Samui Wining & Dining
Kitchen King

Olivio has not one but two chefs, bringing you the best of Italian and Thai cuisine.

Kitchen KingThis month, we feature not one but two executive chefs, who share the kitchen at Olivio, Baan Haad Ngam Boutique Resort & Spa’s restaurant. Over the years, Olivio has made a name for its sublime Italian and Thai dishes and is highly popular with visitors and residents alike. We spent an evening with their two chefs and discovered how they work seamlessly together, producing some amazing dishes. Chef Itt is in charge of Italian dishes, while his colleague Chef Joke handles all the Thai dishes.

How did you both get into cooking?

Chef Itt: Well, I started in the kitchen at the age of 18. Now I'm 41. I started off in the most menial positions and rose through the ranks. I went to live in Bangkok, and started working in European-style restaurants. They were of course totally different to Thai restaurants, and the food was prepared in different ways – but I really wanted to learn. I moved to Italian restaurants and learned how to make pizza and pasta. I love those two dishes, by the way. I honed down the recipes that I knew people would love. And some I still use today, while others I learned from different chefs. I think all in all it’s taken me about 15 years to learn the art of cooking Italian

Chef Joke: My path isn’t so different to the one that Khun Itt took, and those two paths were to cross – but that was later on. I started at the age of 15; this was with my family, as they’d opened a restaurant and needed plenty of help. I got into cooking Thai food, and then sought out restaurants where I could learn more, practice more and really get into the feel of it. It was while I was working in Bangkok that I got to know Khun Itt. We were both working at the Ambassador Hotel in the city, and that was the start of our friendship. We both ended up coming down to Samui to work, and now we’re both here at Olivio, along with my wife, Khun Kae – she’s the restaurant manager.

Isn’t it difficult to work together as a team if you are so close to each other?

Chef Itt: No, not at all. We all get on really well together and make a good team. But more than that it’s a friends and family thing. Amongst other things, it means we’re much less stressed.

What about your free time? How do you schedule it?

Chef Joke: You might be thinking that we don’t spend quality time together, but we do. There are three shifts per day, corresponding to breakfast, lunch and dinner, so we each do two of those, and we have a day off as well. It works out nicely. And besides our restaurant isn’t one of those places where everyone’s perpetually running about trying to keep up with everything. We’ve made this a relaxed place where quality food is prepared.

What can you recommend to eat here? Let’s say I want to eat Italian…

Chef Itt: Hmm…hard to say. There are many very popular dishes on the menu. Lots of Italians come here to eat. A lot of people enjoy the angels’ hair pasta with prawns or lobster – very tasty. Or there’s black spaghetti – also highly popular. For desserts, tiramisu is pretty irresistible it seems, judging from diners’ reactions.

Over to you, Chef Joke, what would you recommend?

Chef Joke: there are several dishes that everyone seems to like and comes back for. The Thai massaman curry is a favourite, as is pad Thai. Okay, both are quite humble dishes in origin; they're everyday food, really, but here at Olivio we turn them into something special. We also insist on using the freshest of ingredients and making everything from scratch, so it’s going to be really yummy.

Can you give us some basic information on Olivio?

Chef Joke: We’ve been open since 2003, and in that time have carved out a good reputation. I'd say we’re one of the few Italian restaurants that’s right by the beach. So it’s also a romantic spot, too – couples like coming here. We’re at the northern end of Chaweng; it’s quieter here. Fewer people, and great views all the way across the bay.

How do I actually get here?

Chef Itt: Easy. Drive up the beach road northwards out of Chaweng and turn right where you see the sign for the resort. Parking’s right at the bottom of the hill, by the new pool villas. But if you're in Chaweng, just phone up and avail yourself of the free round trip transfer service. Even easier!

Do you have a happy hour here?

Chef Joke: Of course we do. Although it’s not just an hour – it’s every day from 2:00 pm until 6:00 pm, and you can come for cocktails and beer. It’s a buy one, get one free deal. I’d say it’s a particularly good way to round off an afternoon, especially if you’ve been on the beach and need a bit of respite from the heat.

Can I come for breakfast? Do I have to be a guest? 

Chef Itt: Everyone’s welcome here! And no, you don’t need to be a guest. We’re a resort restaurant, so we’re open all day long. Breakfast is from 6:30 am until 10:00 am, and then it’s lunchtime, but there are plenty of snacks, too. Speaking of which, we also have a beach snacks menu, with both Thai and European dishes. From 6:00 pm onwards, it’s dinner, with guests starting to arrive as the sun goes down.

Sounds like you have the day pretty much covered?

Chef Joke: We have! Everything’s very informal, so you can come whenever you want, just drop in, whether it’s a simple sandwich you would like or a full-scale dinner. It’s all up to you! We aim to make this place ideal for families and friends. It’s convivial, friendly and we keep all the prices affordable. g


Dimitri Warin


Copyright 2017 Samui Wining & Dining. All rights reserved Siam Map Company Ltd.