Fruits become art. Somlux Ouklai is a Thai cuisine chef at LSG Sky Chefs in Düsseldorf and a passionate vegetable carver
Somlux Ouklai spins and turns the watermelon on the countertop looking for the perfect place to start.
He then makes the first incision with the scalpel-like knife, and the metamorphosis of the melon begins.
For Ouklai, it is never just a melon there before him on the cutting board, it is a dahlia surrounded by excess melon flesh.
Just as with Michelangelo, who once said about his David: “David was always there in the marble. I just took away everything that was not David.” Melon not marble, dahlia not David – but the principle is the same. “I like working with watermelons and papayas best,” says the Thai chef, “Their consistency is simply perfect and the colors are wonderful.”
The 38-year-old is a master of the art of fruit and vegetable carving that is known as Kae Sa Lak in his homeland.
Flair, dexterity and spatial imagination are required – and patience, of course.
“I learned how to handle the different knives you use to carve fruit and vegetables during my chef training in Bangkok – when to hold them at an angle of 90 degrees, when at 40 degrees. But I perfected the art by practicing with my fellow trainees and by myself at home,” explains Ouklai.
He begins by carefully cutting away a narrow, circular strip. His face is a picture of concentration; his right hand keeps the melon fixed firmly in place.
Gradually, cut by cut – first in a semicircle, then in serrations – delicate tips and petals emerge from the melon, and pink and white fruit flesh appears.
After almost an hour, the artwork is complete – a beautiful dahlia, clear for all to see.
Ouklai smiles proudly as he presents his work.
Alongside the dahlia, his favorite subjects include sunflowers and roses. Animals and human faces, on the other hand, can be very tricky, he says.
The LSG Sky Chefs staff in Düsseldorf all agree that their colleague is a true artist.
Ouklai has also been a regular presence in international competitions, winning several gold and silver medals in Moscow, South Tyrol and Stuttgart.
Somlux Ouklai,38, comes from the Thai capital Bangkok and has been living in Germany since 2009.
On August 1 2016, he took on a position supporting the LSG Sky Chefs team in Düsseldorf as an ethnic chef specializing in Thai cuisine.
He previously worked as a chef in Thai restaurants and in the hotel business.