If her stunning looks seem familiar, you have probably seen her pictured in the society pages of magazines and websites at some of the city’s most glamorous events. Budding entrepreneur and socialite Yanin Viravaidya is the daughter of physician-businessman Dr Sunya Viravaidya, founder of Pattaya International Hospital and the Sugar Hut Resort.
“Pattaya is a vibrant city that is always buzzing,” says Yanin. “The Sugar Hut Resort is something of an escape from all that, where you will find peace and tranquillity—an oasis away from all the commotion.” Her father established the resort back in 1984 and today Yanin helps to manage the business, which means regular trips to Pattaya. While she also assists with the running of Pattaya International Hospital, she admits that she is still in the apprentice stage, so to speak. “My dad is a perfectionist,” she smiles. “When it comes to the hospital he’s got it all taken care of, everything from A to Z and he does it brilliantly. I think right now it is important for me to try to learn as much as I can from him in order to effectively further my career in management and follow in his footsteps.”
Learning while on the job and consuming much of her time these days is a brand-new project the 33-year-old has been spearheading. It comprises a jazz bar cum restaurant and a dessert café located on the Sugar Hut Resort property and while that might seem a strange combination, over and above her nascent managerial responsibilities what truly get Yanin excited is cooking, particularly baking, a passion she discovered in the UK after her graduation from university. “Actually, right now I am doing made-to-order cakes from home until we get the new project on its feet,” she says.
After attending boarding school in Australia from the age of 12, Yanin earned a bachelor’s degree in hospitality administration at Boston University. She then headed to England for work, but we all know life is full of surprises and when things don’t turn out as planned its often the opportunity to try something new. “I decided to enrol in the Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in London,” she says. And just like that what began as a new experience grew into an unexpected love affair. “I took to it quickly, especially the art of patisserie. It is very satisfying to bake something well.” A two-year stint at the famed Michelin-starred Hélène Darroze restaurant at the prestigious Connaught hotel followed. Eager to keep learning Yanin then relocated to France to pursue an intense patisserie programme led by prominent pastry chefs from around the world at the Ecole Internationale de Patisserie Olivier Bajard before returning home to her family and friends. Back in Thailand, she briefly worked at the Four Seasons Hotel honing her pastry-making skills further.
While cooking is an enjoyable pastime for most, learning to master it at the top end of the scale is extremely hard work and very much a labour of love. “Working in a busy commercial kitchen is so intense. There is no room for error or sentimentality,” Yanin confirms. “You are under pressure all the time. It is not uncommon for the junior chefs to be reduced to tears. I have certainly cried a few times. But you suck it up and press on.” One endures the tough times when striving to do something one is passionate about. The culmination of the sweat and tears for Yanin will be when she finally gets to put her experience to use in her own venture, something she is naturally excited about. “To be honest, I have always had a sweet tooth,” she smiles. “Confections make me happy and seeing other people enjoy what I make is very gratifying.”
Yanin is the first to admit that she and older brother Panond have had a privileged upbringing, but things have not always been easy on her journey of self-discovery. Adapting to life at boarding school and university overseas, handling the pressures of working in a professional kitchen, and now the challenges of establishing herself in business have all contributed to keeping her level-headed and grounded. However, these trials pale in comparison to the loss of her mother a few years ago. “It was probably the toughest moment of my life and we were all quite lost after her passing,” she recalls. “At the same time, it is one of those things that helped me to grow up faster. My father, who is my role model, has also helped me keep my feet on the ground. His examples of hard work, discipline and dedication continually guide and inspire me. He built everything from zero, turning his clinic into a hospital. He was able to provide Panond and I with great educations and the sort of start in life that we can only be grateful for. We really would not be where we are today without him.”
So how does Yanin define success? “I don’t think anything should be handed to you on a silver platter,” she says. “Success comes from hard work, being responsible, a willingness to give your best in all your endeavours. And it is about doing the right thing. My father instilled in us that no matter what, we should always try to do the right thing, try to give back to those you love and to society.” It is a philosophy she has demonstrated personally, undertaking volunteer work with destitute children in Bangkok’s Klongtoey slum and as a Thailand Tatler Hero in an initiative earlier this year to raise awareness about the endangerment of the hornbill in Thailand. “It was a lot of fun but more importantly I think it is crucial that we do what we can to safeguard these species,” she says.
When she does find herself with some rare free time, she likes to spend it exercising or with friends. Calling her an outdoorsy person is probably understating it because behind her refined exterior Yanin is something of an adventure-junkie who is constantly on the hunt for new experiences. She’s tried skydiving and wants to do it again—“It gave me such a buzz!”—and she goes hiking and trekking and is particularly fond of scuba diving. “I feel at peace when I’m under water. It’s like taking a stroll through a quiet garden admiring the flowers and the butterflies, except in this case I get to discover corals and all sorts of fish.” Looking ahead, Yanin plans to dedicate more time for meditation. She also remains committed to travelling and discovering the different cultures of the world, so it’s fair to say that one way or another, the eminently likeable Yanin Viravaidya is definitely going places.
Photographer: Chaiwat Kungsamrith
Styling: Sachon Kunajiramedt
Hair: Chawakij Suphanphong
Make-Up: Nontapat Amornchai
Location: Gaysorn Urban Resort