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Phuket's Iniala presents new chef who brings unique flair to luxurious new menu

Phuket's Iniala presents new chef who brings unique flair to luxurious new menu

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a lunch at Iniala Beach Resort and caught up with a truly fabulous lady who has spent her life perfecting her culinary skills and producing some of the most inspiring and exquisite dishes that I have ever had the chance to experience.

By Dalia Hilmi

Saturday 5 December 2015, 04:25PM

Aisha Ibrahim is the new Chef de Cuisine at the grandiose resort, which, when it comes to gastronomic destinations in Thailand, is on the level with, if not better, than some of the best in Bangkok.

The resort exudes all the trappings of truly opulent wealth, while conjunctively representing some of the most innovative, extraordinary and mesmerising designs Thailand, and quite possibly the entire world, has ever witnessed.

Aisha is the latest to a line of world-classmaster chefs, including Iniala’s mainface 3-Star Michelin Chef Eneko Atxa. Aisha comes from a background of extensive kitchens in an array of dynamic restaurants. Under the leadership and guidance of Chef Eneko, Aisha is so far running Aziamendi with precision and vibrancy. Having worked together for the first time in 2014, Aisha immediately clicked with Chef Eneko’s culinary style and vision. 

Her culinary career kicked off at the age of 24 when she became Chef de Cuisine at a Spanish inspired restaurant where she started as a sous chef. It was during this time she met Chef Eneko and began collaborating with him. Aisha briefly joined Chef Eneko’s team at the original and sister restaurant, Azurmendi, in Spain, but her development and sheer dedication ultimately led Aisha to take up the reigns as his protégé and Chef de Cuisine at Aziamendi in July this year.

“I actually worked with him [Chef Eneko] for six months without actually meeting him,” Aisha tells me.

“We met each other, and the event at the time that I was leading was really successful and he was really happy with everything. When we said goodbye, there was a glittering hope I would see him again. About a year later, just out of the blue, he emailed me and said:
‘Hey what are you doing? I have this thing, are you interested?

“I said yes, obviously! And so that’s how I got here.

“I spent June training in Bilbao, Spain, getting an idea of what his concept is. I’m very fortunate that he’s so confident with my style of food, and he’s allowed me to put all of my touches into all the dishes I create.

“I try to localise the ingredients, and the local community have been helping me source these. It’s all about being aware of what’s around you and trying to use that as much as possible.

“A part of the shift with the new menu is about finding what’s here and trying to highlight that [obviously in its richest form!]. You have to understand the different techniques of where you are and how to utilise certain things.”

Aisha’s patience and hard-working ethic has been reflected in times where one may encounter a language barrier and her commitment and ability in training a team is not only proving her to be an inspiring and talented chef, but also an endearing, approachable and warm individual; the key characteristics needed in every kitchen.

Laguna Golf Phuket

“This opening menu is a good introduction to the amount of technique I want to apply to the menu and the technique that I want the team to pick up,” Aisha explains.

Aisha was born in the Philippines, but has spent the majority of her formative years in the San Francisco Bay Area of the United States.

Don’t be fooled by Aisha’s journey though, she was in fact a former basketball player for 16 years. At a time when she was out of play, she began to become obsessed with reading old American cook books.

A quarter-of-a-life crisis and some hardcore studying later, she was a graduate from the California Culinary Academy. Aisha then dedicated her time to training in some of the most iconic Bay Area restaurants including Aqua, Foreign Cinema and Betelnut.

With such long hours and many consecutive days in a row, it’s not difficult to recognise the challenges a chef would face on a day-to-day basis. However, it’s a job that only the most passionate can live up to and Aisha’s talent and patience is nothing short of unbelievable. Aisha inputs an incredible amount of intricacy and finesse into the creation of each dish, resulting in a perfect balance of flavours and textures.

“But, I love it,” Aisha reiterates.Favourite style of cuisine?

“Hands-down Japanese. They have the best ingredients and they are very traditional when it comes to techniques. I’ve never had so many meals back-toback that have made me want to cry because of how perfect they’ve been.”

Aisha’s culinary work experience is impressive and a strong reflection as to just how brilliant she is. Her horizons were further broadened in Japan where she trained with Chef Seiji Yamamoto at the 3-Star Michelin Nihonryori RyuGin. She has also revisited Japan to stage a number of 2 and 3-Star Michelin restaurants in Tokyo. 

Iniala Beach Resort is designer luxury at its best and there’s no doubt that Aisha will continue to thrive and flourish in such an environment. If you’re in any doubt of her capabilities, then I strongly recommend you reserve a table at Aziamendi and experience the fine dining yourself,trust me when I say it will be one of the most extravagant yet relaxing days you may encounter and is a culinary experience that is simply unmatched in Thailand.

Be sure to check out my experience of the taster selections from the new Aziamendi menu, specially launched for 2016, as well as my whole Iniala experience, to be published in a forthnight.

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