Samui Wining & Dining
Kitchen King

Wonderful world cuisines and great value for money are what you'll find on Chef Tommy Garrett's new menus



Samui is home to hundreds of very talented chefs. And many of those that lead the island's kitchen brigades have developed their craft in top-class restaurants overseas. Our spotlight this month falls upon the newly appointed Executive Chef at the Impiana Resort Chaweng Noi, Koh Samui, Tommy Garrett. We caught up with him in his first week at the resort


JP : Where are you from Chef?

TG : I was brought up in Brighton on the south coast of England.


JP :And how did your interest in the culinary arts begin?

TG : My mum is a geologist and when I was young she was teaching at a college in Brighton, and we lived on the grounds. From an early age I got to know the chefs on the campus and started to take an interest in what they were doing. Soon, I was helping out part-time and later the Head Chef encouraged me to go to catering college which I attended from 1995-1997.


JP : How did your career progress after college?

TG : Over the next ten years or so I was very fortunate to work in several of the UK's leading restaurants under the tutelage of world class chefs such as Paul Gayler, Richard Guest, Nick Fisher and Graham Brundle. Straight out of college I got a position as a commis chef at the Lanesborough in London's Hyde Park Corner. I spent three years there, was promoted to demi chef de partie and learned a huge amount about world foods and what it takes to succeed in a fast-moving, top-class restaurant


JP : And from there?

TG : I then spent a couple of years at BRAZZ restaurant at The Castle Hotel in Somerset, first as senior chef de partie and then as sous chef. I had a further two years as sous chef at The Waterside Restaurant at the Marina Hotel and then at The Carlyon Bay Hotel in St. Austell Bay, Cornwall. I was then appointed Head Chef at Revival restaurant, also in St. Austell, where I spent three years before joining The Saunton Sands Hotel in Devon.


JP : What were some of the highlights of your career in the UK?

TG : Working alongside great chefs is a huge boost for any young chef. And every restaurant I worked in won awards and accolades which is personally very satisfying. In the late 1990s I also worked at Ascot racecourse for the five day 'Royal Ascot' meeting. We would be feeding in excess of 50,000 people every day over the five days and we had many high-profile guests, celebrities and royalty in attendance. Preparing and serving the highest quality fine-dining menus from a temporary tent is quite a challenge, and while the work was exhausting it was also very rewarding in terms of remuneration and experience. And when I was at The Saunton Sands I was the Executive Sous Chef in a team chosen to host a lunch at a nearby venue for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and 30 of her guests.


JP : Why did you come to Samui?

TG : Chef Graham Brundle told me about a project his brother was involved with on the island and asked me to go over and take a look at it with a view to starting a new restaurant. In the end the project stalled and while I was considering what to do I had an offer from Dr. Frogs Bar & Grill in Chaweng Noi. I spent about two years with them upgrading the menu, and we were recognised as one of the best restaurants in the kingdom by 'Thailand Tatler' magazine. And within a year we raced to the number one spot on Trip Advisor's list of best restaurants in Chaweng. In 2010 I then moved to be Executive Chef at the Happy Elephant restaurant in Fisherman's Village. They'd just completed building their new restaurant and I had to recruit and train a brigade of 15 in the kitchen and design new menus. Within a few months we were serving several hundred customers per day and I enjoyed my time there very much.


JP : You've just started at The Impiana, what are your short-term goals for the restaurants ?

TG : The Impiana has two restaurants, Sabai and the Tamarind Bar & Lounge, both of which overlook the ocean. I'm starting to get to know the skills and knowledge of the chefs here which is an important part of the process. And I've had a little time already to discuss the vision our General Manager David Xavier has for the restaurants, and in the first few weeks I'll be introducing a new menu for the Sabai restaurant. Based on feedback from our guests, the menu will feature plenty of fresh salads, pasta dishes, light appetizers and big bowls of New Zealand mussels and fries with classic white wine and garlic sauce and some Thai inspired sauces. We'll also have main courses such as lamb shank, Australian steaks, plenty of fresh seafood and of course a Thai menu with regional specialities and all the usual favourites. Our Beach Bar will also serve daytime snacks, perfect for nibbling at around the pool or on the beach. And each evening we'll also have a special theme menu as well.


JP : And longer-term?

TG : I want to add an extended bakery and patisserie section to the kitchen to increase the amount of fresh bakery products and desserts that we produce. We'll then serve a classic English 'Afternoon Tea' menu which the seafront lounge is ideal for hosting. Down the line we'll also put a new kitchen into the Tamarind Bar & Lounge and introduce a more fine-dining style menu.


JP : Why should visitors to the island drop in to the restaurants at The Impiana?

TG : The food is great, the atmosphere is relaxed, the beach is far nicer here than in Chaweng and our prices are very good value for money.


JP : Finally Chef, what advice would you give to a young chef who aspires to the top?

TG : Get a good grounding in the basics at college and then spend the next five or six years working in different types of restaurants. Try city hotels, beachside bistros, fine-dining, event catering, places that specialize in particular styles and then focus in on whichever one you feel drawn to and make that your area of expertise.




Johnny Paterson


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