Samui Wining & Dining
On The Rocks

Interesting things are happening at RockPool, one of Samui’s favourite dining venues.

 

17Christopher Pierre has brought a taste of the Seychelles to Samui. Although born in Switzerland, he was raised in the Seychelles by his grandmother, where he learnt from an early age that the most important ingredient for any chef is a love of food and cooking. Christopher is the new chef at RockPool, situated on the seafront at Kanda Residences, located midway between Choeng Mon and Chaweng. With his Indian Ocean island influence, he’s brought a new and innovative menu to RockPool.

      Christopher recalls a simple but well-used kitchen with spices and herbs drying on the roof top, a giant drum sieve hanging behind the door and orange peel, meat and fish hanging on a wire, waiting to be stewed or curried. His grandmother cooked hearty Creole-style dishes, popular in the Seychelles, where seafood plays a big part in the local cuisine. He has fond memories of Sunday lunches when friends and families would gather over a meal, and in particular he dreams of his grandmother’s fish pie.

      So with his Creole-cooking background and a childhood in the Seychelles, Christopher has introduced one of his signature dishes, ‘pan-seared coral grouper fillet’ to the seafood section of the RockPool menu. He explains the dish’s origins and how he’s adapted it to a fine-dining menu.

      “Back in colonial times, before the Seychelles gained independence, around 1970, the wealthy would take the best cuts of the fish and give the heads, tails and bones to the staff to cook for themselves. The staff would commonly marinate the fish in chilli, mango, cucumber and pineapple, wrap it and grill it as a delicious meal. It wasn’t pretty, but it tasted delicious! I can’t serve that dish to guests at a restaurant, as what the food looks like matters a lot, so I’ve refined the dish. But all the delicious flavours are still there to enjoy.”

      Christopher uses the choice fillets of the fish, rather than a whole fish (and most certainly not only heads and tails as his poor ancestors did). Instead of grilling, he pan-sears it. And his trick to maintain that delicious smoky barbecue flavour is to put coconut fibres in the pan, where they smoke under the high heat and create the same aromas and flavours of the flame grill. The traditional ingredients used in the marinade are combined to create a fresh and crispy salsa of mango, cucumber, pineapple and tomato with sweet chilli caviar, served with a cassava ragout. Cassava (also known as tapioca and yucca root) is the staple starch of the Seychelles, in much the same way that rice is to Asia, and is served with most meals.

      Christopher has travelled to 15 countries and worked in five. When asked what his favourite ingredients to work with are, his reply is, “Whatever is good and fresh at the time.” He has zero tolerance for bad food, feeling that it disrespects the good ingredients. His favourite utensil is the pestle and mortar, where the flavours of ingredients can be beautifully extracted as they are crushed together to form pastes, rubs and marinades.

      The new menu at RockPool still incorporates a few old favourites, but you’ll find many interesting new additions too. Christopher is looking at using more local ingredients to work with, combining his roots and international influences with a little bit of the East.

       His signature dessert is what he calls The Island, and he got the idea while sitting at RockPool one day, looking across the bay at the palm trees on the beach. Christopher describes the dish as his take on a Bounty Bar (you know… the candy with a rich coconut centre and a delicious milk chocolate coating).

         First, he makes coconut-shaped baskets by putting cling film over an egg and drizzling melted chocolate over half of the shell. When the chocolate is set, it’s carefully removed to resemble a half coconut shell. These shells are filled with a creamy coconut mousse, and just before the mousse is completely set, a small amount is scooped out of the centre, so that the whole creation resembles a half coconut – white in the centre, with a brown outer shell. Three of these delicious treats are placed on a plate decorated with a passion fruit coulis as well as shavings of a real bounty chocolate. Now that’s taking inspiration from your surroundings and turning it not only into something heavenly to eat, but also beautiful to look at!

         The new menu is fresh and inviting, and will satisfy all. You’ll find Thai favourites as well as interesting fusion and European food, and of course the influence of the Seychelles. Dishes are marked for those wishing to choose ‘healthy’, ‘vegetarian’ or ‘gluten-free’ options too.

         RockPool is aiming to keep menu prices reasonable to attract both locals as well as visitors. With its relaxed outdoor lounge setting, an ocean breeze, postcard view and innovative menu, be sure to add it to your ‘must do while on Samui’ list. You’ll soon be won over by not only Christopher’s vibrant food, but his obvious love of cooking which is reflected in his equally vibrant smile and charm.

         

Rosanne Turner


 


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