Chefs Without Borders
First published 20th September, 2009
Just walking down the footpath can be a memorable experience in Southeast Asia -- you could easily cross paths with an elephant, meander past a blind musicians or step aside to make way for a column of monks -- yet one of the most memorable facets is the food. Clayton, Chad, and Lyndon, three Canadian chef-travellers, decided to record their experience as they cooked -- and ate -- their way across Southeast Asia. Read on for the details.
What was the objective behind Without Borders?
We wanted to show travel, culture, and adventure on a budget. And the easiest way to do this was through food, which was the basis of the Chefs Without Borders videos. As you can see in our videos, food brings people and cultures together. We also wanted to highlight how cheap, easy and safe it is to travel. Many people are scared of going outside of their resort or backpacker area, but once you get out of the touristy areas, that's when you get a real taste of the culture and the people. The people in Asia are the friendliest and most hospitable people in the world. We have had locals who had almost nothing, invite us in to their homes, cook us dinner, and supply us with booze and night, and they wanted nothing in return.
What did you learn in doing this?
We have all been on other trips through Asia before but for the most part it usually ended up just seeing the main sights which usually included the best bars. I guess this time around we had learned that food is a great way to meet and talk with the locals and we learned a lot about the culture and the way they live. We realise now that the best memories we had weren't at the bar but instead it was all the other experiences we had, whether it was getting invited in to a local's wedding or even getting stuck in the middle of nowhere with a flat tire. These are the experiences and stories that you will never forget and made the highlights of our trips.
Apart from that I guess the fact that we had basically no experience filming or even being in front of the camera (besides old skateboard videos) so we had learned really quick how to use a video camera properly, plan our shots, and even learned to edit as we were on our trip. If you see our first videos, I think you can definitely see the progression.
What would you say was the single most useful/important thing you learnt about filming?
Don't shoot towards the sun (in most cases). Try to take steady shots and use a tripod whenever you can. There's nothing worse than shaky videos. Also b-rolls are a life saver in lots of our editing. We have to make sure after we do a shoot to cover all the shots that we might have missed. Using just one camera made things really difficult. Also we learned to have a bit of variety in our shots including pans, tilts, and other creative shots. And definitely try to watch and log your footage so you know exactly what is on your tape, at the exact time. This way you can look back in your log book and easily find those important shots that would otherwise take hours to locate.
But this is everything we learnt on the way. Filming is a wicked hobby, and I can't think of a better way to remember your travels than to have an edited set of videos that you did yourself.
Would you still eat at street stalls having seen all you've seen?
Definitely! Street stalls make the best food around. They usually just cook one or two things, so just think... These people cook the same one or two dishes about 100 times per day, 5-6-7 days a week. So they are experts at it!
How has the experience influenced your cooking back at home?
We had just learned a lot about different ingredients and flavours. I think the sweet and sour aspect they do in all Asian cooking is fantastic! They all seem to use the perfect balance of sweet (palm sugar or fruit) to sour ( tamarind or lime juice).
What is your favourite street food?
There is just too much great food in Asia to pinpoint only one, but as far as going on a food tour, Bangkok and Penang were at the top of the list for great food and variety.
What advice would you offer travellers who are fearful/intimidated by street food?
Don't be scared! Some restaurants are probably dirtier than the street stalls and you can at least see what's going on in the kitchen. Just take a look at the hygiene, and if things are refrigerated properly and you'll be alright.
What was the most exotic thing you ate?
Live cobra hearts, tarantulas or bees larvae.... hmmm.. I guess you will have to watch all the videos.
How did vendors react to the camera?
They actually loved it! Out of about 50 different food shoots we did, only about five said no. The camera enabled us to get in to a lot of places and see a lot of things we otherwise wouldn't have seen without it. I think that when people saw the camera, a lot of times they were drawn to it. It enabled us to meet a lot of great people and after meeting them, they were more than wiling to invite us in to their homes or restaurants. Without the camera, I don't think we would have learned as much about the people, their food and their culture as we did.
Also the fact that we were doing this project pushed us to get out and about and trying to immerse ourselves in the culture as much as possible. I think if we just walked up to some of these restaurants and street stalls and asked them to show us their most famous recipes without a camera, they probably wouldn't have been so willing if they didn't think they would get some kind of exposure from it. But for the most part, I think they showed us their dishes just because they liked the fact that someone was so interested in what they were preparing and also, they liked to see some random foreigner trying to cook a lizard or make a pad thai.
