Samui Wining & Dining
A Day in the Life of ...
Khun Kae, the charming Restaurant Manager at Olivio Italian Cuisine.


A Day in the Life of ...It’s hard to know what their jobs are just by looking. Most of them seem to be doing much the same sort of thing. Sure, one of them is obviously taking care of the bathers by the pool. He’s easy to spot. And several go in and out of the kitchen. Altogether it takes a while to work out what each of the staff member’s role is. But, if you watch carefully, one of those friendly service staff will be doing more than the others, and with an air of authority. And that’s probably the restaurant manager. And, in the case of Olivio Italian Cuisine, that’s Khun Komvika Rodchangphuen.


Khun Kae (as she’s known as) has been the restaurant manager here for exactly two years, having taken over the position in January 2010. Over the years, Olivio has established a reputation for itself as one of the island’s leading Italian restaurants. There are several other super Italian eateries, true, but when it comes to traditional Italian cuisine in a magnificent beachside setting, Olivio is where most of our Italian visitors like to dine. It simply buzzes with life and really does have the feel of a Sicilian trattoria.


The restaurant is part of Baan Haad Ngam Boutique Resort & Spa, at the far northern end of Chaweng Beach. Although if you’re a first-time visitor you might not immediately realise this. There’s a leafy lane that separates the resort’s offices and accommodation from the beachside pool and restaurant. And the 60-seater Olivio appears, for all the world, as if it’s a stand-alone bijou dining venue.


Khun Kae was born in Bangkok and grew up as one of the younger members of a family of five girls and one boy. Her mother was in the hospitality industry and often worked abroad on short contracts in the Middle East and so, upon leaving school, it seemed natural for Khun Kae to head into the same line of work. She gained a Diploma in Hotel Management and spent her next few years, along with her fellow graduates, working in a variety of waitress positions and enjoying the freedom that a big city offers to young people.


After two years, she had risen to the position of restaurant supervisor. But her direction changed course in 1995 when she married Khun Joke, the chef de partie at Sukhumvit Road’s Ambassador Hotel, in Bangkok, and the following year gave birth to their daughter, Nong Cream. She’d already advanced to the position of Food & Beverage Manager, but now she took some time off. Whilst she stayed at home looking after little Nong Cream, Khun Joke was working towards a promotion. And, when he secured a position at Chaweng’s Baan Boran Heritage Thai Cuisine, the whole family moved to Samui together. It didn’t take long before Khun Kae also settled into a new job, her current post, at Olivio.


So what does her work actually involve? Well, it’s usual for the staff in a busy restaurant to rotate between a morning shift that covers breakfast and lunch, and an evening session that’s involved with dinner. But, as the restaurant manager, Khun Kae needs to oversee both. And that means she starts work at 8:30 am each day. Her staff will have already set up for breakfast and everything is now at its busiest; her first task is to cast an experienced eye over the buffet and the diners and then, if all is running smoothly, check the outer terraces and the sun-loungers by the pool, where the pool-boy is already hard at work shuttling back and forth with drinks and snacks.


My staff are great,” she proudly explains, “and there are rarely any problems. There’s always a supervisor who looks after the day-to-day running of things, together with three more floor staff. But what you can’t see is the kitchen staff; there can be ten of them keeping very busy behind the scenes! I’ll greet the guests and check the supplies of items that go quickly, like the coffee and breads and the butter, and then head off to the morning management briefing at 9:00 am.


This is usually quickly over and then Khun Kae continues with overseeing and helping with the tail-end of the breakfast before beginning the staff change-over for lunch. And then, at around about 10.30 am or so, seeks the refuge of her office to sort out the day’s paperwork. “Every day I have to make an analysis of what’s popular and what’s not, as we continually adjust the menu,” she explained. “Plus an overall monthly accounting. Then there’re new promotions to consider and stock levels to check. And then I check to see if all is well with the restaurant lunches before I head off to my own lunch-break around mid-day.


After lunch, she holds her own short staff briefing to pass on any information that’s current, then keeps an eye on the shift change at 2:00 pm, noting and compensating for any absences, before heading home for her afternoon break.

And then it’s back at 6:00 pm for the long evening session, starting with checking through the reservations and allocating appropriate tables. In theory, her evening role is that of a hostess, greeting guests and advising them on menu or wine choices. “But it’s never that simple,” she laughed. “There’s always a need for an extra hand here or there, and so I help-out with preparing food or clearing the tables; just joining-in wherever necessary. I’m here until the end, at around 11:00 pm, and need to be the last one out, checking that everything’s turned off and secured. It’s sometimes hard work, but I’m really happy here.


It might take you a while to spot who she is; everyone’s cheerfully busy and there’s nobody standing around looking important. But, after a while, you notice that one of the staff is busier than the others and doing a little bit of everything. That’ll be Khun Kae. But don’t try this on a Sunday – that’s the day she gets to have a well-earned break!


Rob De Wet

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