Mövenpick Resort & Spa Karon Beach Phuket’s Executive Chef Ameer Ibrahim Al-Ali has been at the resort for more than five years now. Specialising in international cuisine, he “creatively fuses” international, Asian, and a touch of Middle Eastern flavours. Growing up in Amman, the capital of Jordan, Ameer finished high school and soon enrolled at the Swiss International Management Institute in Kuala Lumpur to become a professional chef.
Once he was qualified he joined the Four Seasons as a management trainee in Kuala Lumpur(where he finished his City and Guild diploma in Kitchen Management ) before moving to the Maldives. During his management training with the Four Seasons, Ameer was a part of a group doing task force management in East Asia, and visited Shanghai, Indonesia, and most of East Asia. Now the Mövenpick Resort & Spa Karon Beach Phuket’s Executive Chef, Ameer is in charge of six restaurants across the resort. On my recent stay at this 5 star resort on Karon Beach I had the pleasure of interviewing him.
1. What prompted you to relocate to Phuket?
I’ve lived and worked in Asia for most of my career, and have enjoyed every minute of it. When I left, I knew I wanted to come back to Asia and work. So when the opportunity to work in Thailand with Mövenpick Resorts came up, I took it. Especially with a well known company like Mövenpick.
2. What do you find most exciting about Phuket’s burgeoning culinary culture?
Phuket’s food is quite a unique mixture of ingredients, lightly prepared with strong flavors of local spices. And of course, heat – spiciness is key in Thai cuisine. It has everything – balance, detail and variety of sour, sweet, salty and spicy. Thai food is everywhere but as a tourist destination, you will also easily find international cuisines to suite all types of guest palates.
3. How does the culinary landscape differ from your hometown? How do you see yourself adding to it?
I grew up enjoying Mediterranean cuisine. The style, texture and flavors of the food completely differs from Thai and Asian cuisine even though they share the commonality of the silk road spices. I try to create dishes that fuse those styles together. The result is a rich blend of exotic flavors that blend in perfectly with the island’s divers culinary landscape.
4. What changes do you see coming to this city?
In the past, Phuket had a few basic roads, not many tourists, and focused on the diving culture. Now there is a new thing happening every month; from condominiums and hotels to new mega shopping malls, restaurants, and etc. I fear that if the development is not controlled properly, Phuket will lose its natural charm. Forests are disappearing slowly, traffic has definitely doubled in the past 5 years. Not a great trend.
5. How does your current position differ from your other previous positions?
As an Executive chef, some of our responsibilities stay the same such as adhering to HACCP, checking suppliers and staff hygiene, and etc. My previous position didn’t have banquet facilities and we catered to a different segment of clients compared to Phuket. I have more challenges here than in my previous assignment.
6. How does your city of origin affect the menus you create for Moevenpick Phuket?
For Thai food, you need a balance of textures and spices in order to get the flavors that you want. But for some of my dishes I try to add a touch of Mediterranean inspiration to give my guests a bit of a surprise!
7. What dish, item or method of preparation would you say is most representative of your years cooking and heading the kitchens in 5 star hotels?
Preparing the same items in different ways is one of the things that I love the most about being a chef. I love cooking using fresh and exciting starting materials. The methods vary depending on what ingredients I’m using.
8. Your life’s journey had taken you many places. Is there one place you really call home?
I love all the places I have lived and worked in, but for me, home will always be the country in which I grew up in. My whole family still lives in Jordan and every time I go back, I am reminded of why I love my country so much.
9. Tell us about any kitchen catastrophes you might have had?
Many of the kitchen hiccups that I have faced in Phuket have been manageable and easily forgotten. But the one thing that drives me crazy is when a big item in the kitchen brakes down because it could take weeks to fix. Most of the kitchen parts cannot be found in Phuket or even in Thailand. So we have to make a special order from the country where they are originally made. For example, a few months ago, our pizza oven broke down. We needed a simple part to fix it. The oven is an Italian model and we had to order the part directly from Italy. It took about three weeks to get the oven up and running again.
10. Tell us any funny stores about your encounter with the locals in Phuket.. and the ‘lady boy culture’?
I have worked here for a long time now so nothing much takes me by surprise anymore, but when my mother-in-law came here, I got a glimpse of how different it is for an outsider. She had definitely never encountered ‘lady boys’ before. So when she came, my wife and I had to let her know that some of the beautiful women whom she kept complimenting were actually men. And then the funniest part was that once we told her, we had to stop her from literally going over to the lady boys, and asking them if they were indeed boys or girls!!!
12. Are you adventurous? What is the scariest thing you did in your life?
I guess you could say that I am a bit adventurous. When I was working in the Maldives, I had a chance to dive with sharks. I have to say that it was the scariest and coolest thing that I have ever done!
13. How do you de-stress?
Mostly I love spending time with my wife and baby boy. I also love to take pictures with my camera.
14. Finally, what advice do you have for young up and coming Chefs?
Becoming a Chef has become more popular over the last few years. Shows like Top Chef and Chef Ramsey have glamorized the job and made it way more appealing than it actually is. So unlike before, the market has started to become more saturated with people who want to become famous chefs. I feel that now more than ever, a Chef needs to be able to do more than just ‘cook.’ He needs to excel at the method of cooking, have an excellent palate, and constantly needs to be creative with the new dishes. I feel that in order to succeed in today’s “Chefs world”, you need to work harder than ever before. Always be open to learn, definitely master the basics before moving on to anything else, and never give up. It takes a lot of hard work to achieve a great dish.
REMEMBER “Good Is Not Good Enough”.
Add: Mövenpick Resort & Spa Karon Beach Phuket
509 Patak Road, Karon Beach
Phone:+66 76 396 139
Fax:+66 76 396 144