Samui Wining & Dining
A Day in The Life of…

Khun Torpong Thinkarn, Food & Beverage Manager of Prana Resorts & Spa.

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The first thing I do when I get to work? Have a coffee!” laughs Khun Torpong Thinkarn (better known as Khun Tor). He’s the Food & Beverage Manager of Amala Restaurant at Prana Resorts & Spa and his diverse job keeps him on his toes, one day never being the same as the last. “It’s hard to explain what I do in a single sentence. Different days bring different things. Most mornings I’ll conduct a staff briefing, check the staff logbook to see if there’s anything I need to approve or any complaints that have been made, decorate everything and make sure everything’s set up in the right places. On other days I’ll make new lists – wine lists, drinks lists – and create new events. There’s not just one thing I do, it’s overseeing everything really. But I start each day with a coffee.”

        Prana Resorts & Spa is located in Bangrak on the beach road between Fisherman’s Village and Big Buddha. And Amala Restaurant is Prana Resorts & Spa’s vegetarian beachside eatery, but what it serves isn’t veggie fare à la bland soup and soggy salad. There’s a whole load of fresh herbs and bold flavours on the menu to make any seasoned carnivore forget that they’re actually eating a meat-free dish. And that’s Khun Tor’s favourite aspect of the restaurant. “I love the concept – organic, vegetarian food with a twist. We create new and exciting versions of vegetarian food so that it doesn’t feel like you’re eating vegetarian food.” Above the restaurant, seen through glass skylights, is a hydroponic vegetable garden bursting with fresh, organic lettuce and herbs. And within the restaurant space sits a five-foot tall, cylindrically shaped white trellis covered in lush mint plants, which the chefs come to pluck leaves from as and when a dish requires it.

       They classify the vegetarian food in Amala Restaurant as fine dining and also offer wine pairing. It’s a tough job finding the perfect wines for veggie dishes that don’t overpower the flavours, but one that Khun Tor tackles with pleasure. “With non-vegetarian food you’ve got white wine with fish and chicken, some pork, and red wine with red meats. But it’s a bit trickier with vegetarian food. You really have to know about the taste of the wine, flavour of the sauce and texture of the ingredients, and then match them perfectly. Otherwise they can ‘kill’ each other. Vegetarian food is sensitive and some things don’t go together at all. You just have to keep trying and tasting until you find the perfect match.”

       Khun Tor reckons the secret to being happy in his job is to be continuously making plans. “We’re always looking at the forecast, always looking forward. That makes things more interesting than just concentrating on the jobs behind you. If after you complete a job you then focus on the next one then you’ve always got something to do. You’re thinking about six months in advance, one year in advance, what you’re going to do next month, how to promote some futue event or other.” He’s implemented a lot of new plans in recent months, too, like a new wine tasting buffet with a jazz band and Prana Resorts & Spa is building a new extension across the road, complete with 60 rooms and a wine bar.

       And Khun Tor’s been with Prana Resorts & Spa’s parent company, Quest Vacation International, for quite a while now. “I’ve worked for QVI for eight years but in different jobs. The nature of each job’s been fairly short-term so I’ve moved around quite frequently, experiencing the dynamic of a number of hotels and restaurants. The jobs have taken me across Thailand – to Phuket and Chiang Mai, for example.” But he’s not been moving to these new jobs alone, as many of his team members were relocated at the same time. This technique means that when the team start the new job they’re already comfortable with each other and can work well together from the word go.

       It’s through hard graft that Khun Tor’s been able to achieve this position as Food & Beverage Manager on sunny Samui. He started his career at the bottom, as a busboy, and worked his way up. And with all that experience under his belt he really knows what he’s doing. Khun Tor’s not a frantic worker and has got his management style down to a ‘t’. “My philosophy with regards to teaching my staff is ‘learning by doing’. That’s the most interesting way for them and that way they don’t get bored.” Also, he doesn’t get bogged down with small details or believe in enforcing finicky rules, like only serving customers on their right-hand side when you can serve them more efficiently on both. “Maybe you’re serving a table and you can’t get in on the right. But you’ve been taught to serve from that side so you’re still trying to go on the right even though you can’t! It’s not practical. I like to use a practical way and not to overcomplicate things. If you can drink a glass of wine by simply lifting the glass to your mouth then why would you reach your hand around your head and try to drink it the other way?”

       In day-to-day life, Khun Tor feels that it’s very important to have a good relationship with the people he manages. “You have to know your staff and you need teamwork. If you don’t know them, you’re not going to manage them well. Different people need different types of direction. You can say the same thing to three people and they’ll all understand it uniquely. If you know them all then you know how to communicate with each one specifically and that’s very, very important. If you don’t have teamwork, it’s not a team.” When referring to himself he prefers the term ‘leader’ to ‘boss,’ because whilst a boss just tells people what to do, a leader listens to the opinions of his employees as well. And if you’re wondering if he get stressed in his job. “No, not really,” he says. “Because I’m in control. If you know how to manage F&B then it’s a very good job. And a very interesting one.”

 

Christina Wylie


 


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