What gear and equipment did you use to put the videos together?
We used a basic HD Canon HV30 handycam, a Rode microphone which we attached to a monopod and used as a boom microphone. We also used a wide angle lense tripod, and a skateboard as a dolley system. We have a behind the scenes video that shows it all. For editing, we use Corel Video 12. It is a pretty basic program to learn to use, and quite cheap too, around $200. Also we had a laptop with multiple portable hard drives we took around with us. We shot 100 hours of footage which took up 1.3 terabytes of space.
Which stall had the "best food ever"?
As far as restaurants go, Bale Well Restaurant in Hoi An. You pay one price, and the owner feeds you all her specialities until you are sick! She even wipes your face for you when you have finished! Kinabuch's restaurant in Puerto Princessa, Palawan Philippines, or Mommy and Daddys Canteen in El Nido Philippines.
The best food stall is really difficult to pin point , as most of the best food that we ate was on the streets -- individual stalls come to mind, Samsen Soi 12 in Bangkok for the Tom Yum and seafood salad, but normally wherever the locals are lining up is usually a good choice.
Thanks to Clayton, Chad, and Lyndon for making the the time to answer our questions -- you can find out more about their project at the Chefs Without Borders website and you can see all the videos here.
Add your comment
Feature story quicklinks
- Giving back in Southeast Asia (17)
- All stories
- Angkor Hospital For Children
- Blue Dragon Children's Foundation
- COPE: Helping people move on
- Epic Arts
- Free the Bears Laos
- Helping Phuket's children in need
- Helping Siem Reap's rubbish dump families
- Helping Singapore's transient workers
- Helping the Karen of Burma
- Humanitarian Services for Children of Vietnam
- Lifestart Foundation, Hoi An
- MyME Yangon
- Soi Dog Foundation
- Swim Vietnam
- Thai Freedom House, Chiang Mai
- The Samui Prison Project
- The SET Foundation
- Burma (9)
- Cambodia (23)
- All stories
- A Cambodian Eco-lodge
- A honeymoon in Cambodia
- Angkorian traffic woes
- Battambang weekend
- Elephant riding in Cambodia: Should you?
- Great places to stay in Siem Reap
- Is Preah Vihear safe to visit?
- Kampot or Kep?
- Koh Rong: Trouble in paradise?
- Kompong Cham escape
- Northeast Cambodia in photos
- Oh Poipet!
- PEPY:Sustainable Cambodian tourism
- Phnom Tamao Wildlife Refuge
- Sihanoukville beaches lure expats
- Spas, shopping & seers in Siem Reap
- The best islands in Cambodia
- The best places to stay on Cambodia's islands
- The Death Highway
- Trekking in Virachey National Park
- Trekking the Cardamoms in Cambodia
- Which Cambodian island is right for you?
- Why you should go to Cambodia
- Indonesia (14)
- All stories
- A funeral in Toraja, Sulawesi
- Climbing Rinjani
- How to hire a boat in Indonesia: Without drowning
- Learn to surf in Bali
- Medewi: A great Bali getaway
- Mountain biking in Bali: A ride in the woods
- Pasola, Sumba
- The Gili islands: Which is the right one for you?
- Ubud bird watching: From waterhens to witchcraft
- Ubud shopping guide
- Village trekking in Tana Toraja
- Weekend in Nusa Penida
- Yogya's student scene
- Laos (19)
- All stories
- A breeze through Luang Prabang
- Best budget rooms in Luang Prabang 2013
- Elephant trekking in Laos
- Exploring Laos' Bolaven Plateau
- Huay Xai to Pak Tha by slowboat
- Is Lao Airlines safe to fly?
