Culture Shock

I’m finally starting the Chef’s Blog, a long postponed chore. My work here in ZEAVOLA is quite different from my expectations when accepting the quickly offered contract to work in Thailand. My curiosity and the excitement about an adventure (at my age) mixed with a lifelong passion for “beach-living”, diving and anything to do with water, have helped self convincing me to take on this journey. The south of Thailand offers incredible beauty, charm and original traditions and my fondness for Thai cuisine combined with the positive experience I gained while training the kitchen staff of Hotel LAYANA last December/January in Kho Lanta, finalized this gutsy decision to move to Asia.  Here I am: Trapped on an Island without streets or cars. A culture shock for someone like me; having lived most of his adult live in mayor cities around the world. Not possessing a vehicle constricts my number one urge for freedom. I have to buy a boat and be unbound. And within the first six weeks since I’ve started my position, I come to self-realize the pitiful habits of city living that are no longer available. No more “food around the corner” and the abandoned comfort of having family and friends available at any moment, who now sleep when I work and vise-versa. Adding to it this “Robinson Cruso” excluded living without “Freitag”… Nice play of words! Seriously, I have not had a day off from duty since I’ve stepped onto the coral shore before this Hotel. And then I miss all the stupid little things that make me laugh when zipping through my mind: Chocolate in my bedroom, Peet’s Coffee around the block, CNN all day long, laundry machine (I am requested to wash my own undies by hand…), Cybersex, my weekly maid (I still have one, only she cleans a hopefully clean place in Los Angeles), my arsenal of cookbooks, my own space… I live in one of the guest pavilions and it is strange and foreign to my taste – the list is bothersome long. I refuse getting used to the mosquitoes biting me whenever I step into the bathroom and I dislike the bugs of which some my staff eats deep-fried with joyful smiles, the snakes on my terrace and the see urchins; I stepped on them twice already. Some of the locals offered to piss on my swollen feet, I kindly declined.

The Hotel is still somewhat under construction but up and running as good as we can. My kitchen staff is really nice and by now I have an idea about their character and motivations and it will become easier with each Thai-words I am learning to express and understand clearly about instructions and inputs. Unlike in a classroom of the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) or any culinary school I have taught students, I am now surrounded by an entire staff that inhales every professional gesture of mine and is eager to learn their craft. If only it wouldn’t be for HR, I could fully enjoy my work. We seriously lack staff in my department and the paper trails are bothersome and the wording is laughably odd. Most writings in this facility needs correct spelling. HR… Mhhh, I struggle to find kind words to explain the inefficiency of her managing the most important department of any hotel. She is by far the most unpleasant personality amongst the entire staff. Very difficult for a kitchen chef having to deal with her unwillingness to adapt inputs, changes and even upholding her own dictated regulations. She should respect with exemplary manner the rules created by her department. I think she would be a perfect candidate for Reality TV; titled: “how to manage a hotel without HR” – she is rather complex, a really fascinating character! Her efforts to make my life uncomfortable are indeed successful and I simply have very little respect for her childish games, wasting my time and energies. HR has to change her attitude towards me fast or I simply will not work here.   Today we’re receiving product and produce. Every Monday and Thursday a ship arrives from Phuket and brings us the ordered grocery. The boat is a traditional Thai construction, painted in blue and yellow and the crew is quite rural. One of the characters is shockingly disfigured in the face, teeth growing from his nose and the facial bone structure is awfully warped: Hard to look at him. I had to get used to it and he is incredibly friendly and actually funny. Learning Thai from him is impossible, but he seemingly is amused about my interest in talking the native tone. I cant understand a thing he utters (try speaking your own language without upper lip). So duty calls, I will go out there and help unloading, bamboo and cement bags, construction material, food and housekeeping material. It is hard-labor living here on Phi Phi.  I will place recipes and respond to all e-mails I receive. Please tell your friends about my site and let me know what you expect from my blog.

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