t may be a long way from steamy Mae Suai in northern Thailand to the frozen slopes of the Swiss Alps, but Kea Liden is a chef and businesswoman, who thrives on challenges.
Her journey started aged just 19 when she moved to Lenk, a remote ski resort 2,000 metres above sea level. She quickly picked up the A-to-Z of hospitality and restaurants, happily starting by peeling potatoes and onions, washing salads – anything and everything, even if, as she says, when she worked in the outside snow bar, “I used to wonder, is my nose still here?”
In time, she was taught to cook as part of an international kitchen team and learned to make 20 different sauces. “It was hard work in the beginning, but then I got used to it.”
After a year back in Thailand, where she further honed her cooking skills, she moved with her Swedish husband to Hong Kong, where they decided to take the unusual step of buying a boat that would become their home and her business. “I wanted to be different – to live and to work in the same place. When you have three kids, everything in Hong Kong is so small! So I designed the boat and we started to live on it in 2012,” she explains.
But this is no ordinary boat. The 63-foot Mandarin Manor yacht, named Kea, is jaw-dropping with four bedrooms and living space even before you hit the dining areas, which can seat 40, let alone a kitchen to make even the most professional cook green with envy.
While the boat is moored in the atmospheric Aberdeen typhoon shelter, the food has to match the experience. In Kea’s assured hands, it more than does. She sources her ingredients daily by getting up early to go to the markets, supplemented by regular trips home to Chiang Rai for local ingredients. The menu at Kea’s Kitchen is determined by the availability of ingredients, so dishes change every season although popular favourites like grilled prawn or Wagyu beef in green curry sauce stay on the menu.
Her philosophy is simple: “If you come to the boat, you come to my house.” This kind of hospitality and attention to detail has meant that Kea knows the majority of her diners – and even if she doesn’t, she’ll look them up. “I don’t even have a namecard, it’s word of mouth –
90 per cent of guests are repeat customers and we don’t advertise. If you’re happy, you tell your friends.”
The bombshell then is that Kea currently has her eponymous pride and joy on the market. She also owns and runs a more traditional bricks and mortar restaurant in burgeoning Sai Ying Pun, Thai On High, as well as a catering business and cooking classes. So, along with raising three children, something had to give. As she explains: “My brain never sits down. At 6am, I wake up and my day starts.” Fans of Kea’s food can rest assured though that even when they move on from Aberdeen, they aim to open another restaurant before long. That energy and passion first seen in the Swiss mountains still burns brightly.
Born in Thailnd,
2003 - 2009 Berg Hotel Leiterli Lenk i.S Simmenthal Bern Switzerland
2003 Private Thai cooking school in Chiang mai Thailand
2005 Private fruit and vegetable carving in Chiang Rai Thailand
2012 - pressent Kea's Kitchen was found on the priavte yatch in
Aberdeen typhoon shelter Hong Kong
2013- pressent Thai on High, authentic Thai restaurant in Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong
2014- pressent Sukho authen Thai and foot massage
2015- pressent Kea's Catering concept
2017- pressent Thai on High at centrestage Hong Kong