Meet the creative mastermind behind one of Phuket’s most authentic Italian fine dining experiences
Originally from Sardinia, Alessandro Frau—the Executive Chef and owner of Acqua Restaurant—has dedicated his life to perfecting his culinary craft.
“I know how much time, thinking, and creativity is needed to create a perfect dish,” he says, “and it’s not easy at all.” Perhaps creating the perfect dish is not easy, but Chef Alessandro truly makes the process look effortless.
With a focus on gourmet cuisine composed of only the freshest, highest quality ingredients, he draws upon culture, tradition, and evolution to create his vision of authentic Italian cuisine that has, and will, last through the ages.
“The concept of my cuisine and what we do here at Acqua is really authentic Italian, but we’ve evolved the Italian cuisine into today while keeping the traditions and the ingredients of Italy.”
Alessandro began his culinary love affair while studying English in London. In order to pay for his schooling, he took a job working as a waiter in a Turkish restaurant. He spent a lot of time in the kitchen helping with small tasks, such as chopping parsley, and immediately became fascinated by how the chefs created the plates and the overall general organization of the kitchen. He told his supervisor, “Maybe I want to move to the kitchen,” and once his wish was granted he grew very “passionate, passionate, passionate” about this aspect of the restaurant business.
He returned to Sardinia where he spent the summer season working in a resort and gaining more experience before heading off to work in Mexico, Sweden, and Finland. Eventually, he returned to Sardinia before heading off to Paris for six months for a job in an Italian restaurant. It was here in Paris, under the tutelage of Italian chefs, where Alessandro truly began to flourish.
“You are growing. You have never done the position before, but they give you the trust and the opportunity to do it,” he recalls. “You want to learn, so you don’t mind.”
The techniques and skills learned in Paris were invaluable to him, and sent Alessandro on a mission to learn even more. Fast forward a few years to 2004, when upon his arrival to Thailand he is appointed as Executive Chef at the Sheraton Grande Laguna in Phuket. “What I learned there was amazing. I got the experience and the confidence, and learned what I can do and what I cannot do.” Alessandro stayed on at the resort for four years before fulfilling his dream of opening a restaurant of his own.
Acqua is one of Phuket’s most notable fine-dining venues. It’s located on Phuket’s western coast, on Kalim Beach, and offers guests a unique yet authentic Italian taste experience. Featuring sleek lines and a contemporary open design, the restaurant boasts a warm atmosphere and a creative edge. Designed exclusively by Alessandro himself, each modest detail—from the handmade Sardinian knives to the hodgepodge of glass candleholders—has been a labour of love for the chef.
“Opening the restaurant was very exciting. I designed every centimetre of the place,” he explains. “When you see your vision coming to life it’s very exciting. It’s one of the most exciting moments when you create a restaurant.”
Alessandro’s initial enthusiasm and efforts have paid off. Acqua has become one of Phuket’s most awarded restaurants as well as one of the most awarded restaurants in all of Thailand. It has won numerous accolades over the years, from esteemed publications such as Thailand Tatler and Travel Asia, but it was also lauded at the Hospitality Asia Platinum Awards, with Chef Alessandro being named ‘Icon of the Year’ in 2016, and ‘Chef of the Year’ in 2018. In addition, due to the restaurant’s extensive knowledge of fine wine, Acqua was given a Wine Spectator ‘Best of Award of Excellence’ in 2017. Wine pairings and wine, in general, play a huge role in the total experience delivered at the restaurant, and the wine list selection is updated and improved on a yearly basis.
Alessandro Frau has been individually named one of the Best 20 Chefs in Asia, and was also the winner of Iron Chef Thailand in November 2013. However, despite all of the awards and accolades the chef remains down to earth. He describes himself as “passionate, detailed, determined, humble and creative” and when asked about his hobbies, he simply states, “I quite enjoy growing my own tomatoes and herbs—like rosemary, basil, and thyme—in the garden. I have a small garden at Acqua where every day I take care of my tomatoes and herbs.”
Reflecting upon his humble beginnings and how far he has come in a short time, Alessandro offers some wise advice to those just starting down the culinary path, “This business it is not easy, so if you start a restaurant business you have to be ready to dedicate all yourself to it—your passion, your time, and your heart!”
Interview by Amy Bensema