Samui Wining & Dining
Kitchen King

Executive Chef, Bernhard Koll, heads up the kitchen at the newly renovated Anantara Bophut Resort.


Page-25Ask Chef Bernhard what he likes most about working at Anantara Bophut, and is answer is hardly a surprise. “The location!” he says, looking from the open-air restaurant where we’re sitting, and gesturing across the pool and garden and over to the beach and the bay beyond. There’s no doubt that the Full Moon Restaurant, part of the newly renovated resort, boasts one of the best locations on the island, and every time Chef Bernhard visits the diners to chat and ask how they’re enjoying their meal, he has the privilege of that view and the beautiful setting.

      But of course, as great as the view is, a chef needs to spend some time in the kitchen, and this is where Bernhard excels. He started his kitchen career with training at the Professional School for Cooks in Munich, Germany. Early on in his career, Bernhard was employed in top hotels, including the Mandarin Oriental group – first at Elbow Beach, Bermuda, and then at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Bangkok. He worked there from 2003 until 2007, first as sous chef, and then as executive sous chef, for this busy hotel’s four restaurants as well as several high-profile functions.

      One such function that is permanently etched into Bernhard’s memory as one of the best experiences of his career, was being part of the team that catered for The King of Thailand’s 60th anniversary celebration. This function was host to royalty and heads of state from around the world – a great honour for any chef. During his stint at the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok, Bernhard also met a chef that he greatly admires and who has been an inspiration to him over the years – Thomas Keller. The hotel hosted a promotion in its French restaurant, the Normandie, with three-star Michelin chefs such as Keller, the only American chef to hold multiple three-star listings in the Michelin Guide, and Bernhard was involved in the production of this prestigious event.

      After four years in Bangkok, Bernhard decided to leave the city and headed to Samui to oversee the opening of the Dara Samui Beach Resort & Spa, putting everything he’d learnt into practice. He was in charge of the entire setup, from the design and layout of the kitchen and hiring of staff, to menu conceptualizing and staff training, Bernhard put it all in place, and was at the helm of the kitchen for two years, from 2007 to 2009.

     When Bernhard once again felt like a new challenge, he started with the Anantara Group, his first post being as Executive Chef at the Anantara Sikao Beach Resort & Spa, Trang, where he stayed until 2013, before heading back to Samui to his current location – the beautiful Anantara Bophut Resort & Spa. Being in charge of all kitchen and F&B operations, Bernard is pleased with his team, who he’s trained well!

       But as long as the hours are for a chef, he has to leave the kitchen sometimes. And this is when Bernhard finds his inspiration. Whether it’s enjoying the other fine-dining restaurants on the island, scouring the markets for interesting fresh ingredients or exploring the island with his wife, his senses are always open to new ideas. Bernhard enjoys keeping up with the latest cooking trends, but adapting them to his own style. He explains that fusion food is losing popularity, and there seems to be a drift back towards basics and traditional recipes, with a strong emphasis on good ingredients well prepared, rather than weird and wacky combinations. He particularly enjoys using a barbecue to prepare food, loving the smokiness that this form of cooking adds to the dish. It’s also a healthy way of cooking, and it’s not limited to meat – Bernhard loves preparing grilled vegetables and braising greens as a lighter accompaniment than starch to heavy meat dishes. He also likes working with leaves and young, fresh greens and combining them with herbs, and at Full Moon, there’s a strong focus on tableside cooking – think crispy Caesar salads tossed at your table. And as with many other chefs, he loves the earthy flavour of truffles, and he’s also partial to preparing Italian cuisine.

         Every chef has somebody that they dream of one day, cooking for. Bernhard is lucky enough to have cooked for his dream customer. But that was part of a big team, and if he could prepare a meal for any person in the world, Bernhard would love to do so again for the People’s King. When asked why, he goes on to explain that he respects HRH as he has a good heart and is always there for his people. When he was involved in the 60th anniversary meal, a lot of research was done into what food HRH, The King, enjoys – and beef is one of his favourite meals. So a well-prepared steak from the grill would be on the menu… and Bernhard drifts off as he thinks about what else he’d add to the royal feast – should he ever have the chance…


Rosanne Turner


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