Samui Wining & Dining

Learning in style with the Thai cooking classes at InterContinental Samui.


In the last decade our little island has attracted a collection of the world’s finest and most prestigious 5-star hotels. For many visitors such luxurious institutions are merely to be marvelled at – few can afford to fully enjoy their definitive range of world-class services. The Thai cooking classes that some offer are another matter, however. This is a splendid chance not only to get out around the island, but also to experience one of the ‘name’ hotels, and learn how to cook Thai food, all at the same time. Which is why this time our Master Class takes us to the west coast of Samui, to the InterContinental Samui Baan Taling Ngam Resort.

      The ‘InterContinental’ is a Samui landmark: it’s just about the first structure that you’re able to make out, visible from miles away, as you cruise in on the ferry from the mainland. Landscaped into the cascading hillside, there’s an intriguing maze of interlinked structures that blend harmoniously into the greenery. The InterContinental has 79 guest-rooms, suites and beachfront villas with private plunge pools, and features seven designer swimming pools, a private beach and jetty, the expansive Baan Thai Spa and worldclass dining via two superlative restaurants. And it’s to one of these, Amber, that we’re heading to for our cooking class.

        You’ll need to make a reservation at least 24 hours beforehand, so that everything can be prepared for you. But this is ideal, as it gives you a chance to spend some time at the resort in advance, enjoy a snack or a drink, and chat to the very personable Head Chef, Luke Macleod. He’ll be at pains to make sure that you’re at ease, and fully informed about the format of the class and what options are open to you.

          Classes are held once a week, on Thursday, and begin with a coffee in the lounge at 10:30 am, prior to a trip out to the local market to pick up the fresh supplies that you’re going to need. The majority of visitors to Samui won’t get to experience the sights and sounds (and aromas!) of a busy Thai market; this is not to be missed and is also a unique photo opportunity. And then a leisurely drive back to the resort, where you’ll find that everything’s been prepared in readiness for you.

          Some resorts have a modular approach to the classes, with several set menus of three dishes each, from which you select the set that appeals most. But here you’ll find that, in essence, you’re free to decide on any three dishes that you’re interested in. “It’s entirely up to the guests,” Chef Luke explained. “If someone wants, for instance, to learn how to make different sorts of Thai salads, then we’ll arrange it. But more usually,” he added, “it’s three quite different dishes . . . although it’s not uncommon for someone to go for three different curries . . .”

          The class at InterContinental is held in the ‘open’ kitchen of Amber. Sometimes, a kitchen location is a compromise; it’s handy and saves the staff from a lengthy set-up elsewhere of decorated tables, gas and cookers and all the other paraphernalia. But here it’s a joy. The kitchen is huge, open-plan, square-shaped and spacious, with a Moroccan-tiled floor, and décor and fittings that are straight out of a lifestyle magazine – exactly as you might expect from one of the top hotels in the world. And it’s also blissfully air-conditioned; a positive plus for when all those pans are popping!

          The next bonus comes in the form of Khun Potjanapakorn Srikhem, although he’s invariably known by the nickname of Khun Tao. He’s the resident Thai Chef. It’s usual for resorts to deploy the ‘real thing’; a Thai chef for their Thai cooking classes. But there are very few kitchens where the Thai chef’s last appointment was at the Ritz-Carlton in Dubai. Khun Tao’s English is excellent and he’s also an instinctive teacher, full of advice and tips, and quick to adjust to your individual level of kitchen savvy.

          Everything’s prepared ready for you and all the common ingredients are laid-out in small dishes. The two cooking stations are ceramic induction hobs, ideal for an instant response. Khun Tao begins by identifying each of the ingredients and explaining its function and use. (One excellent feature here is that you’ll be provided with a very stylish little notebook and politely requested to write down notes about each stage: Chef Luke discovered that this is what people look at when they make the dish back home, not a printed recipe, although you’ll be provided with those, too!) And then Khun Tao demonstrates each step of the process while you follow his actions.

          And then, all done and dusted and sugared and spiced, you’ll sit down to a leisurely lunch at the InterContinental Samui, a lunch it just so happens that you’ve made yourself, perched up high at Amber, with a stunning seascape out towards the distant atolls of Angthong National Marine Park, and with the nearer vista of the legendary Five Islands in the foreground.

          Everything in this resort is centred on personal attention, and that goes for the class, too. Which is why the maximum number of ‘students’ at any one time is four – usually two couples. Similarly, the price isn’t cast in stone either, and varies in accordance with how many dishes you decide on and also their ingredients. But you’ll find that, taking the sheer quality of everything into account, together with all that very personal attention, the pricing is surprisingly reasonable. And, when it comes to a Samui excursion, there are few things that can compare with the Thai cooking class at InterContinental Samui Baan Taling Ngam Resort!


 Rob De Wet


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