Samui Wining & Dining
Kitchen King

This month the spotlight is on Steven van Duyn, Executive Chef at Sareeraya Villas & Suites.

 

5Avoiding so-called ‘taboo dinner topics’ like sex, religion or politics, often we’ll turn to bucket lists or interesting hypothetical questions such as, “If you had to choose your last meal, what would it be?”

      So we posed a hypothetical question to Chef Steven van Duyn, of Chef’s Table restaurant at Sareeraya Villas & Suites. The question was, “If you knew when your last meal would be, what would be on the menu, where would it be served, and who would join you at the table?” Most people would immediately list their favourite dish – we all have one, usually a comfort food of sorts, and of course we’d want our family and a close friend or two there. And then there’s the location that is our ‘happy place’, where the dinner would be served – all hypothetically speaking of course. The topic isn’t meant to be morbid, just to stir up an interesting conversation.

      Well ask this of any chef, and they are often stumped. Sure, they want their family there, and they know their favourite place, but the ‘what will be served’ part is just too darn hard to narrow down. It goes without saying that chefs love food, and watching how they stress when they have to choose is quite amusing to watch. Well when Chef Steven finally decided, these were his answers:

      “Firstly, my immediate family and celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsay, would join me.” (At least the conversation will be spicy…)

      “The location would be Kelburn Lookout, overlooking Wellington Harbour in New Zealand.”

       And now for the part that had him stumped for a while, “It would have to be a three-course meal. We’d start with truffle burrata cheese with sundried tomatoes, rocket leaves and sherry-caramel sauce. Wagyu rib-eye steak with a marbling score of seven to eight, served with porcini sauce. And to end my last meal, I’d like a chocolate degustation plate.” (Well, who doesn’t like a good chocolate pud?)

      Now that your mouth’s watering, let’s find out a bit more about Chef Steven. He’s been in the industry for 20 years, having started in his home country of New Zealand, in 1984. But his love of cooking started long before that. In primary school form one and two, it was compulsory to take home economics as a subject, which involved learning to sew and cook. Steven soon discovered his love of food and cooking, and continued with home economics through high school and college, and enjoyed cooking for family and friends at home.

       After college, his first job in the kitchen was as commis chef for two years at the Western Park Tavern in Wellington, New Zealand. He moved on to be sous chef and apprentice for six years in the late 80s through to the early 90s at Pierre’s Restaurant, also in Wellington, learning the ropes and discovering new techniques in cooking.

      The rest of the 90s were spent as executive sous chef at Boulcott Street Bistro, before he discovered our lovely island of Samui and moved here in November of 2000. Here he took on the position of executive chef and F&B manager at Beachcomber Hotel, where he stayed for a full seven years before being lured away by the bright lights of Bangkok. For two years, Steven worked as executive chef at the Dusit Princess Srinakarin. But soon, island life called him back to Samui.

      From 2009 through to 2011, a post as corporate executive chef kept Steven busy between the group’s three restaurants at the Blue Lagoon Hotel, Beachcomber Hotel and Top Ten Restaurant & Bar. Drawn again to other things, he did a short stint at the Bitec Convention Centre in Bangkok before leaving the ‘Land of Smiles’ for the ‘Land of Sand’, and working for a year as executive chef at the Desert Palm Resort & Hotel in Dubai.

         But Samui always seems to call Steven back, and it seems this time, he’s here to stay. He’s been executive chef at Sareeraya since November 2012, and he loves it there. And who wouldn’t? He only has to pop his head out of the kitchen to see the crystal water of the Gulf of Thailand lapping Chaweng’s soft, white sand. Add to that a dedicated team in the kitchen with a good attitude and eager to learn, and a well-equipped and set out kitchen, and you have any chef’s dream job. Of course, on days off, he has Samui as his playground to enjoy with his family.

         Like most good chefs, Steven is constantly looking for inspiration, be it from other chefs, the internet, or books. He’s travelling back to New Zealand in a few months, and has already made plans to visit his favourite cookbook store – we know what his luggage allowance is being allocated to! Steven doesn’t like to define his style too much, as he likes all types of food as well as enjoying both contemporary and classic cooking. He’s tweaked the menu at Chef’s Table since arriving in November, mostly when it comes to the style of serving. As Steven explains, “If it looks good, you’re 80% there.”

         Chef’s Table offers elegant, yet relaxed beachside dining with both Thai and Western menu options. On Monday nights, guests can enjoy a Thai buffet and on Thursday nights there’s a buffet offering Western and Asian favourites, including Indian and Chinese dishes. Sareeraya is also a favourite location for weddings, and if you’re looking for a romantic experience for a special occasion, ask them to prepare you a private table on beach for the ultimate beachside dining experience.

         Whether he’s coming up with contemporary or classic dishes for Chef’s Table, compiling menus for a wedding or just talking about food and cooking, it’s evident that Steven is passionate about food. And that’s what makes a great chef after all.

         

Rosanne Turner


 


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