Eating Vegan in Pattaya, Thailand: Bruno Tatarelis (Five Star J) Interview

At Five Star J all vegetarian restaurant in Pattaya, Thailand, where the J stands for Vegan; religion, clean eating and culinary experimentation has become home for owner Bruno Tatarelis, where his blood pressure is restored, and a new life direction is found.

Tatarelis is living proof of the difference that fresh, clean food can make, especially if it tastes good. Having worked as a master broker of a Luxemburg insurance company in his past life, Tatarelis got a sense for fine dining, as business took him to some of Europe’s best restaurants.

It was here that Tatarelis developed a hunger for culinary experimentation, ‘During the years my orders became very selective because eating always the same bores me after a while, red meat was seldom and fish and Mediterranean dishes were my favorites’.

This was all about to change however, as health problems inspired Tatarelis to drastically divert his life, his medical treatment and his diet. ‘I threw the tablets away and left my five companies to my wife and searched for a nice place to spend the rest of my life. I had been to various places in Asia but I liked Thailand the most, and as I hadn’t been to Pattaya yet, I went there.’

It was in Pattaya that Tatarelis found Ning, his current wife, and the reason his search for a new home stopped in the East Coast resort City.

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This encounter soon proffered more for Tatarelis than he could have expected, as Ning was offered Five Star J after the former owner ran out of money. ‘Ning was already pure Vegan because of her Tao religion and she asked me to help her to overtake the restaurant. We started with a renovation according to western standards’.

The interior is as stripped back as the food, to equal effect; creating a humble, intimate space that allows the food to speak for itself. An all white room and furniture set are flecked with red table cloths, modest ornaments and wall hangings.

The restaurant is, and always had been, purely vegetarian, due to its ties with Taoism, a religious tradition of Chinese origin that emphasises humanity’s harmony with nature.

But Tatarelis wanted to take more steps to ensure absolute cleanliness and freshness in the kitchen, and so these days Five Star J proudly produces 180 fresh dishes made without white sugar, GMO’s, artificial colouring, trans fats, or thick oils, that please his frequent Tao, vegan, and meat-eating customers.

Onion and garlic are also absent from the kitchen, as Tao people claim its smell is disruptive to the spirit and has a detrimental effect on the heart and lungs.

However, there is no compromise on taste. On my two visits to the restaurant I was pleasantly, and constantly surprised. Five Star J’s faux meats, including “crab”, “pork”, and “duck” even please the meat-eaters in the room, and allowed me to indulge in both Thai and European “meat” dishes for the first in a very long time.

Most dishes are accompanied by organic rice of varying, intriguing colours and fresh local vegetables, making Five Star J’s plates full of abundant taste and variation, which, given the right treatment in the kitchen, allow you to forgive yourself of any desire not to embark on several of the establishments dishes all at once.

Often a restaurant experience begins and ends with the food, however, here I got to see, hear and taste what inspires and stimulates the owners, the chef and the waiting staff to create food with a message and an identity that champions authenticity, modesty and clean living.

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