Swedish executive chef Marten Karlsson came to Thailand for the travelling and scuba diving and liked it so much that he stayed on as a restaurant chef in Phuket. He eventually returned to Sweden to run his own small hotel and a golf restaurant, however, he missed Thailand very much – “I may be Swedish but I really don’t like the winter there and I missed Thailand a lot. After having lived here, it is not so easy to settle back into your home country,” he says definitely. When he got offered this job at Black Mountain, he jumped at it and has been here four years already.
Excerpts from an interview:
- Is it very different working at a golf resort as opposed to a hotel?
No, I don’t think so, operationally, it’s probably the same really; we have some functions, some conference groups, golf groups that come in for the day from Bangkok. The meal timings here are kind of longer though – we serve breakfast even at five in the evening! That’s why we don’t have breakfast buffets; it’s all a la carte, so nothing spoils.
- What are the factors you have to keep in mind whilst preparing the menus?
The many different cultures, for one. People come here from all countries, so it’s a very wide menu. Many people prefer set menus, so I send across a few each week to various groups.
- What is your signature dish here – and why so?
Oh, that’s always a horrid question! I think the signature dish here would be the Toast Skagen, which is a typical Danish dish of boiled shrimps and chopped onions in dill and lemon mayonnaise, served on bread. It’s one of the bestsellers. All Europeans know what it is and really like it; the Thais like it as well. Of course, we get many Thai golfers and visitors, and the most popular dishes for them are the Phat Kra Pao Moo (pork stir fried with basil) and the Phat Met Mamuang Himmapan (stir fried pork, beef or chicken with cashew nuts) which our western guests really like as well.
- Do guests sometimes ask you to cook their personal favourites which may not be on the menu? Do you oblige?
Sure, I get these requests all the time, especially from the members. I have a golfer from Switzerland who brings like five kilos of Raclette cheese and asks me to make fondues and salads! Many times I’m asked by our Swedish members to make the traditional Pyttipanna which is a dish of potatoes, beef sausage and onions, fried up and served with pickled beetroots and fried egg – it’s like a Phat Kra Pao for Swedish people! And of course, the Swedish meatloaf is hugely popular.
- Is it a challenge adapting Western recipes using local ingredients?
It could be, sometimes; I used to have this problem in Phuket earlier, but now I find everything is available in Thailand, there are people of so many nationalities living here. Earlier you couldn’t find the Romaine lettuce for Caesar salad, but now you get it. If I order just a week in advance, I can get anything I want – Italian basil, beef from Australia, oysters from France, lobsters from Canada that are so fresh that I mean they’re still alive when they get here! All the vegetables I use are locally grown, though.