On a steamy summer Monday in Paris’s 11th Arrondissement, the chef Rose Chalalai Singh, 43, is unloading a suitcase of cooking equipment at her new private dining space, Rose Kitchen. The kitchen is still in its final stages of refurbishment but, says Singh, “I can cook anywhere as long as there’s water and gas.”
That attitude has served her well on her unconventional path through the culinary world. After moving to Paris from her native Bangkok in 2009, she opened a small Thai grocery called Ya Lamaï in the Marais. At first, the shop offered only a few takeout options, but her customers wanted more, as well as a place to sit. Eventually, Ya Lamaï relocated to a bigger space and became a full-scale restaurant, with Singh, who’d never worked in a professional kitchen, as the head chef. In 2017, she left the role to focus on her catering company (Hermès and a number of Paris galleries are clients). Four years later, when a spot became available in the historic covered market Marché des Enfants Rouges, she opened a home-style Thai cafe (also called Rose Kitchen) that quickly became a favorite of the art and fashion crowds. But Singh struggled with the nonstop schedule and closed the place after 18 months. “Restaurants aren’t my thing anymore, because I love to travel,” she says.
At her new space — in a vine-covered cobblestone mews off a quiet block — she’ll focus on invitation-only events, leaving herself plenty of time for research and sourcing trips to places like Majorca, where she found the painted pottery that today is laid out on the long communal table that accommodates 30. Diners will have views of the open kitchen, and of the shelves of kitchenware and ingredients, some for sale, like olive oil, homemade jams and colorful Japanese table linens. Upstairs is a tatami room for tea ceremonies, where Singh will host tea masters visiting from Japan.
While Singh’s food has always had Thai roots, she incorporates influences from her various journeys: Papaya salad might come accompanied by lemongrass and bay leaf-stuffed guinea hen and her hybrid dumpling-ravioli. Or she’ll collaborate with her catering partner the chef Petra Lindbergh on a South Indian curry with shrimp, coconut milk and tamarind. No matter what’s on the menu, though, “I don’t doubt myself,” she says. “I just do my job.” Her only request is that guests come hungry. “We never make it a party,” she says. “This is an eating place.” — Lauren Joseph
Photo assistant: Elie Delpit