Samui Wining & Dining
Kitchen King
Being a head chef means looking outwards
as much as inwards for Chef Bank at The Coffee Club.


Kitchen KingThe Coffee Club is a well known brand, particularly for Australians. There’re now nearly 300 outlets in the café-restaurant group in the Asia-Pacific region. And one of those sits in the centre of Chaweng. Despite the name, it’s not just great coffee that’s served in the restaurants; it’s also top-quality food at value-for-money prices. We caught up with Head Chef of the Samui branch, Khun Nattaphon Phormsasa Na Sakhornnakhorn, to find out more about him and his job. Like all Thais, he’s better known by his nickname, which in his case is Bank.


JP: Tell us a little about your background please, Chef.

Bank: I was born and raised in Chonburi province on the Bay of Bangkok, about an hour or so south-east of the capital. Growing up, I always had an interest in food; not just how it’s cooked but also how it’s presented. That artistic side to food has always appealed to me. Both Bangkok and Pattaya are not far from where I was raised and they’ve had a huge influx of tourists from around the world in my 25-year lifetime. Tourism didn’t just bring holidaymakers, but also many chefs from Europe and Australia who have come here to work and live, and the cuisines of dozens of countries can be found in the major tourist cities and islands. And that’s a whole new world of discovery for anyone interested in different cuisines.


JP: How has your career progressed?

Bank: After I left school I decided to come to Samui to visit my mum. She runs a large ceramics store in Chaweng, near to Thai International Hospital. I liked the island and thought I might stay on for a while so I needed to find a job. As much as I love my mum, I didn’t want to go and work for her, I wanted to find my own way. The first place I applied to was The Pizza Company and at first I didn’t think I would stay long. However, I was soon making pizzas and other dishes and I spent two years there which I enjoyed very much. I was keen to learn more about bakery and pastry work so I then took a position in the bakery at BigC for a year.


JP: And from there?

Bank: Over the next few years I took jobs that would allow me to learn new skills and techniques and broaden my knowledge of food. I spent nine months with Bangkok Airways, another nine months at Yamato Japanese restaurant, six months at Rice restaurant in the centre of Chaweng and then a year at Kandaburi Resort in the main kitchen. After that I spent a year at the Four Seasons Resort in the bakery section before taking up this position at The Coffee Club in April this year.


JP: Why did you decide to join The Coffee Club?

Bank: It’s an exciting challenge for me and not the kind of opportunity that many chefs of my age get too often. A few years ago the Minor Group took a 50% stake in The Coffee Club; they are one of Asia’s leading hospitality and leisure companies and manage more than one thousand hotels, restaurants and retail outlets in the region. They operate brands such as Anantara, Marriott, Four Seasons, Pizza Company and Thai Express and so I had worked for the company on several occasions before. Across the group there will be a huge range of future opportunities for me to progress and develop and it’s up to me to learn all I can and prove, and improve, my abilities.


JP: What does your job entail?

Bank: We are open every day from 8:00 am until 10:00 pm and three other chefs and I work in shifts with each of us having one day off a week. The Coffee Club is in a three-storey building just past the Green Mango area and our modern kitchen is on the top floor. We use a dumb-waiter system to get the food quickly to the seating areas on the two floors below. Our menu is quite extensive with all-day breakfasts, Thai food, appetizers, grilled meats and fish, pasta dishes and desserts. And the mornings are always busy with breakfasts; not many other places around here do what we do or at the prices we charge. By mid-morning, customers tend to come in for coffee and cake and to use the free Wi-Fi, which gives us time to prepare for lunch. There’s always a steady flow of customers in the afternoon and while we have a lot more competition in the evening we still maintain a steady trade. Our menu is designed to appeal to a broad range of guests and to children, both restaurant floors are air-conditioned and there’s a balcony on the second floor that overlooks the main Beach Road where many guests like to sit and watch the world go by.


JP: How do you maintain standards when you aren’t there?

Bank: All of the chefs have been trained to prepare and cook every dish on the menu. We have recipe cards with photographs as reminders of how each dish should be presented and we have regular audits from our manager and head office. In addition, there’s a group development chef for Thailand who visits regularly and helps me with every aspect of managing a kitchen. Having that kind of support is fantastic and I learn something new every time he visits, it’s part of my personal development plan and it also demonstrates to me that the company cares a great deal about what we do here on Samui.


JP: What are some of your personal favourites from your menu?

Bank: I love the ‘Chicken Carbonara’ made with fettuccini with bacon, mushrooms, garlic, egg, cream and Parmesan cheese. I’d also recommend the ‘Medallions of Beef’ and the ‘Chicken Supreme’ stuffed with bacon and mozzarella cheese. And the desserts and cakes are also excellent.


JP: Finally, Chef, what do you like to do in your free time on Samui?

Bank: I usually go out for something to eat in Chaweng, partly to see what our competitors are doing and also because I like having someone else cook for me. I often head for Italian-inspired restaurants or bakeries and then just have a wander around to see what’s happening. On my day off I’m just like any other visitor to the island.


Johnny Paterson


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