Gourmet globetrotter finds a home in Koh Samui
From Australia, to Thailand, via Switzerland, London, New York, and Bali—in his 30 years of kitchen experience, Executive Chef Chris Patzold from the Four Seasons Resort, Koh Samui has literally cooked his way around the world. When asked about his beginnings and inspirations, the Melbourne-born chef gives a refreshingly sober and factual answer, not at all romanticised with tales of an irresistible passion of experimenting with food and creating new flavours in his early childhood. The fact is, when he started his professional career at The Old Melbourne Hotel at the tender age of 16, cooking wasn’t something he had wanted to do all his life—instead, it was merely his means to satiate his hunger for travelling. “I realised I could travel with this job and that’s what I did,” he explains.
However, come the turn of the millennium, after having gained a lot of experience working in different kitchens on four continents, this now cosmopolitan chef had developed a full-on passion for his profession, and started to get more serious with his craft. He was offered his first job as an Executive Chef at Ku De Ta in Bali, and has since then owned a restaurant in Bali, worked in Chiang Mai, and finally landed at the Four Season Resort, Koh Samui. “I was in Chiang Mai for a few years, then went back to Bali,” he recounts. “I really liked Thailand, the culture and the people are fantastic, so I really wanted to come back, and then I was offered this job—the Four Seasons in Thailand is a chef’s dream,”
Probably just as varied as his travels is his style of cooking. Coming from Australia he describes it as modern Australian—a mix of many different cuisines. “My cooking is very Asian influenced, I’ve been here for so long and it’s a huge part of my life,” he remarks. And just how varied the cuisines he’s mastered are is illustrated by his job at the Four Seasons Resort, Koh Samui, where he’s not only overseeing both a Mediterranean-style and a Thai restaurant, but also the Latin-American-inspired bar-cum-restaurant, CoCoRum.
Located on the resort’s private beach, by the edge of a 50-metre-long infinity pool, this hip and lively beachfront bar/restaurant isn’t your typical fine dining location, but rather a unique and stylish spot to enjoy classic, handcrafted rum-based cocktails, paired with authentically prepared dishes showcasing Peruvian, Mexican, and Jamaican cuisine. Meanwhile, the focus behind the bar revolves around classic rum cocktails, each telling a story in connection with a specific area and time.
The decision to create a rum-centred bar was based on several factors. For one, Thailand’s most popular spirit—Thai whiskey—is strictly speaking not whiskey, but rum, as it’s made from 100 percent sugarcane. Secondly, the tropical setting just calls for tropical cocktails, which are best prepared with rum. On top of that, while it used to be considered a cheap mixer, rum has gained a much more sophisticated reputation over the past years, with a large collection of beautiful rums available these days. From this point of view, it only seemed natural to complement the drinks with Latin- American dishes. “We always think that wherever the concept is from, the food from there matches the best,” points out Reto Moser, Director of Food and Beverage at the Four Seasons Resort, Koh Samui.
When developing new dishes, the cocktails are definitely taken into consideration. In fact, CoCoRum also offers special tasting menus in which each dish is matched with a different cocktail. However, this doesn’t mean that the dishes come as a second priority. They are, just as the drinks, prepared with the best quality ingredients and expert craftsmanship. In the quest to serve food as authentic as possible, a lot of the ingredients are imported. One such example are chilies, as they differ from the local Thai ones and will affect the flavour of the dish. Two of chef Patzold’s signature dishes include Cebiche Mixto, a fresh mix of octopus, shrimp, and white snapper, spiced up with pineapple, red onion, celery, and rocoto pepper, and Quinoa Salad, in which the healthy grain is tossed with fresh vegetables such as avocado, red onion, coriander, tomatoes, and roasted corn. In this chef’s kitchen, there’s no overly fancy molecular cuisine gimmicks or liquid nitrogen gizmos. Instead, a selection of top quality natural products are used to prepare classic, bold, and thoroughly authentic dishes.
Latin-American cuisine, especially Peruvian and Mexican, seems to be very much in vogue at the moment, with more and more of these type of restaurants popping up everywhere— not only in Thailand, but worldwide. When asked why he thinks these dishes are so popular in Thailand, chef Patzold reckons that it might be due to overlapping flavours, as both Thai and Latin cuisines are not only spicy, but employ acidic, fruity, and sweet flavours to create their unique culinary identities.