Samui Wining & Dining
A Day in the Life of ...
Julien Valeix the Fine Dining Service Manager at Rocky’s Resort.

 

Page9FebSet into a staggered rock face in Lamai sits the multi-tiered resort of Rocky’s and its two restaurants The Bistro and The Dining Room. The Bistro caters for a more casual crowd whilst The Dining Room is all about fine dining. The Dining Room, as it is today, is Fine Dining Service Manager, Julien Valeix’s, baby. Since he started with Rocky’s, just over a year ago, this seaside dining venue has undergone a dramatic revamp. And no stone has been left unturned (excuse the pun). The restaurant is now cool, calm, sophisticated and seriously atmospheric. If you’re looking for a romantic spot to wow your significant other, you could do worse than nabbing one of The Dining Room’s tables perched right out on the rock-face itself. Surrounded only by the sea and stars, it’s a pretty impressive spot by anyone’s standards. But those few highly prized tables get snapped up early so it’s recommended that you book in advance..

    A sneak peak at The Dining Room’s menu reveals some of the sumptuous dishes on offer, including the signature dish of ‘Fillet of Line-caught Sea Bass, encrusted in hazelnut and black truffle and served with cauliflower puree, oyster mushroom beignet and romaine hearts’, and the ‘Poached Moulard Duck Foie Gras au Torchon, accompanied by pickled cherries, brioche, micro greens and a cherry balsamic’. But just what does it take to run a restaurant at such a high standard? Julien, who boasts having Nelson Mandela as a previous employer, tells us what it takes to keep The Dining Room at Rocky’s Resort at the top of the tree.

CW: So, Julien, how did you happen to be working at Rocky’s?

JV: I used to work as a butler for many notable people, including the prime minister of Lebanon, Nelson Mandela, the King of Morocco, and for a lot of princes in the Middle East. I worked also in many five-star hotels in Paris. I just wanted to do something different. I first came to Samui on holiday five years ago and returned for more holidays until I just decided to stay. Whilst looking for a job and giving out my resumes, Rocky’s actually looked for me. They heard that I’d worked in a three-star Michelin restaurant and they wanted to do something similar here with The Dining Room.

 

CW: What time do you normally wake up for work?

JV: I get up at 6:00 am to start work at either 8:30 am or 9:00 am. And I finish when the restaurant closes.

 

CW: What is the first thing that you need to do when you arrive?

JV: I have a look at who’s checked in and checked out and at the feedback from the previous night. Then at 11:00 am, it’s time for the staff briefing. After that, I do all the administration work, like replying to emails from suppliers and guests. And then I start creating. I create the menu, the cocktails, the wine pairing, the events, etc. It’s quite a creative job!

 

CW: Has much changed in the time you’ve been here?

JV: Yes. Before I arrived, this restaurant used to serve both Thai and Western food. Now we only have a French, fine dining menu. No more buffets and no more Thai food. We’re doing something really sophisticated within a romantic, candle-lit atmosphere. But up at our other restaurant, The Bistro, it’s more casual. We try to differentiate between the two restaurants.

 

CW: What are your goals for The Dining Room?

JV: We’re now in the Meal Guide, which features the best restaurants in South Asia. We’re proud to be the only one on Samui. And we have to work hard to keep this standard and this position. The target for this year is to be in the top 20 within South Asia. We change the specials all the time and have a wine paring night with either five or six courses. We do a lot of different things here all the time.

 

CW: Do you work closely with Executive Chef Azizskandar Awang?

JV: Yes, as a friend and like a brother. We’ve nearly the same background and are the same age. We really complement each other and have grown this place together. But we’re all family at Rocky’s. We’re here for at least 14 hours a day so spend more time with each other than we do with our families. To provide quality service within this environment you need to be really close with your team.

 

CW: Do you feel a lot of pressure in your job?

JV: It’s hospitality, so yes, of course! Only people who work in hospitality understand this kind of pressure. You need a lot of patience in this job otherwise you won’t last. Some pressure is good though. The guests’ expectations are high and we try to deliver up to that level and beyond.

 

CW: How do you cope with the stress?

JV: I just take deep breaths. But the stress is ingrained in the job so you have to accept it and live with it. When you’re the manager, you’re not here only here for the guests, but you’re here for the team too. And for your boss. There’s a lot of people who expect a lot from you.

 

CW: Do you spend most of your day in the office or in the restaurant?

JV: I’m in the restaurant all the time. When I say I’m in my office that’s actually just a corner of the restaurant. I have to make sure the guests are OK and keep an eye on the service during every shift to make sure it’s the best that it can be.

 

CW: How much time do you get to spend with guests?

JV: During all the shifts. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and also throughout the day around the pool and bar. You can come here between 8:30 am to 11:00 pm-midnight (except for one or two hours in the middle when I’m on my break) and I’ll be here.

 

CW: If you could have the perfect day at work, how would it go?

JV: A busy restaurant, full restaurant. Nice guests, no complaints, only good comments and smiley staff. That’s it!

 

CW: Does that happen often?

JV: Actually, it does. During the high season it happens a lot. I prefer it busy than to having an empty restaurant. It’s not about the money. If you have just a few people in the restaurant it’s slow work. But if the restaurant is full, at least you’re kept busy.

 


 

Christina Wylie

 


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