Jitr Tantasathien lets the pressures of the fast-paced business world he lives in roll right off him, thanks to a philosophy acquired years ago
Always calm and collected, Jitr Tantasathien, known to his friends as Koh, arrived earlier than the appointed time for our meeting at a place near to his heart - the fabulous restaurant comprised of Spring Dining Room and Summer Chocolate Bar, set up in two houses that came with the land. To get the look and taste just right, Koh helped with the spacious eatery's overall direction before giving all ownership to his brother, former actor Phol Tantasathien. Phol has become a culinary expert, with his own recipes featured in magazines and on television.
Looking around the premises, the impression that comes to mind is "this place is huge".
"Phol wanted a business in which each house would complement the other, so I came up with this idea of one being a dining room and the other for dessert," said Koh. When the weather is cool, the garden is transformed into the Winter Bar with giant cushions for customers to lounge on, he added.
Summer Chocolate Bar is playful, in an adult kind of way. The chocolate desserts are so good - I tried and tested some. Koh's creativity is revealed on the menu list, where among the signature items are BTS (Better than Sex) and Cup C, which comes in a huge portion that is sure to fill your chocolate cravings. As for the Spring Dining Room, there you will find fresh, healthy and light Thai food created by Phol.
As the restaurant business thrives, Koh is keeping busy doing what he has for the past 16 years, which is working in the fields of branding and advertising. He now owns two companies - Hats Consulting and Research and HipOSoFamous - which, not surprisingly, also complement each other.
Hats is involved with consumer and marketing research, brand consultancy and communication. His clients include Unilever, Coca-Cola, DTAC, KFC, Dannon and Dumex. HipOSoFamous does the designing and execution.
"The graphics house can do the design work for just about anything, from events to packaging and advertising, while my other company is concerned more with the strategic part," said Koh.
Koh doesn't call himself a CEO or anything along that line. His titles at Hats are "brand strategist", implying he is a brand consultant and deals with strategic work, and "human expert", meaning a moderator who communicates directly with consumers. As for HipOSoFamous, his titles are "conceptualiser", implying he is the mastermind behind the concepts of brands and products, and "strategist".
With two companies under his care, this creative soul manages to divide his personal and professional time without looking the least bit stressed.
"Luckily, I have a good team at work. I have a lot of free time. I am a very happy person," he said.
Like his brother, Koh enjoys cooking. "I cook for myself. I'm a vegetarian. I follow the eight [Buddhist] precepts, so I only eat two meals per day, which are in the morning at 7:30 and again at 2pm. I eat a huge breakfast. This morning I had green curry with vegetables over rice. After 2pm, I'm allowed to have yogurt, milk or tea. I feel very happy and healthy. Look at my skin. I don't need any lotion at all," said Koh, as I admired his healthy skin.
On my way to meet him, I was racing against time, making phone calls to confirm this and that. I drove fast, and everyone around me drove even faster. After I met Koh my mood changed. He exudes something that makes people around him feel calm and tranquil. How did he become this happy and calm?
"It started when I was 19 years old. I discovered a book called Peace is Every Step written by Thich Nhat Hanh. He's Vietnamese. At first I read the Thai version but then I had to read the English version because I wanted to read the book in his own words.
"Thai monks have a lot of technical language such as the Pali terms that are difficult to understand. What caught my attention with this book was the word 'peace'. The book is very practical. It shows what you are supposed to do in your daily life, not just in the temple. For example, how to wash the dishes. I love it.
"You don't have to go to the temple to practise Buddhism. Our mind is our temple. If you live a mindful life, you don't hurt yourself and you don't hurt others. You will learn to love yourself and others, and this will lead to a healthy state of mind."
The book has obviously made a profound mark on him. "When I went to school in Oklahoma, I made my living space just like a retreat house. I slept and ate by this book. It was like a year-round retreat. My friends may have gotten homesick, but I was enjoying my life," said Koh.
When he returned to Thailand, he started going to the temple and various retreats. Then he started to expand his horizons to retreats in other countries such as India, Bhutan, and France, where he stayed at the Root Temple in Plum Village.
What is his advice to busy bees in the city who want to have a healthy state of mind?
"Start by being mindful of your breathing. Be aware of your breathing in and breathing out. Be aware of your feelings and perceptions of yourself. It's all about mindfulness training. Also, start practising the five basic precepts.
"Try to understand yourself. Understanding is the foundation of love. Most problems arise because people don't understand themselves." Koh said that a person must apply deep listening and speak with love, and then "everything will become easier. Eventually, it will lead to understanding and love. We will be communicating with love and compassion".
Koh uses using his knowledge to support SME businesses as a consultant, free of charge. He is also a guest lecturer at various universities and institutions.