Chhimi Dema  

When Phuntsho Tobgay was 19 years old, he slept for straight three days after consuming a few psychotropic drugs. His mother later told him that she checked on him and found he was breathing. The teenager, then, was consuming and selling controlled substances since he was 16 years old.

This incident, he said, was a wake-up call for him to get out of narcotic-induced habit and make the best of his life.

Phuntsho Tobgay is 25 today. He is an accomplished demi chef working in Chef’s Table, a two-star Michelin restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand.

There are only six restaurants with two-stars Michelin marks in Bangkok. A Micheline star is awarded to restaurants offering outstanding cooking. Michelin stars are considered a hallmark of fine dining by many of the world’s top chefs.
 Phuntsho Tobgay at work

Phuntsho Tobgay joined Chef’s Table in March this year as a demi chef de Partie who is responsible for stocktaking, assisting the head chef with the smooth running of the kitchen, and ensuring minimum kitchen waste, among others.

He moved to Bangkok four years ago and worked in Aleenta Resort and Akyra Beach Club in Phuket, Thailand as demi and commis chef respectively before working at Chef’s Table.

“I wake up excited about my work. Every day I learn something new and interesting about food. I am happy where I am now in my life,” Phuntsho said.

It took Phuntsho five months in rehab in Siliguri to change his life. He held onto the learning and recovery from the rehab and worked at Ambient café and later interned at Le Meridian.

At 16 years old, he started trying psychotropic drugs, inhalants and solvents like dendrite and paint thinners mainly out of curiosity. Before he realised it, he became an addict.

He missed classes, lied at home to get money to buy drugs, fought with friends and spent nights in the police detention centre, and was hardly home. He dropped out of school after 10th standard.

“I am guilty I hurt my loved ones during those days. Despite all the troubles I gave my parents, I always have their blessings in life. I am here today because of them and Lama Shenphen Zangpo’s faith in me,” Phuntsho said.  

“People realise later that no matter what the problem is in life, alcohol and drugs are never a solution,” he said. “We should think about our parents and how much they work hard to support our goals and dreams.  Also how long can we go on using drugs?”

Today he’s got a fun life in Bangkok, he said. He goes out with his friends on off days and travels during his holidays.

Phuntsho Tobgay hopes that someday he can open his restaurant. “I have so much to learn before I can work on my goal.”