Saturday, 5 July 2014

Interview with Chef Supreeda (Ooy) Watcharaporn, SILK Restaurant, Andara Resort and Villas, Phuket, Thailand

Andara Phuket
Chef Supreeda (Ooy) Watcharaporn

Chef Supreeda (Ooy) Watcharaporn of SILK Restaurant, Andara Resort and Villas, shares with The Yum List some of the reasons why she got into chef-ing and some stories from behind the scenes.


What do you do and how did you get into the industry?
My position is Executive Thai Chef at Andara Resort & Villas, more specifically at SILK RESTAURANT. I have been there since day one, when we were still located at Plaza Surin where I stayed for about six years. It has now been over four years that Mr. Allan Zeman relocated SILK Restaurant to Andara Resort & Villas. 
As far as getting into the industry, we have to go back to when I was around nine years old. My mother was always calling me to assist her with cooking and from that point on I started to learn different cooking methods and techniques. Then, my love for cooking was all due to my mother. I still remember her words “Daughter, whenever you cook, do it from the heart and use fresh ingredients at all times.” And since then, I decided to learn everything about the hotel industry starting from front office all the way to the kitchen. And from that point on, I left my hometown – Songkhla – in order to do my internship at Holiday Inn Resort Phuket in Patong when I was 21. 
At the time, I was part of the F and B team. Right after completing my internship, Holiday Inn decided to hire me and transferred me – on the Chef’s advice – to the kitchen. I stayed there roughly five years in the Western kitchen specializing in salads, pizza, sandwiches and burgers. After having learned all the ins and outs at Holiday Inn, I decided to move to Layan Beach Resort and Spa Village for a higher position – head of the cold kitchen – for approximately two years. Another opportunity presented itself as I became part of the team at Amanpuri as a villa chef. My experience skyrocketed since the owner of the villa was constantly having parties there which led to more cooking, managing, coordinating, and taking care of guests – sometimes all at once. This lasted for about three years, and during my tenure at Amanpuri, I was cooking in the villa and after trying my food a few times – Thai dishes – Mr. Zeman noticed the taste and the presentation and fell in love with it. Then, I did not hear from him for about a year, and one day, after Chandara Private Residence was built - Mr. Zeman contacted me and offered me a job. Ten months later, after working in his private residence, I had to leave for a greater opportunity when Mr. Zeman opened SILK RESTAURANT in Plaza Surin in October 2004. We then relocated in 2010 to Andara Resort & Villas, once it became operational. And since then, I have been in charge of SILK RESTAURANT. 

Share with us an interesting story from behind the scenes.
When I was working at Holiday Inn Resort Phuket in Patong, there was a well-off couple that came to have dinner and we had to chance to converse with them after cooking for them. They needed to have cooking at their private yacht one night. After heading there with my friend, and cooking Thai food, they loved the food so much that they offered me a job on the spot. The offer was to become their chef and travel the world along with them. I decided to rescind the offer since I was only 21 at the time, and I would have missed my family - Thailand is very close to my heart.

What's the best/ worst part of your job?
First off, the worst part of the job was when SILK RESTAURANT was located at Plaza Surin, and over 120 customers at once would be there for dinner – especially during high season – which would make it difficult to cook for everyone at the same time due to the kitchen’s capacity. Thus, it is due to the the capacity of SILK at the time although it was quite spacious but word of mouth was so strong that the demand grew to a much higher pace than the supply. And the best part of the job is when we get positive reviews on sites such as Trip Advisor and from walk-in guests.

What's your personal favourite meal / drink at SILK RESTAURANT?
My personal favorite meal is Miang Plaa Grob which is grilled Snapper with Thai herbs. And my personal favorite drink is lychee and mint leaves.

Tell us a story about one of the dishes you prepare.
I created Goong Sarong based on the name of the restaurant – SILK – since its meaning represents its fabric and you can see throughout the dish itself. Thus, I thought about Phuket’s noodles known as Mee Sua and then I decided to use those noodles and wrap them with prawns. After deep frying it, the noodles become golden and you can see the resemblances to silk itself. As you might already know, Goong Sarong is the Signature Dish of SILK RESTAURANT.

What's one of the most unique things you've seen behind the scenes?
Before the grand opening of SILK RESTAURANT at Plaza Surin during the training period, I taught 11 chefs about 50-60 menu items. We needed to have all of the staff to know every single item on the menu in order to have the highest quality standard available. The situation itself was quite unique since it was somewhat funny but also taken very seriously as everyone needed to learn before the imminent opening of SILK Restaurant in 2004.

The perfect day off would be... 
... spending time with my family and watching movies together at home.

A life in the day of Chef Ooy is...
... waking up around 5am, then once I arrive at work, spending time discussing with my staff and cooking with them all morning, lunch time and staying on evenings whenever there are large groups reserving for dinner. Then, I will back home and the day would be almost done.

What do you do for fun?
I go running with my family on weekends around 6am close to Nai Thon Beach all the way to Bang Tao beach. I also enjoy watching silent films – including rediscovering Charlie Chaplin classics.

What's something you'd like guests to know about the cuisine prepared at SILK RESTAURANT?
All of our cooking done at SILK RESTAURANT is the exact same way that I cook at home, which means that you are getting an authentic and traditional Thai experience when coming to our restaurant.

How do you select your ingredients and why?
I choose fresh ingredients since I always verify products with the suppliers until I find the right one and I also use Thai products instead of using a multitude and variants of imported sauces which might not be suitable when cooking and in order for the food to always remain consistent.

What's your view on the Phuket restaurant scene?
For restaurants, I think that the overall food quality in the Phuket restaurant scene is not on par with other countries, especially when it comes to Western food. When it comes to Thai food however, the standard is quite high and is a reminder of one of the reasons people come to Phuket – fresh, deliciously prepared seafood.

What can guests look forward to in the upcoming months?
We will have a special menu and we will have more activities for the guests such as a cooking class with new items that will be part of the menu.

Check out our Thai cooking class with Chef Ooy via this link.

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