Cambodia's famous Royal Khmer cuisine is all about combining herbs and seasonings to create intriguing textures, stimulating flavours and complex aromas. Learn more about Chef Samreth and this new culinary experience in our latest Chef Profile:
Chef Thai Samreth, welcome to Mauritius! How did you end up here?
I was born in Siem Reap, but I grew up in the city of Phnom Pen in Cambodia. From 2000 to 2012, I worked at a hotel in Cambodia before becoming Junior Sous Chef, first for the Fine dining kitchen and Banquet, then for the Buffet. In 2008 I was even selected to support the pre-opening team of a new hotel in Dubai. I worked as a Head Chef until 2014, when I spent one year in the Maldives before going back to Cambodia to continue as Head Chef in a local hotel. Now I’m in Mauritius - and I’ve been here since September 2016.
Where did you receive your culinary training?
In Cambodia there aren’t really large schools dedicated to culinary training. The best choice is to apply to be trained in a hotel. So that’s what I did, and I learned to cook hands-on at a local hotel when I was just 20 years old. I was just a commis in the kitchen at the beginning. I had to earn the right to cook – I had to learn everything about the products, the correct way of slicing, etc. It’s only after 3 years that I started to cook myself. The chefs I worked with at this time are my mentors, I learned so much from them.
When did you know you wanted to be a chef?
Before I was a chef, I was a motorcycle taxi driver. But some of my friends were already cooking and I was interested by the uniforms, the mixing of various ingredients… I saw also a lot of TV shows about cooking and I found that quite impressive.
What’s your favourite dish or type of cuisine to eat?
I don’t have a favourite dish or type of cuisine, but I like very spicy tastes. My curries for instance are really spicy! I love all type of Asian food.
Do you have a signature dish?
I’m a specialist of Royal Khmer cuisine that is a very specific, all in nuances. I used to do cooking classes of Royal Khmer cuisine in the past, and it was really interesting to exchange with guests that wanted to learn more about this type of traditional cuisine. In the Royal Khmer cuisine, we use small amounts of ingredients. All the art of this cuisine is really based on the method of combining herbs and seasonings. You will find intriguing textures, stimulating flavours and complex aromas. We use a lot of rice, fish and shellfish, garlic (it predominates in Cambodian cooking). The dishes are usually served family style, with a variety of dishes arriving together at the table. A typical meal of traditional Khmer Cuisine would consist in a soup, salad, a fish course, a meat course, vegetables and rice. Various sauces and condiments are served with the meal to add extra flavours and spices. Desserts are mostly based on fresh fruits and coconut. This cuisine is very healthy and natural. The techniques used to select, cook and blend ingredients makes that they retain all their freshness and colours – for delicious dishes.
What are your favourite ingredients to work with when cooking?
It depends a lot on the type of cuisine I am cooking. But I must confess that I love fresh curry paste!
What type of cuisine can guests of Outrigger Mauritius Beach Resort expect?
Cambodian, Chinese, Korean, Thai cuisines... I will adapt and diversify my cuisine so it can be also perfectly adapted to the guests' taste. But I also want to help guests to try different things, like curries or chilies without any fear as it can change a lot of the meal experience. I also intent to train more kitchen staff to prepare very different Asian dishes. At The Plantation Club restaurant, we now showcase regularly special menus of Cambodian cuisine based on the recipes used at the Royal Palace.
In your opinion, what makes Mauritius, and this resort specifically, such a unique getaway?
People are really friendly here and it’s a beautiful island, like the resort. It is very different from the Maldives (where I stayed one year) – and bigger too! The weather also is really nice here.
And finally, what do you do for fun when you’re not cooking?
In fact it’s quite always related to cuisine! I search for ingredients, I learn more about food and techniques of cooking for inspiration. I like to spend time with my family (I am married and I have 3 children, 14 yo, 12 yo and 6 yo), read the news and… watch football!
Guests and visitors to The Plantation Club at the Outrigger Mauritius Beach Resort can enjoy Chef Samreth's Royal Khmer Cuisine every Friday from 7pm. A Blonde local craft beer from the Flying Dodo brewery in Mauritius is included with the hors d’oeuvre selection at the start of the meal. The ten-course set menu is available at MUR3,200 (US$87, €81, £71) per person, inclusive of taxes. For further information and bookings please contact the Plantation Club reservation team at the Outrigger Mauritius Beach Resort. Tel (+230) 623 5000. Or email [email protected]