What’s Up in Welles?

By Charlotte Steele


General Manager of Kalamazoo College Dining Services James Chantanasombut

The Index: When did you first know that you loved food or were really interested in food?

JC: When I was about 20 or 21, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. It just kind of hit me all at once that I’ve got kind of an artistic background… Just growing up and watching my Dad cook…I’ve got a Thai background, and I grew up watching him make all of this scratch food. I love being able to please people through food and making it with my own hands. Its immediate gratification. And it just kind of took off, immediately.

The Index: What did you do from there?

JC: So I signed up for culinary school, started taking culinary classes, went ahead and got in some places and started working.

Before then I had been working… with dishes when I was like 14. That was my first job, at like, this giant conference center in Waynesville. It was called the Dear Dutchman, an Amish restaurant that sat about a thousand people, in this tiny town of Waynesville… I worked a couple of fast food jobs in there too but it wasn’t until I was 21 that I really decided I wanted to be a chef, went to culinary school, and went ahead and got a job at a country club.

I was told that you want to find the best chef around, and be able to learn from him. So I looked around town to see who was the best chef in the area and started working for him while I was going to school. Then I did an externship in London, and finally got my first real paying position with more creative license, and became a Sous Chef and then an Executive Sous Chef at a big Hilton in Indianapolis, and then Executive Chef at an independent boutique hotel in Indianapolis.

The Index: Which one of those was your favorite?

JC: Probably the country club, because I was exposed to more things there than I was in any other time in my career. That’s really where I developed my foundation, and gained my confidence. And London was awesome, because at the hotel we were doing last-minute plated soufflés for 400 people at a time. And to be abroad…it really opened my eyes to a whole different way of doing things.

The Index: What are some of your hobbies?

JC: Anything outdoors, definitely hiking, biking, camping, traveling, and eating.

The Index: Name one thing that you like about Kalamazoo.

JC: The sense of community is kind of cool. The feel, just the whole atmosphere, it’s kind of artistic, kind of an artsy town. It’s just different. I wouldn’t expect a town like Kalamazoo to be in Michigan. It’s really different in a cool sense.

The Index: Will you name a few people and/or pets in your life?

JC: My wife, Sarah, and my Dog, nutmeg… that wasn’t her name before we got her but she is the color of nutmeg.

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