Samui Wining & Dining
A Day in the Life of ...
Khun Wittawat Roongklung, the Restaurant Manager at H Bistro restaurant, Hansar Samui resort.

 

A Day in the Life of ...Samui is, of course, a very relaxing place. Visitors from all over the world come here to chill, enjoy the lovely tropical beaches and to sample some of the finest food available in Thailand. Lying on a sun lounger overlooking the beach, it can be hard to remember sometimes just how much work goes on behind the scenes to make this idyllic paradise the ultimate relaxing getaway. The Thai staff in restaurants and resorts here are friendly, hard-working and dedicated, going several extra miles to make sure people can relax as much as possible on holiday here and forget all about the stresses of home.

 

An ideal example of this is Khun Wittawat Roongklung (also known as Khun A) who’s the Restaurant Manager of H Bistro, the renowned restaurant at Hansar Samui resort, in Bo Phut. He’s as committed to his job as it’s possible to be and also one of the friendliest people you could wish to meet. Like almost all Thai people working on Samui, Khun A’s days are long and can present their challenges, but for him it’s all about meeting people from all over the world and working in a beautiful location.

 

H Bistro is set in front of Hansar Samui, along an expansive stretch of pristine beach overlooking the Gulf of Thailand to the neighbouring island of Koh Pha-Ngan beyond. When asked if the long days as Restaurant Manager are too much to handle sometimes, Khun A just smiles and gestures at the beach, the emerald water and the coast of Koh Pha-Ngan visible in the distance. “It’s not like work when you work somewhere like this,” he says.


 

It also helps when the restaurant you work in has such a high reputation, even on Samui where there are so many first-class places to eat. The kitchen brigade at H Bistro is commanded by Executive Chef Stephen Jean Dion, a man who was once the personal chef for the King and Queen of Jordan and who’s worked in prestigious restaurants all over Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia as well as his native Canada. H Bistro restaurant was awarded a ‘Certificate of Excellence’ in May 2011 by the travel review website TripAdvisor and was also awarded a 2011 ‘Best Restaurant in Thailand’ award by the Thailand Tatler magazine. So it’s clear that Khun A has his work cut out helping to keep up these impeccable standards and that he’s managing it very well.

 

Khun A starts his day at 9:00 am with a briefing of the kitchen and waiting staff. Customers are encouraged to fill out feedback and suggestion forms after their meals, so the team go through them the following day and see if there are any areas that can be adapted to what customers want and if there are any dishes that could be adjusted.

 

A common feedback we get is that everything is excellent but sometimes a customer might find a particular new dish either too spicy or not spicy enough for them, so of course we try to adjust that whenever possible,” he says. “Customer satisfaction is very important to us and we’re always adapting the menu according to what customers say they want.

 

The waiting staff are fully part of this as well, as in consultation with Khun A and Chef Stephen, they’re able to advise customers on which dishes complement which and how the dishes can be adapted according to the level of spiciness of them (for Thai dishes). This part of the team is also usually the subject of positive comments on the customer feedback forms, which Khun A makes sure to pass on to them.

 

Making sure everything looks all right at the restaurant and beach bar is the next part of Khun A’s day, chatting to customers and seeing that everything is ideal for that relaxing holiday. The first ‘happy hour’ of the day at the beach bar is from 1:30 to 2:30 pm, again with Khun A getting to know customers from all over the world and checking that they’re enjoying their holiday.

 

He’s also a mine of information about what to see and where else to eat on the island, so often around this time he’ll take his Honda chopper out and about to check out things for customers, such as the type of Thai restaurants nearby that Thai people also eat at, or where to get the best durian, the spiky Thai fruit. He gets asked everything about Samui, from what price taxi fares should be to a run-down of all the different ‘walking streets’ (pedestrian-only night markets) around the island.

Sometimes, if it’s not too busy, he’ll get a few hours off in the afternoon, when he heads back to his wife and child at their home near Big Buddha, but more often than not he’ll stay on. “A break is nice of course, but it doesn’t really matter if I don’t get one, as I’ll be enjoying talking to people here and overseeing how things are going,” he says. Here is indeed a man who likes his job!

 

Then it’s happy hour again, from 6:30 to 7:30 pm, with more chatting to the customers, as well as supervising the restaurant when it opens at 6:00 pm. Last sittings are at 11:00 pm and it’s usually then that Khun A gets to go home. But as is typical in Thailand, anything outside the normal hours can be accommodated, and there are often customers still enjoying the menu at H Bistro until after midnight.

 

Asking Khun A what he likes best about working at Hansar Samui brings a range of answers. Chef Stephen is so talented and it’s great working with him; it’s like he creates magic on the plate. I love seeing customers’ reactions when they see and taste the food. I love talking to all the many different people who stay here as well. And the atmosphere and working environment here is very relaxed and friendly. The staff are all given English lessons and there’s a real feeling of support and being part of a team. I’ve worked in many good places in Thailand but this is my favourite.

 

Lisa Cunningham

 


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