He comes from Sweden, a country of meatballs and pickled herring; she was born in Nepal, the land of some of the world’s spiciest chillies. He’s a night owl, who prefers to skip breakfast and sleep in; she likes to rise early and shine, and breakfast is her favourite meal. Worlds apart? Not since they’ve met in Hawaii 20 years ago, became a couple 5 year later and run a successful restaurant together for the last 10. Meet Martin and Jade of Phuket’s Taste Bar & Grill.
As their restaurant marks its first decade in Phuket, we decided not only get to know them better but also to find out how well they know each other. That’s why, instead of one, we present to you two separate interviews - one with Jade about Martin, the other with Martin about Jade.
RL Phuket: If Martin was a spice, a flavour, or any other food produce, what would it be?
Jade Lama: He would be hollandaise sauce…because I used to hate hollandaise sauce! And one of the first dinners he ever cooked for me was steak with hollandaise sauce. And I was like “This is the best thing I’ve ever eaten!”
He could also be garlic. It’s in many dishes and it can turn bitter but food without it is bland. Oh, and he will say that I’m a chilly.
What is his least favorite food?
JL: Eggs. He just doesn’t like them. He might have them scrambled but he will never have a boiled egg.
Even for breakfast? Who cooks breakfast at home?
JL: He is a chef but I cook breakfast. I sometimes serve it in bed, at around 10am, as he gets up late because of the job. He is a bit of a night owl while I have always been an early riser. And my favourite meal is breakfast, while his favourite is dinner.
What is Martin’s favorite food?
JL: It’s going to be tough because he likes everything. But I think cheese, cold cuts and a bottle of wine would be one of his favourites. And a good steak.
How does he like his steak?
JL: Medium rare. He is more of a meat eater than I am, but he has made me appreciate meat. I come from Asia where everything is long boiled or stir fried, but not raw. So when I was having carpaccio with him for the first time, I thought he was insane, but now I love it. Well, love is maybe saying too much, I like it and I appreciate it.
Do you think you influenced his cooking?
JL: I think I made him appreciate Nepalese food and Indian curries. Before we got together he only tried curries from a Chinese restaurant in Sweden and he thought that it’s a really disgusting, slimy thing. But now he appreciates it, the heavy Indian spices, cardamom, cumin. And he makes excellent curry now. Better than I do.
Is there any change you’d like to make in the restaurant, that he’d never agree to?
JL: Well, there is an ongoing argument about our menu. It’s two pages long, despite the fact that we always wanted to keep it short and focused. The trouble is that after 10 years he’s perfected many dishes and he doesn’t want to take them off the menu, and then he keeps adding new things. I know it keeps it interesting for him but for service it’s difficult. So I think he has to stop adding and start taking away.
Does he like everything you cook?
JL: There’s the thing with chilly. I made him love chilly, to the point that he eats very spicy now. Initially he thought chilly is the killer of food but now he sees it as something interesting, something that can make the flavour. But sometimes, I’m too heavy handed with the chilly for him.
What was the best or most memorable meal that you shared?
JL: We went to a place called Sasabune in Hawaii, a tiny little sushi restaurant. I’ve lived in Japan and I love Japanese food, and that was the best Japanese meal I’ve ever had. It had a “trust me” menu, so we didn’t know what we were getting…and we were both blown away.
Is there something - in the kitchen, but also outside of it - that you’ve learned from him?
JL: Men are so different; they don’t take things so personally. So maybe it’s a bigger thing. But I do take everything personally, when it comes to food or to business. So I think I learned to detach myself a little bit, not to take it all so super personal and to keep a bit of a balance.
What would you cook him for a special occasion?
JL: A Nepalese curry.
What would he cook for you?
JL: A steak. That would be nice.
Taste Bar & Grill is located in Cherngtalay, across the street from Tesco Lotus. The second branch of Taste opened recently on Kamala Beach Road. To learn more visit tastebargrill.com
Read PART 2 of the interview here.
Read our review of Taste Bar & Grill here