Samui Wining & Dining
Kitchen King
February’s ‘Chef of The Month’ is Khun Surachate Thongjumroon at 4K, X2 Resort.

 

Page5Feb

Food’ and ‘wine’. Two simple words that can evoke a thousand happy memories. And two subject areas you have the time to devote yourself to whilst on holiday. And if the food is delicious, the wine free-flowing and both are exceptional value for money, then all the better. Add to that a secluded beach location, views you could lose yourself in and a team of smiling chefs and service staff, and it’s almost heaven.

And that is just part of the charm and attraction of X2 (pronounced ‘cross to’) Resort on the south of the island (it’s located near the Tiger Zoo and Aquarium on the 4170 road just after Hua Thanon village). It’s a unique, privately owned ‘designer resort’ that blends modern amenities with minimalist concepts and unstinting Thai hospitality. Their 27 pool- and garden-villas sit on five acres of land – that’s about the size of five football pitches – right by the beach. And taking pride of place at the water’s edge is their signature 4K (and that’s pronounced ‘fork’) restaurant.

Leading the kitchen brigade is Head Chef, Khun Surachate Thongjumroon, known to all simply as Chef Chate. In years gone by, the kitchens of fine-dining restaurants on Samui were dominated by Europeans and Australians. But talented Thai chefs who’ve developed their craft in 5-star restaurants and resorts are taking much more prominent roles. And delivering not just the best that Thailand has to offer, but also the finest international cuisines.

      Chef Chate is originally from Chonburi province which sits on the Bay of Bangkok at the northern part of the Gulf of Thailand. He’s been a chef for more than 20 years and his résumé is filled with appointments at some of the Kingdom’s top resorts. You may even have stayed at some of them. He’s held positions at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel in Patong beach, Phuket; the Dusit Thani Hotel in Bangkok which is home to Thailand’s only Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School ; the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Hua Hin; the Anantara Lawana Resort & Spa and the Four Seasons Resort & Spa, both on Samui.

      He has a highly impressive record of achievement and it’s one that led to his appointment late last year at X2. Chef Chate joins an elite group of Thai chefs that lead their teams from the front. And he’s just as charming out in the restaurant chatting with guests as he is industrious behind the scenes. However, as you would expect, much of his work time is spent at the stove. That’s where all chefs want to be but being the man in charge brings many more responsibilities. “Health, hygiene and food safety are of paramount importance,” Chef Chate explains. “And we have systems and checks in place to ensure that all the correct procedures are followed. It’s the first thing new chefs learn about and they don’t get anywhere near the food until they understand the safety principles and put their knowledge into practice.”

      Nor is that the end of the non-cooking duties. Like any management role, there’re administrative tasks to attend to, stock has to be ordered, costs to be controlled and staff training to consider. And the menus are never set in stone; they’re always evolving and new dishes are regularly introduced. Chef Chate’s day begins in the early morning, checking on the breakfast service for in-house guests. And then it’s straight on to preparations for lunch. “Most of our guests will be by the pool or on the beach during the day and it’s light meals and snacks that they’re after in the afternoon sun. Our homemade spring rolls with sweet and sour dipping sauce and ‘gewsa’ (dumplings filled with pork and chives with a spicy soy sauce) are easy to eat and always popular. As are our own-recipe grilled chicken burgers and peppercorn tenderloin steak sandwiches.”

       And since introducing their own brand of pizzas, the ovens at 4K are stoked up all day long. Alongside familiar Mediterranean toppings they’ve also created two Thai-style topping options. The first is a ‘pad Thai pizza with prawns, dried shrimp, mozzarella and crispy bean sprouts’ and the second is ‘Penang sea bass pizza with Thai herbs’. It’s the best of both worlds and there are new converts to ‘Thai-pizzas’ every day. At night, the dinner menu is packed full of Thai and international favourites. And every evening Chef Chate has a couple of specials on offer in his ‘4K Gastronomic Extravaganza’ menu. Each night is different and the dishes range from ‘Pacific tuna steak with herbs to lamb shank Mediterraneanstyle’ to ‘beef in cinnamon sauce’ and ‘roast chicken Issan-style’.

       In addition, his new Asian and Spanish tapas menu is proving to be a huge hit. And between 5:00 pm and 10:00 pm every night the tapas plates and wines by the glass are on offer starting at just 99 baht. Amongst the tapas you’ll find Italian salami with dill pickles and kalamata; lemongrass marinated prawns with tamarind sauce; smoked salmon with horseradish crème fraiche; Prosciutto di Parma with melon and marinated mussels with shallots and lime dressing. And they have 14 wines on offer by the glass including Australian Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Merlot. There’re also Italian, French, Chilean and South African wines to sample. Bottles of wine start at just 900 baht and they also have an exciting range of cocktails for sipping on the beach.

       So what’s the secret to running a successful kitchen on Samui? “First of all, you have to love cooking and understand the raw products.” says Chef Chate. “And having a well trained and knowledgeable team beside you is essential. On a holiday island like Samui you have visitors from every corner of the globe and you have to provide a real taste of Thailand for them as well as tantalizing them with fusions of world cuisines. And our food also reflects the laid-back nature of the resort, the island and our guests. Providing great food and service in a relaxing environment is certainly a good starting point.”

       Chef Chate is one of an exciting new band of Thai culinary artists that are wowing visitors to Samui with their innovative menus and desire to serve the very best local and international foods. All you have to do is sit back and enjoy it. 

 

Johnny Paterson

 


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