- Laos' vanishing elephants
- Luang Prabang escape
- Luang Prabang for kids
- Muang Ngoi Escape
- Photos of Luang Prabang, Laos
- Pi Mai Lao in Luang Prabang: In 1999
- Southern Laos by scooter
- Temples in Luang Prabang
- The Gibbon Experience
- The Phonsavan adventure
- Vientiane's Chinatown
- Weaving and textiles in Luang Prabang
- What to buy in Luang Prabang, Laos
- Malaysia (10)
- Singapore (10)
- All stories
- 10 great hostels in Singapore
- Singapore on a budget
- Singapore's best happy hours
- Singapore's Hip Haji
- Singapore: Escape the urban jungle
- The best hostels in Singapore: 2013
- The best places to stay in Singapore
- The Festivals of Singapore
- Top 10 Hawker Centres: Part 1
- Top 10 Hawker Centres: Part 2
- Thailand (81)
- All stories
- 10 Bangkok galleries worth a look-see
- 10 Thai treks aside from Chiang Mai
- 24 Hours in Bangkok: Sukhumvit to Siam Square
- 31 Thai islands
- 5 Southern Thai towns to lose time in
- A Thai homestay in Ayutthaya
- A weekend in Phra Phradaeng
- A weekend on Ko Samet, Thailand
- An extra day in Krabi
- Andaman Sea island hopper
- Are Thailand’s cheap guesthouses disappearing?
- Ayutthaya temple tour
- Bangkok craft villages
- Bangkok for art lovers
- Bangkok's Charoen Krung Road
- Bangkok's Thonburi: exploring the west side
- Brilliant Bangkok
- Chiang Dao getaway
- Chiang Mai's temples
- Corruption in Thailand
- Day trips from Bangkok
- Eating on the edge
- Elephant's World Kanchanaburi
- Exploring Lamphun
- Exploring the Lungs of Bangkok
- Far southern Thailand: Go or not?
- Five days in Khao Lak, Thailand
- Floating markets around Bangkok
- Great Thai food blogs
- Highlights of Chanthaburi province
- How to do Khao Yai National Park
- Khao San Road safety and scams
- Ko Mun Nork: a nearby paradise
- Ko Pha Ngan 7-day detox:Colonic fast
- Ko Pha Ngan's best beaches in 2013
- Ko Phi Phi on a budget
- Ko Tao for non-divers guide
- Ko Yao Noi or Ko Yao Yai?
- Ko Yao: the islands you're looking for
- Learning Muay Thai in Bangkok
- Motorcycling the Chiang Rai loop
- Narathiwat: residence of good people
- Navigating Bangkok: The BTS Skytrain
- Phuket by night
- Phuket for Kids
- Phuket heritage walk: Car parts to saris
- Phuket's secret beaches
- Planning around Thailand's civil unrest
- Roll your own Kanchanaburi
- Should I book for the full moon party?
- Should I cancel my Thai holiday? No.
- Should I cancel my trip to Thailand? No.
- Soi Thong Lo, Bangkok
- Sorting out Suvarnabhumi Airport
- Staying at a Thai monastery
- Thai islands for nature lovers
- Thai islands to lose yourself on
- Thai visa FAQ
- Thailand tsunami wrap
- Thailand's Full Moon Party
- Thailand's Mae Khlong market
- Thailand: Where to from here?
- The best beach on Ko Samui
- The best places to stay on Ko Kut, Thailand
- The bridge over the River Kwai festival
- The road to Sangkhlaburi
- The road to Sangkhom
- Travelling through north-east Thailand
- Trekking in Thailand
- Trisara -- decadent luxury at its best
- Two days in Kamphaeng Phet
- What are the alternatives to Bangkok?
- What is the best beach on Ko Tao?
- What is the best island in Thailand?
- What's a good beach on Ko Pha Ngan?
- What's a good beach on Ko Samui?
- Where to stay at Railay Bay, Thailand
- Where to stay in Sukhothai?
- Where to stay on Ko Samet, Thailand
- Which beach on Ko Samui?
- Which island in Trang?
- Vietnam (33)
- All stories
- A short break in Nha Trang
- A Weekend in Can Tho
- Being fed Fido: Eating dog in Vietnam
- Buying a touring motorbike in Vietnam
- Con Dao escape
- Do nothing and see the best of Hanoi
- Doing the DMZ from Hue
- Exploring Kon Tum
- Exploring Vietnam's Mekong Delta
- Great Hanoi cafes to chill out in
- Ha Long Bay conclusions
- Ha Long Bay for backpackers
- Ha Long Bay for budget-busters
- Ha Long Bay for flashpackers
- Ha Long Bay or Sapa?
- Hanoi escape
- Hanoi or Saigon?
- Hoi An -- Walking over the dragon
- How to do the Dien Bien Phu loop
- How to enjoy your time in Vietnam
- How to pick a good Ha Long Bay cruise
- Is the Hoi An culture tour worth it?
