Samui Wining & Dining
Kitchen King
December’s ‘Chef of The Month’ is Goro Takatsu, the Executive Chef
at Suikin Japanese restaurant at akyra Chura Samui resort.

 

Kitchen KingOver the last year or so, Japanese restaurants have started to make their mark on Samui’s up-market culinary scene. And none more so than Suikin at akyra Chura Samui resort on the northern end of Chaweng. And there’s really only one way to ensure authentic Japanese food is being served – and that’s to have a classically trained Japanese chef at the helm. We caught up with Executive Chef, Goro Takatsu, to find out more about him and his style of cuisine.

 

JP: Tell us about your background please, Chef.

GT: I was born and brought up in the city of Nagoya in the centre of Honshu, Japan. It’s on the Pacific coast and it’s the country’s third largest incorporated city with more then 2 million people living there and more than 9 million in the surrounding metropolitan area. Football fans will know my home team Nagoya Grampus (formerly called Nagoya Grampus Eight). They came to prominence in the mid-1990s when Gary Lineker played for them and the current Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, was the coach.

 

JP: When did you first start learning to cook?

GT: After I finished my formal education I enrolled in culinary school. And I was then fortunate to gain a position in a ‘Kaiseki’ style restaurant in Nagoya working under a master chef. Kaiseki is like a culinary art form that balances the tastes, textures, appearance and colours of foods. Local seasonal ingredients are used extensively and the presentation is ornate, delicate and beautiful. It’s akin to a European chef training in a Michelin-starred restaurant and it takes many years to fine-tune the techniques and skills required.

 

JP: How has your career progressed from culinary school?

GT: I spent ten years in Japan developing my skills and knowledge base. By then I was very confident in my abilities and I wanted to explore different directions both culinary and geographically. A small part of the reason I became a chef was that I knew it was a trade that would allow me to travel the globe and learn more about world foods and cultures while still earning a salary. In my late twenties, an opportunity came up for me to go to Mexico and work in a 5-star resort. It was literally a whole different world for me but I quickly adapted and managed to find time to travel around parts of Central and South America whilst I was there. I learned a great deal about indigenous produce, particularly the herbs and spices, and grew rather fond of spicy Mexican cuisine.

 

JP: And from there?

GT: I then moved to Spain and spent a couple of years running a Japanese restaurant taking on the full responsibilities of an executive chef. It was very challenging but a wonderful learning experience. And from there I went to Bangkok where I spent the next seven years and opened the first Suikin Japanese restaurant.

 

JP: How did the move to Samui come about?

GT: The owner of Suikin in Bangkok opened the resort on Samui and asked me to re-create a second Suikin restaurant within it and also to make it one of the best restaurants on Samui.

 

JP: No pressure then?

GT: Ha ha! Of course there’s pressure but that’s my job and what I’ve spent my career training to do. I’ve brought two other Japanese chefs with me from Bangkok and part of my role is bringing a few of the Thai chefs up to speed on Japanese techniques. It’s a demanding process for them but a hugely rewarding one for them. However, most of my time at the moment is spent going around the markets and being in the kitchen preparing and cooking the food. Having each dish perfect every single time is of paramount importance and when you go to a Japanese restaurant you do expect to have a Japanese chef preparing your food.

 

JP: What were some of the first challenges you faced?

GT: Getting the right ingredients for one. Fortunately I had reliable suppliers in the capital but I’ve now managed to source excellent local fish, chicken, eggs and certain vegetables which are top quality. I’ve also started to grow my own herbs in the garden beside the restaurant and it’s ideal to be able to just pick some leaves moments before they go onto the plate.

 

JP: What can guests expect to find on the menu at Suikin?

GT: There’re two aspects to how I’ve compiled the menu. In the first instance, there’re traditional regional Japanese dishes whose preparation techniques are centuries old and can never be changed. It’s not just a matter of following a recipe, you have to ‘understand’ the ingredients that you are using, how and where they were grown, why particular techniques are used to create each stage of preparation and precisely how the finished product should taste and feel to the senses. I’ve also introduced some fusion dishes that bring local Thai and imported produce together but still using Japanese cooking methods. For guests who aren’t quite sure what to try, I’m more than happy to chat with them about the menu and there’re several set menus that allow guests to savour many different flavours and textures. In Bangkok, the vast majority of guests were businessmen who were always in a hurry. On Samui, everyone is on holiday and they have the time to really enjoy the food and the whole experience. And that’s great for me and the team. We’re open from with last orders at 10:30 pm so there’s no need to cram lunch or dinner into pre-defined hours, come and eat whenever you want. Or even take one of my Japanese cuisine cooking classes and learn something new.

 

JP: Finally, Chef, when you manage to get a little free time what do you like to do on Samui?

GT: I spend it with my wife and two young children. When you have a five year-old boy and a three year-old girl there’s no such thing as ‘free time’! But Samui’s a great place to have fun with the kids and I like to make the most of my time with them.

 

Johnny Paterson

 


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