We read the ad or the magazine review or the menu and its often a superficial insight into a restaurant. Sometimes we research Trip Advisor or even better hear word of mouth about a restaurant or Chef but rarely do we get to talk to them.
Recently I met with Chef Francesco Greco in Plum Prime Steakhouse at Cape Sienna. I had his profile before meeting him and this showed the background of a typical Italian Chef. Grandmother cooking (in this case for the Rothschild family in Paris in the 1930’s) his mother a chef, Francesco starting in hospitality at 16 as a bell boy, then a staff shortage getting him into the kitchen to help and the rest is history.
Typical path then to role of junior chef, studying at Hotel Schools and obtaining Three (3) Sommelier degrees then working around Europe, America, Middle East and Asia. I have interviewed many Chef and this pattern is fairly common arriving in Bangkok in 2003 for a special 15 day assignment- he stayed, got married to a Thai lady and then moved to Phuket in 2010.
But there is far more to this Sardinian Chef and Plum Prime Steakhouse at Cape Sienna. The Restaurant started repositioning in November 2016. Prior to that 70% of the Plum guests were in-house guests. In many ways, it was a little out of the way and not on the radar for many residents.
Chef Francesco is a bit of a food history buff and has researched the origins of many foods especially sauces whether it is the 1938 Lexington Dip (the basis for BBQ sauce) or the origins of the traditional way for Beef Carpaccio (not small thinly sliced) but the large thin slices of raw beef- he serves it on a bed of lettuce. His French Bordelaise sauce takes 7 days to make and is served in a small dish under a flame (the artist’s touch).
The Restaurant opens at 6:00 PM just in time for a spectacular sunset and view. You have a choice of inside in the air-conditioning or outside to enjoy the breeze. Be prepared though as there is a floor of steps to get to the elevator and another floor to climb at the end of the elevator- but the view is worth it.
Plum is perched high above southern Kamala so you can slowly contemplate the wonders of this world including Thailand. It slows you down- especially important as all dishes are cooked fresh on demand and not pre-cooked like many restaurants.
Whilst called Plum Prime Steakhouse- there are also some great fusion dishes and seafood dishes as alternatives.
For meat eaters there are great steaks from USA and Australia all served simply as just a meat dish, accompanied by a selection of individually presented sauces- Lexington Dip (BBQ), Argentinian Chimichurri Steak Sauce, traditional French Béarnaise Sauce and a warming Bordelaise sauce. You can then choose your own compliment from 10 side dishes (at about 120 Baht each) with about 120 wines to choose from.
Menus are presented on a laptop with photos and backgrounds to sauces etc just a click away. The menu changes regularly according to the availability of ingredients. For those who struggle to decide what to order, there is a Degustation menu of 6 items for 1,890 baht for 2 people.
A special treat is to understand Chef Francesco is a Single Malt Whisky aficionado so Plum has a trolley of some 20 odd whisky’s to choose from at the end of the meal. So you can finish your evening in style.
In Chef Francesco, we have a chef that just wants to be a Chef, is driven to learn and expand his knowledge and understands that a good restaurant has to be consistent and delivering what the Fine Dining market wants while keeping prices reasonable. In-house guests now represent about 30% and residents and high end tourists are up to 70%.
When asked what the life of a Chef is all about- he responds it is like being in a maze. It is a JOURNEY and you don’t always know where you are going. It is not the destination, it is forever moving and seeking something special without ever getting out. Changing ingredients, customers, trends in food (with-out losing sight of its history) are all continuous challengers.
By Ian Lancaster