- Motorbike Vietnam's Central Highlands
- One day in Hanoi
- Responsible shopping and eating in Hoi An
- Saigon's top 10 cafés
- Sapa or Bac Ha?
- Saving Vietnam's bears
- Street food safety
- The DMZ: Traveller tactical briefing
- Travel tips for Tet in Vietnam 2013
- Two Wheels & Ricefields: A review
- Which is the best street food tour in Hanoi?
- Accommodation guides (21)
- All stories
- 2005 Top guesthouses in Bangkok
- 2005 Top guesthouses in Chiang Mai
- 2006 Top guesthouses in Hanoi
- 2006 Top guesthouses in Phnom Penh
- 2006 Top guesthouses on Ko Phi Phi
- 2006 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses
- 2008 Top Bangkok airport guesthouses
- 2008 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses
- 2008 Top spots on Phu Quoc Island
- 2009 Top guesthouses in Bangkok
- 2009 Top Phnom Penh guesthouses
- 2011 Best places to stay in Kuala Lumpur
- 2011 Best places to stay on Ko Phi Phi
- Best places to stay in Hanoi 2012
- Cheap Phuket guesthouses & hotels
- Five special hotels in Cambodia
- Ko Lipe's best budget guesthouses 2012
- The best hostels in Bangkok 2014
- The best places to stay on Ko Chang, Thailand
- The changing face of Khao San Road
- Where to stay on Koh Rong Samloem
- Travel with kids (7)
- Opinion & advice (16)
- All stories
- 10 reasons to do an adventure tour
- 10 reasons to travel independently
- A year's worth of travel for 2013
- Beach hideaways in Asia
- Christmas and New Years in Southeast Asia
- Do I need reservations for my holiday?
- Evil man of Krabi
- Fifteen tips for a great holiday in Asia
- Getting a cheap airfare to Asia
- Hotels should never charge extra for WiFi
- Long distance buses in Southeast Asia
- Mass tourism in Southeast Asia
- Nine Asian upcountry hideaways
- Planning a Gap Year? Some advice.
- Ten Southeast Asian trips for 2008
- Ten thoughts on ten years with Travelfish
- How do I? (11)
- All stories
- Bangkok to Ko Samui, Pha Ngan & Tao
- Bangkok to Siem Reap
- Catching a train in Thailand
- Catching a train in Vietnam
- Cheap flights with Discovery Airpass
- Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
- Crossing the Cambodia Laos border
- Ko Chang to Phu Quoc Island
- Siem Reap to Ko Chang
- Stops between Bangkok & Chiang Mai
- Visa run from Thailand to Burma
- Cycling Asia (13)
- All stories
- 24 hours in Bangkok
- An Angkor cycling guide
- An introduction
- Battambang, bamboo trains & guides
- Confessions of a "cheating cyclist"
- Cycles of all sorts
- Ha Long Bay independently
- Ko Samet Vs Pattaya
- Muay Thai night
- Phonsavan and Luang Prabang
- The hills of Vietnam
- The road less travelled
- Tubing in Vang Vieng
- Health and safety (6)
- Money and finance (4)
- Diving guides (6)
- Photo essay (3)
- Guest blog (2)
- General (15)
- All stories
- 10 Christmas days in Asia we're yet to have
- 10 dumb things I've done while travelling
- 34 ways to travel greener
- Asian animal experiences
- Call me Mr Massage Magic
- Chefs Without Borders
- Flying is fun!
- Mr Golden
- On being a travel writer
- Teaching ESL in Asia
- The 211 country honeymoon
- The Boxing Day Tsunami: 5 years on.
- To Teach or Not to Teach
- Travel writing scholarship 2012
- Tuk to the Road Charity ride
- Book reviews (5)
- Interviews (8)
- Explore Bangkok by BTS (18)
- All stories
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ari
- Bangkok by skytrain: Asok
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chid Lom
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chong Nonsi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Mo Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: National Stadium
- Bangkok by skytrain: On Nut
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phaya Thai
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phloen Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phrom Phong
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchadamri
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchathewi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sala Daeng (S2)
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sanam Pao
- Bangkok by skytrain: Saphan Taksin
- Bangkok by skytrain: Siam
- Bangkok by skytrain: Surasak
- Bangkok by skytrain: Thong Lor
Sign up for Travelfish Burp!
Our weekly wrap on Southeast Asian travel.
Click here to see a recent newsletter.