Samui Wining & Dining
Kitchen King

June’s ‘Chef of The Month’ is Khun Adisak Saephoo,
Executive Sous Chef at Impiana Resort.

 

5Our featured chef this month is Khun Adisak Saephoo. He’s the Executive Sous Chef at Impiana Resort & Spa, in Chaweng Noi, and is responsible for all the Thai and Asian dishes at both their Sabai Beach Restaurant and their acclaimed Tamarind Bar & Lounge. Very much at home by the sea, he’s also spent much of his culinary career on the water. And after more than 20 years plying his trade around the world, a beachside setting on Samui was just what he was looking for. We caught up with Chef Adisak to find out more about him and his cuisine.

 

JP: Tell us something about your background please Chef.

AS: I was born and raised in Phuket and always loved the sea and what it produced. I really started to learn how to cook properly in my early teens and have been fascinated and enthralled by food ever since. My older brother is also a chef and while food and mealtimes have a special significance for Thai people we took a much greater interest in the whole process from the source of the raw produce to the finished plate. And over the years, as I worked with more experienced chefs and learned about other world foods, my love affair with everything edible simply blossomed.

 

JP: How has your career developed?

AS: After school, I started working in hotels in Phuket, practicing my craft and working my way up the ladder. I was only interested in learning but I think promotions come with hard work and improved skills and knowledge. In all, I spent around 10 years in Phuket including five at Le Meridien and almost two years as the Executive Chef at the Daeng Plaza Hotel.

 

JP: And then, I understand, you had a bit of a change of direction?

AS: Yes, both in culinary terms and geographically. An opportunity came up to work on the cruise liner M/V The Empress, out of Malaysia. As sous chef, I was focused on the Thai cuisine but was also able to be a part of a huge kitchen brigade that catered to clients from all around the world. And, as such, we provided dishes that suited a whole diverse range of tastes. We also restocked at ports around the Pan-Pacific and Indian Ocean areas and I particularly enjoyed finding out about and working with produce that was new to me. It requires some quick thinking and creativity and the planning process for feeding more than a thousand people around the clock is much different to that of a restaurant on land. I spent five great years on that ship and then for the next couple of years I served as the personal chef to the owners of two private super-yachts, the M.Y. Lady Halima and the M.Y. Memory. A whole different set of organizational and inter-personal skills were required but it also allowed me to express my very own style and be both experimental and traditional.

 

JP: And from there?

AS: After eight years, it was time to get back onto dry land and return home for a while. From the beginning of 2006 through to the end of 2009 I worked at the 5-star Sheraton Grand Laguna in Phuket. It has 450 rooms and eight dining and entertainment areas and is considered one of the best hotels in Asia. And then, at the beginning of last year, I heard about the position here at Impiana. I liked what they were doing and the direction they wanted to take with their food and I knew quite a number of chefs who had worked on the island and enjoyed it very much. So, once again, I was never more than a few metres from the ocean. It’s a sight I’ve seen every day of my life and I don’t think I could work comfortably without it.

 

JP: You’ve also travelled around doing Thai food presentations and promotions haven’t you?

AS: Yes, early on in my career I was part of a team that took part in competitions in Phuket, which was great. Since then, I’ve done demonstrations at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (1990 and 1992), at Le Meridien in Jakarta, Indonesia (1993), at the Sheraton in Taipei, Taiwan (2006) and at the Westin Excelsior Hotel in Rome, Italy (2008). It’s fantastic doing these but a bit like calling into ports when at sea; you don’t really get much time for sightseeing, it’s really all about work and getting prepared for the show.

 

JP: What’s a typical day like for you?

AS: You have to be very flexible in this business but, generally speaking, I’ll come in just before lunchtime and stay right through to the end of service around 10:00 pm. As well as cooking, there’s always planning and office administration to attend to and time spent with the team. We have quite an extensive Thai menu and we also have weekly theme nights, such as regional Thai buffets, seafood barbecues and events based around Thai festivals. Impiana is also a very popular place for conferences, meetings and weddings and we have a huge range of menus for those guests to choose from. Weddings are always fun and we get lots of positive feedback from the happy couples and their guests.

 

JP: Can you make some personal recommendations from your dinner menu please?

AS: For a taste of Thailand, I’d suggest sharing the following: som tam gai yang (raw papaya salad served with grilled chicken); poo phad prik Thai dam (sautéed crab with black pepper sauce); gaeng ka-ree gai (chicken in yellow curry); and nua phad nam man hoi (sautéed beef in oyster sauce). There’re lots of different tastes and textures in these dishes and they range from mild to quite spicy.

 

JP: Finally, Chef, what do you like to do to relax away from work?

AS: As strange as it sounds, I like to be by the sea. I love fishing, not just the sport of it but the peacefulness of it all. I think there’s seawater in my blood!

 

Johnny Paterson

 


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