Samui Wining & Dining
Kitchen King

We chat to Khun Suraporn Munyuen at Samui Buri Beach Resort.

 

5Samui Buri makes a memorable first impression upon arrival. With its blood-red pitched roof in traditional Royal Thai architecture peaking into the sky, it’s visible long before you reach the entrance. Seetawaree Restaurant is located along the beachfront on a pristine section of northern Maenam beach, and it’s here we chatted to resident Head Chef, Khun Suraporn Munyeun (Chef Pon).

    Chef Pon has been working at Samui Buri since 2007, which is quite a long time for a chef to be at one location. Chefs have a habit or moving around from one kitchen to the next. That’s not to say that chefs are flighty, but rather that they feel a need to constantly absorb and learn what they can, as well as a need to be creative and leave their mark. So often, once a chef has learnt all he can from his head chef, and added what he can creatively to the menu, it’s usually time to seek out a new challenge.

      Looking at the impressive list of establishments where Chef Ton has worked, it’s evident that he followed this school of thought, starting his kitchen career in 1979 as a cook’s helper. And each year, he worked his way up, learning as much as possible from the chefs above him, until now, when

he can proudly call himself head chef. During this time, Chef Ton learnt both Thai and International styles of cooking, taking ideas and skills from each of his mentors and adding his own creativity into the mix where he could.

       From 1979 to 1990, Chef Pon worked at various hotels, before being promoted to first cook at Pakmeng Resort in 1991. During the early ‘90s, he continued to work his way up the kitchen ladder and, in 1999, landed his first job as head chef, at the Bophut Harbourside Restaurant.

       A year later, Chef Pon moved on to The Cliff, a popular Samui restaurant, and honed his skills in Mediterranean cuisine. Crossing to the Andaman Coast, he showed off his skills at the 5-star Impiana Phuket Cabana Resort & Spa on Patong Beach. But Samui beckoned him back, so staying with the group, he transferred to the Impiana Resort & Spa Samui.

      The next stop was the Blue Lagoon Hotel as executive sous chef, followed by Buri Rasa in Chaweng. Itching to see another part of the world, Chef Pon travelled to Istanbul, Turkey, where he worked as executive sous chef at the Movenpick Hotel. But once again, Samui beckoned. This time the call came to fill a position at Kamalaya. Here, the focus is on healthy food, so Chef Pon once again learnt new skills.

      Chef Pon’s current position started in 2007, when the resort was known as the Mercure Samui Buri Resort & Spa. When the hotel separated from the Mercure group and became known as the Samui Buri Beach Resort, he was promoted to head chef.

      Samui Buri’s cuisine is varied, with Western, Italian, French and Thai options available on the menu. According to Chef Pon, his preferred style of cooking is European fusion food, and he likes to adapt classics to fusion versions. Aside from the main menu, there are daily chef’s specials. These vary from day to day, but include whole sea bass, Australian T-bone steak, rib-eye steak, barracuda and Shanghai salmon.

      Not only is Chef Pon in charge of Samui Buri’s menu, but also for the other hotels in the group – Samui Resotel, Chaweng Cove Resotel and the Verticolour Hotel, also in Chaweng. Developing the menus and training the staff of all four establishments to prepare the menus is all part of his portfolio.

      During his limited free time, Chef Pon enjoys chatting to other chefs on Facebook’s ‘Chefs’ Club’ page, in order to get fresh ideas on recipes and techniques. He loves to test new recipes when the kitchen’s not too busy.

      Recently, he was one of 84 chefs chosen to come up with a recipe for a Thai cookery book entitled, ‘84 Exciting Recipes from Brown Rice’, which is available in book stores. In 2010 and 2011 he received bronze medals in the Pattaya City Culinary Gourmet Seafood Challenge, and received second prize in the Samui Culinary Circle cooking competition. Chef Pon regularly takes courses to improve not only his culinary skills, but others vital to the job as well. These include ‘Effective Communication Skills for Mangers and Supervisors’, ‘First Aid’ and ‘Fire and Safety’ amongst others. He enjoys these courses as he gets to meet other chefs, share ideas and get inspiration.

      No one becomes a chef as an ‘easy way out’ job. Far from it, the hours are long, and standing on your feet all day is tiring. Chef Pon’s day starts around 8:00 am, when he oversees the breakfast room. Around 9:00 am he checks supplies and orders what’s required. From 10:00 am he starts preparing the specials of the day, and at 11, gives the morning brief to the staff before following up on anything that needs to be organised for functions. From noon, he heads the kitchen as lunch starts. There’s a break from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm, and then it’s back for the evening shift before he clocks out for the day around 10:00 pm – anyone thinking of becoming a chef might want to reconsider once realising that this is standard practice for a hotel chef!

      With owners and management that are open to new ideas, it seems as though Chef Pon has found a place to lay his chef’s hat and knife for a while, as he has the flexibility to create new dishes, compile menus and acquire new skills. What more could a chef want? Perhaps a little more time off?

    
Rosanne Turner


 


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