Samui Wining & Dining
Kitchen King

Chef Tonny Kwan Lawrence at Nora Buri Resort tells us what it’s like heading up the kitchen on a paradise island.



Preparing fine food in a stunning beachside resort is not such a bad job. In fact it’s a pretty enviable one. But that’s what Tonny Kwan Lawrence at Nora Buri Resort & Spa gets to do every day. And it’s nothing new to him either. In his career he has done some serious globe-trotting, having worked in kitchens in Indonesia, Dubai, Oman, the Maldives and now Thailand.

        But every chef starts somewhere, and for Tonny his interest in food grew from a young age, as his family is in the restaurant business. As soon as he was old enough, he immersed himself in the family’s restaurant and learnt recipes, cooking techniques and management skills. Then, at 21, he headed out for his first internship in his hometown – Indonesia’s bustling capital, Jakarta. From there his career catapulted him around the world, from kitchen to kitchen, doing three-year stints in each. Now he’s happily cooking up a storm in the three eateries at Nora Buri - The Barge Fine Dining, The Barge Rice & Terrace and Manora Restaurant.

Hi Chef! So how did the position at Nora Buri come about?

      I was working in a resort in the Maldives and not really enjoying it, so it came as such a relief when I got the call from the guys at Nora Buri. My old General Manager in Indonesia had seen they were looking for a new chef and put my name into the hat. They looked at what I could do and before I knew it, I had the job!


What is your particular cooking style?

      I have a real passion for Asian fusion – mixing Asian and Western food, that’s my signature style. Ever since I started taking my cooking seriously, I’ve been experimenting and finding new combinations of flavours. The dish at The Barge Fine Dining that really reflects my style is The Barge Platter – it’s comprised of a seared sesame scallop with horseradish sauce, seared salmon, wasabi king prawn, exotic cold cuts like smoked duck and smoked chicken, and vermicelli salad.

So what’s a typical day like for you?

      I used to work a split shift when I first got here, which meant I came in early in the morning for the breakfast diners, took the middle of the day off and then came back for the evening. Now I work a straight shift, which means I come in at 12:00 pm and stay through till dinner. I work mainly in The Barge Fine Dining, making sure everything runs smoothly in the kitchen, and ensuring the quality of every dish up to scratch. Consistency is important.


How does working in a kitchen in Thailand compare with those in the other countries you’ve worked in?

      In every other country I’ve worked in there has been a real mix of cultures within the kitchen staff. At any given time we’d have people from something like 20 different countries all working together – the kitchens were always very multicultural. So for me it has been really interesting to work at Nora Buri where every single person apart from me is Thai. The language barrier has been a bit of a struggle for me, but I’m learning.


Can you tell us a little about the restaurants at Nora Buri?

      There are three restaurants in total, Manora Restaurant is where we serve the breakfast buffet, and is located on the hillside section of Nora Buri. Then on the beachside we have The Barge Rice & Terrace where we serve Thai cuisine, and The Barge Fine Dining where we serve Western food.


Why should people come to eat at Nora Buri?

      The view! First is always that view. Then there’s the food of course - there’s the visual appeal of our dishes, they really do look good, and naturally the taste. The attention to detail is fantastic here.


What advice would you give to an aspiring young chef trying to get to where you are?

      PWork hard! You will achieve what you want - one day. It doesn’t happen overnight. It comes from experience, not just from knowledge. You need dedication and hard work.


Christina Wylie


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