?
Varatt: Everyone! Damn it Tae, stop procrastination.
Ponytail Journal, of course : P
mayafteryou / bluebottle / danielkrieger [hey, me too Tae!]
Roast Coffee & Eatery
Ekkmai Terrace #2-4,