Samui Wining & Dining
Kitchen King

X2's new Head Chef, Julian Fernández, brings a taste of Colombia to Samui.

 

15When David Daguise, General Manager of X2 (pronounced ‘cross to’) introduced his new head chef he proudly announced, “There are many French, Australian, British and German chefs on the island, but how many resorts can say they have a Colombian chef?” Well, that's true. But what does this mean? Why the hype? And what can a Colombian chef bring to the table – literally?

    Well, chatting to Julian, he revealed his plans to incorporate 'tripod fusion' to X2's 4K (pronounced 'fork’) restaurant. Google 'tripod fusion' and you're not likely to get any results. That's because this is Chef Julian's own concept. As he explains, South American and Thai food are not that different when it comes to ingredients, although the way they are put together and prepared produces entirely different results and flavours. Now many restaurants are creating fusion dishes, combining Thai and Western classics to produce dishes with an interesting twist. Chef Julian is incorporating a new menu, over and above the regular 4K menu, combining South American, Asian and Western dishes, and serving up hearty plates of food worth tucking into. Together with GM, David, he plans on creating a relaxed dining experience where food, service, location and atmosphere are all important, and guests can feel at home relaxing over good food and a bottle of wine.

      Julian's aim, when it comes to his new menu, is to produce food that is different and surprising. When on holiday, so many meals blend into one another, and it's hard to remember what you had where. But this young Colombian chef wants his food to be truly memorable.

       After training for three years at I.A.G (the Argentine Institute of Gastronomy), Julian worked at restaurants in Argentina, Colombia, New York and Turkey, before being head-hunted by X2's David Daguise. This is Julian's first time in Thailand and he's relishing the experience, and learning a lot about Thai food. As he says, “A good chef never stops learning.”

      Julian spends his free time scouring the island for ingredients. He's always on the lookout for new suppliers offering something different, or visiting the local fishermen to see what they can offer. He believes in using only fresh ingredients and buying local produce whenever possible. After working in areas where every ingredient a chef desires is readily available, it takes a bit of adapting to working on an island. As David says, “What I like most about Julian is his determination. If he wants an ingredient, he'll find it. He goes everywhere on his day off, and comes back to work beaming about his discoveries!”

      Other than combing the island for ingredients, Julian has taken up Muay Thai, and also enjoys spending time at the beach. As he says, “Working by the sea and living onsite is fantastic! I make sure I go via the beach on my way to the kitchen. X2 also suits my personality. It's not stuffy or pretentious, it's got a relaxed vibe and good energy. Management is not stuck in its ways, but lets me bring new ideas to the table.”

      What Julian loves about the industry is meeting new people, not only the guests that hail from around the world, but everyone involved in bringing the meal to the table. As he proclaims, “Everyone is a team, from the farmer who produces the ingredients, to the kitchen staff and even the waiters taking the food to the guests. Everyone is just as important, and we must work together to achieve our goal – just like soccer.”

      And speaking of soccer, David chuckles as he tells a story about Julian coming back after a day off. Apparently, he was walking down a road, when he heard a loud noise, so he stopped to see what all the commotion was about. It was a small bar, where a group of local Thais were watching a Chelsea football match. So what did he do? He joined them and cheered with the rest. He loved the moment of spontaneous camaraderie so much, that the next day he presented the idea to David, of showing the football matches on a large open-air screen in the garden or on the beach. Julian believes that discovering the local culture and meeting people is all part of moving to a new country. And he's soaking up his new environment as much as he can.

      Great tasting food is important, but Julian also aims to produce the healthiest food possible. You won't find any additives here, and food is prepared in such a way as to retain as many of the nutrients as possible. Sure you'll get fries, but they won't be greasy or cooked in old oil. He's spending a lot of time training his team on cooking methods that don't ruin the ingredients that he's spent so much time sourcing. Julian is happy with his team and they're his new Thai family. As part of this healthy food drive, he'll be incorporating a juice bar near the beach and restaurant, serving freshly squeezed juices, health 'shots' and blended smoothies, all from local fruit and vegetables, of course.

     Colombians have a reputation for being passionate, fiery and exuberant. One only has to think of Colombian football stars or Shakira to know that this country produces people with a passion. Julian Fernández lives up to this reputation when he speaks of food, ingredients and travel. As he says, “If you're going to eat a club sandwich, shouldn't it be the best club sandwich you've ever had?” He just can't fathom doing anything other than the best. And the best to him is wholesome and memorable food using the best ingredients he can find – and find them, he will.

 

Rosanne Turner


 


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