We were able to taste the heavenly dishes of Sebastian Holmes, better known as Sebby Holmes, last summer in Budapest thanks to Globalist Kitchen. His iconic eggplant salad is still a fond memory. But why is London in love with this 27-year-old kid? He opened his street food joint, Farang next to Borough Market and the next thing we knew he was already selling food from 5 places across London. When we sat down with him for a talk we immediately saw he was a lively guy who is always open to new ideas. Let’s look at his journey that ultimately led him to Farang.
The white man who cooks Thai
Holmes didn’t have the culinary background or heritage you’d expect from somebody like him. According to him, his parents weren’t good cooks, only his grandma’s cookies made any lasting impressions in him. He always liked to eat something good though and because he could only do this rarely he decided to go to culinary school at the age of 13. After graduation, he worked at a hotel in Oxfordshire then after mastering the British way of cooking he travelled to Thailand in 2008. The local flavours completely changed his views on cooking.
The London turn
After returning to London he took every opportunity to learn about the nuances of Thai cuisine. The person who helped the most with this was Jane Alty, the chef of Begging Bowl who worked as the right-hand man of David Thompson (chef of the only Thai kitchen with a Michelin-Star) and also wrote his book. Sebby won second place at the Young British Foodies Awards in 2014 and was selected as one of London’s 16 most promising chefs. He opened his Thai street food joint, called Farang last year. Currently, he sells food at 5 different places. Besides cooking his other passion is writing. Whenever he has the time he writes on his blog, Articuleat about his inspirations, recipes, experiences and other Thai themed things in general.
Sebby conquers Budapest
The Globalist Kitchen invited him and he whipped up a sublime and hearty dinner for the audience. At first in a restaurant edition and after that he did the same in the party district. The fried eggplant salad with soft-boiled egg is Holmes’ big hit. The eggplant is comparable to the Turkish yogurt eggplant version before the yogurt softens it. Crunchy, caramelized and melting on the inside. All this is served with typical Thai combination of sweet, sour, and hot which is achieved with coriander, fresh chili, and spring onion rings. Sticky pork belly is next with pumpkin and Chinese chives. The sweet flavors dominate but the overall flavor profile is amazing. The meat is tender and melts in your mouth along with the chives.
Amazing flavor combinations
In a blink of an eye, there’s a whole sea bass looking at me from our plate served with green Nham Jim and sour fruit salad accompanied by a pomegranate salsa. After the initial shock, I gingerly removed the white flesh from the spine then continue with our conversation about which seasonal ingredient the chef used most recently. It’s amazing how you can find yourself inside someone’s kitchen simply by talking about their cooking.
Meanwhile, Holmes joins us and says a couple of words. He’s just as cool as we imagined and this is a great opportunity to take a breather between courses. We continue with gola satay chicken fried in banana leafs with jasmine rice and Thai pickled vegetables. Everything tastes great but the pickled vegetables are to die for! The thing I could compare it to is the Japanese ginger they serve with sushi, but it’s a little less wild and with more types of vegetables. For dessert, we get black rice pudding with strawberry, raspberry, and black sesame seed. As for the digestif, we drink Henessy My Thai cocktails with our silky smooth desserts.
After dinner with a soaring heart and full belly, we get a hold of Sebby. His face beams with pride while we see the telltale signs of exhaustion in his eyes. He’s content that everything went smoothly, everyone liked the food and the staff cleaned everything. He reminisces about the past and looks towards the future with great expectations while telling us how he would slow down time at this moment if he could. He wouldn’t stop time, he just wants more than 7 days and 24 hours because has more ideas than time on his hand. He tells us that he’s a big beer fan and he’s a passionate writer. He’d like to sell pre-made curry pastes and sauces at Farang and he already uses home-made pasta there. Farang is a good example of what Sebby is. What he knows about Thai cooking he learned in London but he employs authentic Thai techniques and flavors made with seasonal ingredients found in Britain. This is his trademark.