Samui Wining & Dining
Kitchen King

If music be the food of love, check out the kitchen of David Lloyd!

 

19-01Just how many Samui chefs have catered for royalty? (Answer: quite a few, actually.) How many of our chefs have had their own successful catering companies? (Lots!) How many have danced (professionally) with Jerry Hall? (Hmm . . . not sure about that one.) Right then – how many chefs on Samui were invited to sit in and play with mega-rock stars, Kaiser Chiefs, on stage at Wembley Arena, on the last date of their UK tour in 2009? Answer: one – David Lloyd.

      But if that gives you the idea he might be seen banging his bongos at breakfast – forget it. To fully grasp the significance of David’s musical side, you need to see how this fits into the bigger picture. You need to hear the story of his evolution and apprenticeship – to know how he progressed from a childhood dream of being a concert pianist, through a five-year culinary tour around the world, towards becoming a top executive chef.

      David was born in England, into a family where his parents and sister were teachers, and his younger brother went on to become a music analyst with his own record label. Music was rooted into his upbringing, and at an early age, he had topped out on the highest level of the national pianoforte

examinations. But with future expectations of a nice clean career line through university looming, he gently kicked back. He left school and headed towards a friend in Australia, with no direction in mind and the world his oyster. Teenage dreams are fabulously short by nature and don’t usually include washing dishes in a restaurant. But after a few weeks of this, David’s inherent curiosity took over and he slid towards the preparation of the food. And that’s the point at which his obsession with, and love of food began.

      He bought a big old Ford station wagon and set off on an Aussie pilgrimage. His aim - to work in every sort of restaurant and learn about every sort of food. A year later, he had attained the status of demi chef in a top restaurant in Brisbane, and then headed for Asia. And over the next four years spent his time making copious notes about the local cuisine in a whole catalogue of countries between Singapore and India, and working in restaurants that varied from wooden huts to 5-star kitchens. It’s the sort of thing that TV documentaries are made about. And then he returned to England – he went back to go to university.

     A business degree? A catering diploma or hotel management? “I wanted to go deeper into the ethnic side of things,” he told me. The politics, history, culture, food and music of the people I had been working with. So I enrolled on an anthropology degree course at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies. I had no funding at all for this and thus began working in restaurants in the evenings.”

      He was soon contracted to a group by the name of ‘Soho Clubs & Bars’ and was trained as a cocktail bartender in the heart of Soho. During the three years of his degree course, he became part of the team responsible for opening the group’s new bars and restaurants – designing the kitchens, creating menus, deciding on the decor and so on. After graduation, he was taken on by Caprice Holdings, one of London’s most prominent restaurant groups. “I was employed at the wonderful Colonial Pan-Asian-styled Bam-Bou, specifically because of my knowledge of Asian cuisine,” David added. “Anyone who knows the London scene will instantly be familiar with the top boutique restaurants I worked with as a chef; Le Caprice, The Ivy, Wild Honey, Bam-Bou and Gauthier Soho under the Michelin-starred Alexis Gauthier.”

       David continued to work in the Soho and Mayfair kitchens of London before making a sideways move. “A friend in the recording business asked me to set up in-house catering for a 3-month session. I realised this was a niche that needed filling and set up my own catering company, Guerrilla Gourmet, specifically to work with studios and artistes. It was successful because I wasn’t just a cook, I’m a musician also, and I’d more or less be part of the artiste’s entourage, living alongside them during the weeks it took to cut the albums and even playing backing sessions on keyboard or drums. Over the years I did this I got to know, and be friendly with, such well-known people as Paul McCartney, Tom Jones, Kate Moss, Radiohead, The Foo Fighters, Adele, Take That, Marc Ronson and so many others. I even did the wedding catering for Lizzie Jagger’s wedding, where I mixed-in with all the family and got to dance with Jerry Hall!”

         David’s company was going great guns. He was under contract to Sony, EMI and IMG Artists. He’d just done the catering for Microsoft’s annual ‘Microfest’ party (with 2,000 guests) and even put in a bid for the Puma contract at the London Olympics. “I didn’t get that,” David continued. “It was a bit of a jolt. I was already married to a Thai woman (Vicky) and had spent a lot of time in Thailand. And when a mutual Thai friend pointed out that the wedding business in Samui alone was big enough to make a good living, it made us think it might be time for a change of scene.”

         At the end of 2012, David secured a job at RockPool restaurant, and then later moved to his current post, opening and running Neo at KC Beach Club, where he has created the concept from scratch – the amazing new food, drinks, branding and sourcing all of the equipment and tableware. He has (in theory!) a day-and-a-half off each week, but when it comes to hobbies, he and Vicky have just the one – their kids! They have a pair: a delightful two-year-old girl, Ella, and a bouncy boy of four, Hayden. Their leisure time is spent with friends in a similar situation, or on quiet outings to the beach or the mountain.

         And the future? Like all dedicated chefs, David is thinking about his own restaurant, sometime in the future. But he was quick to have the last word. “A chef just can’t exist without a team, and I have to say a huge ‘thank you’ to both Khun Boy and Khun Waen. If you want me to be ‘Kitchen King’, thanks, but these guys are my trusted right hand – and so I guess that makes them the ‘Kitchen Princes’, doesn’t it!”

         

Rob De Wet


 


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