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Phuket's famous Chef 'Noi' doubles down with second Suay Restaurant

It’s almost noon on a clear Sunday when most people are at the beach, enjoying brunch or relaxing at home.

Bruce Stanley

Saturday 18 November 2017, 12:00PM

But not Chef Tammasak “Noi” Chootong, owner of Suay restaurants, who has spent the morning in the local fresh markets exploring fresh and new foods he can prepare at his bistro in Phuket Town and his recently opened grander restaurant in Cherng Talay.

“I like to do the shopping myself, as wandering through the markets inspires me about new combinations of flavours and tastes which I can offer for my daily specials,” explains Chef Noi.

His menu includes a stimulating mix of freshly sourced ingredients prepared with European cooking techniques he learned from working in some of the world’s top kitchens. A sample of tastes would include grilled lamb loin marinated with lemongrass served with papaya salsa, steamed salmon in rice noodles with yellow curry and a piquant tuna tartare Isan style.

Chef Noi is an outstanding example of a talented Thai, who was born and raised in Songkhla province, but as a youth moved to Europe with his family. He settled in Germany where he eventually studied kitchen development from the Ueberkingen Culinary School.

“I was not a good student and much preferred football and skateboarding to my studies, but I had a very good step-father who encouraged me to work in hospitality. I joined an apprenticeship program so I could be a waiter but had to study kitchen management first. I found my love of cooking from there,” said Chef Noi.

On graduation, he spent five years at the Maritim Hotel in Stuttgart and then at the Michelin-starred Top Air Transport restaurant. He then joined the culinary team aboard the Queen Elizabeth II where he catered to the demanding tastes of passengers in the luxury cruiser’s five dining rooms.

“I would say I have been very fortunate in my career but I’ve always had my eyes open to take on new challenges without fear.”

By the early 2000s Chef Noi had the urge to return to Thailand and re-immerse himself in his native culture. He was recruited by the JW Marriott Resort & Spa in Phuket, and soon became the hotel’s executive chef, where he could present his very own interpretations of Thai cuisine. He developed the Ginga cooking school and supervised the refurbishment of the resort’s nine F&B outlets.

He then joined Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts as their corporate Thai chef where he developed the brand’s signature Thai restaurant, Saffron, in 10 properties that stretch as far away as Mexico.

By 2010, he decided to open his own restaurant in Phuket Town where he could have total control over menu and management. He renovated a small house on Takuapa Rd near the town centre, providing just 60 seats, that are kept cool by shade trees and long, overhanging roofs. The menu quickly drew customers from around the island for the charm of the location, the interesting menu offerings and the modest prices.

“Putting a menu together requires deep thought,” Chef Noi advises, “I have to consider who are the clientele and how can I please their tastes. I then focus on the main ingredients and hope to strike a balance of flavours. I’m careful to not create confusion with too much fusion.”

He then renovated the interior and added air-conditioned comfort for his Thai clients, while spending what free time he could find to work as a guest chef at other events and promotions around Thailand and abroad, including consultant assignments on Corfu, Greece. He was named Iron Chef Thailand in 2015 for European cuisine on the popular Thai television competition.

“I like to stay active and take advantage of opportunity. I decided that a Suay Restaurant in the centre of the island could be successful so searched for the best location and found a space at Baan Wana between Cherng Talay and Baan Manik. I wanted to design a comfortable, modern setting to suit my cuisine. We have air-conditioning seating inside and generous garden seating outside so our guests can be comfortable.”

Chef Noi explains that his menus are similar at both of his Suay locations – featuring such delicacies as foie gras wrapped in betel nut leaf, baked Andaman seafood and fresh giant clams in roasted chilli and Thai basil cream cheese, or crispy corn tacos stuffed with a choice of tandoori chicken, grilled lamb loin or grilled chicken, all presented with a variety of condiments.

Under the umbrella of his Positive Kitchen consulting company, he works to provide cooking classes, event catering or even private dinners.

“I’m having a lot of fun and I’m very happy that Suay in Cherng Talay has been so well received by the Phuket community.”

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