Interview with Thomas Brack, General Manager, The 9th Floor, Phuket
What do you do and how did you get into the industry?
I spent a long time, 1978 - 1995, in the textile business which involved a lot of international travel. I lived the most of the time in hotels and ate out nearly every day in restaurants. After 20 years of eating out daily, I knew very well what I liked and what I didn't like in the food and beverage industry.
I decided in 1999 to open a restaurant of my own in Thailand. This country I have known since 1982 and I had some friends here in Phuket who worked in the hospitality industry. First I had a beach restaurant in Patong. I was forced to move though after four years as the land owner wouldn't renew my contract for rental.
After that I went to work in a traditional Swiss restaurant on the top floor from an old nine storey building. The owner was a Swiss guy, but he also had a wine import business in Bangkok and was finding it difficult to manage the two with the restaurant suffering as a result. After two years with me helping there, the restaurant earned a much better reputation and we began to get some regular guests. The business was doing better, but still not great.
The old traditional interior of the restaurant however was making me crazy. It was dark with skis on the wall and red and white tablecloths. It felt very outdated. I decided to resign and mentioned this to a Swiss friend who was a regular guest. It just so happened that he was in the window business with a large factory in Bangkok. Three days later he came back to me and told me that he took over the property from the owner and that he will do a complete renovation of the restaurant. This was the start from The 9th Floor. He put in floor to ceiling windows which opened up the space allowing views to the ocean and breezes to cool guests in the evenings. I updated the interior and kitchen and took care of the rest of the details of the business. We've now been opened eight years and we can both say it was a great decision to have the makeover.
What's the best/ worst part of your job?
The best part is working with long term staff who are a key part of our successful restaurant.
The worst part is managing something that its not under our control, such as the frequent black outs in Phuket.
What's your peronsal favourite meal/ drink at The 9th Floor?
I like simple food. For a starter I enjoy the Fennel Salad and Minestrone soup. For a main I usually go for the Fish with Rice Soya Sauce and Wasabi, Entrecote "Cafe de Paris" or Spaghetti Seafood. My favourite drink its still mineral water and Spanish red wine.
Tell us a story about one of the dishes at The 9th Floor.
All of the dishes were created by our executive chef Khun Wara. He uses only the best ingredients and fresh, not frozen, products. Chef Wara has worked with his team since beginning of The 9th Floor and has contributed significantly to our success.
What's one of the funniest things that has happened behind the scenes?
Three years ago we had a restaurant inspection from one of the security staff for the son from a foreign royal family. The staff were so surprised that we could run a very popular restaurant in such an ugly building. At first they didn't want come because they feared the old elevator. After a few discussions they decided to make the booking for 26 Persons. On the day the guests had dinner they were all very happy and enjoyed the evening. Everybody made jokes about the building and the elevator. A few days later they came again. Every year since then they have returned. Even this old building and hidden restaurant can be cosy also for the royals.
The perfect day off would be... sunshine, health and satisfied guests.
A life in the day of a restauranteur is...
I go to work at 7am and do all of the paper work, daily statements, cost control and the daily orders for the wines. I do the marketing planning and all the staff trainings in the afternoon before opening time.
For the wine training we have a professional sommelier who comes every September and teaches 60 hours for our four junior sommeliers. I organise three to four wine dinners during the low season and every second year we are the host to the Chaines des Rotisseurs.
In the evening I'm in the Restaurant but this its actually not much work for me. Our staff are well trained and all of them work well independently, so normally I have a relaxing evening.
What do you do for fun?
I like to do sport and I go to the gym.
What's something you'd like guests to know about The 9th Floor?
It has been open for eight years now. Our food and service are always consistent and this is something guests say repeatedly brings them back.
What can guests look forward to in the upcoming months?
We will have in September and October more wine dinners. These are very popular so make sure you book ahead. For Christmas and New Years Eve we have special plans but we're already fully booked.