Samui Wining & Dining
Kitchen King

January’s ‘Chef of The Month’ is Khun Suraporn Munyuen, at Mercure Samui Buri Resort.


4Head Chef, Suraporn Munyuen, is one of the island’s most respected Thai chefs. He’s worked at some of Samui’s best known resorts and spent much time in Europe. We caught up with him at L’escale restaurant at Mercure Samui Buri Resort, in Maenam, to find out a bit more about him.


JP: Tell us about your background please, Chef.

SM: I was born in 1973 and brought up in Buri Ram in the North-east of Thailand. The name means ‘City of Happiness’ and it’s at the southern end of the Khorat Plateau and shares a border with Cambodia. I always wanted to be a chef and to work in great restaurants where I could learn about all kinds of cuisines and develop my craft. Five other members of my family are also chefs so it was a natural choice of career path for me, although it can get ‘interesting’ shall we say if we all happen to be home at the same time.


JP: You’ve spent some time on Samui now and worked at some very well known resorts.

SM: Yes, over the years I’ve had positions at the Impiana Resort Samui in Chaweng Noi, the Buri Rasa resort in the centre of Chaweng, the Blue Lagoon which is at the northern end of Chaweng Beach Road, and Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary in the south of the island. I was fortunate enough to work with some very experienced Thai and Western chefs and learned a great deal at each restaurant. I’ve been at the Mercure Samui Buri for three years now and enjoy it immensely. I also spent time in Istanbul, Turkey, promoting Thai cuisine and that was fantastic for me as I met dozens of European chefs, got a very good understanding of another culture and visited some amazing places in a major world city.


JP: What’s a typical day like for you?

SM: On a regular day I’ll come in around 8:00 am and check on the breakfast service. After that, the morning is taken up with staff meetings, some paperwork, stock checks and stock ordering, hygiene, health and safety audits and preparation for lunch and dinner. Around 2:00 pm I’ll take a break and come back in for dinner service later in the afternoon. However, quite often we’ll have theme nights, such as a seafood barbecue on the beach, or perhaps a wedding or an outside catering event, and I’ll stay on to supervise the preparations for those. We also run Thai cooking classes in the afternoons and I’ll often get the chefs together for a training session or to work on some new dishes or concepts.


JP: You recently introduced a ‘Sunday Brunch’ promotion, tell us about that.

SM: Brunch every Sunday lasts from midday to around 3:00 pm, a little later if guests are still eating and enjoying themselves. There’s a welcome cocktail on arrival and free-flow beer and wine throughout the afternoon. We offer a free pick-up and return service, children eat for free and we provide a supervised ‘kids club’ so that the mums and dads can have some time to themselves. In terms of the food, we have such a great selection that it would be impossible to try everything, even over several hours, but it showcases what we can do. We have a soup section, a hot waffle and egg station, warm steamed dim sum, a fresh pasta station, Thai specialities, dozens of freshly-baked breads from our in-house bakery, an extensive salad bar, a tapas section where you can mix and match, a barbecue and carvery where our chefs are on-hand to carve off slices from sides of beef and legs of lamb. And they’ll also barbecue rock lobster, tiger prawns, squid, and skewers of beef, chicken, pork and vegetables and bring them over to your table. There’re additionally plenty of cakes, desserts and pastries and a good cheeseboard. And I’ll put on specials each Sunday as a surprise. It has proven to be extremely popular and has certainly raised our profile.


JP: What skills and attributes do you need to be a chef at your level?

SM: Obviously a well-rounded knowledge of Thai and European cuisines and a real desire to improve your knowledge at every opportunity. You have to be creative and genuinely excited about food. In the kitchen, it’s important to be both a leader and an inspiration and to share everything you know with your team. I believe a good benchmark for this is if, say, I’m on holiday and the quality and standard of every dish is just as good as when I’m there.


JP: What are some of the more popular dishes on your menu?

SM: Our tapas menu is always in demand. They are just 99 baht each, or five for 455 baht, and we offer around 20 different choices. They include: seared tuna; tempura squid; Mediterranean-style mussels; Thai fish cakes; E-san dried beef strips; smoked salmon with cream cheese; Parma ham with melon; sautéed frogs legs; duck slices with crispy noodles; and Japanese sweet eel with wasabi. Main dishes such as the grilled sea bass fillet with a Pernod cream sauce, the mixed grill of lamb, beef and pork and the roasted duck breast with tamarind sauce are sure-fire winners and top the list.


JP: Can you recommend a three course meal for us that you enjoy?

SM: I’d start with grilled scallops with shrimp, caviar and rocket salad. Then I’d opt for the pumpkin prawn risotto with tiger prawns and finish off with the chocolate fondue served with tropical fruits.


JP: Finally, Chef, when you get some time to yourself what do you like to do to relax?

SM: I guess the same as most people. I’ll go out to a restaurant with friends for an evening; it’s nice when someone else cooks. And when I want a bit of time to myself, I’ll grab my fishing rod and head off to one of the quieter parts of the island and cast a line – not that I ever catch much to be honest but that’s not really the point.


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