Playing with fire (and ice)
At W Koh Samui, Denmark’s Mads Refslund, formerly of the renowned Noma, remains one of the world’s most creatively individual chefs. He tells Robb Report Thailand how he plans not to conquer the world, but rather save it.
How do you enjoy working with W Koh Samui?
They are professional, organised and take good care of me. I’ve been around the region, first at W Bali, then W Singapore. I love it so far.
What are your thoughts on integrating Thai ingredients in your cuisine?
Some of them I use. I have decided to change a few things on the menu after I visited a local market this morning. The fresh coconuts were beautiful. There were also some herbs for the duck, which I will be preparing. Where I prepare my food really matters. It won’t be the same experience eating the same food at different locations. For instance, drinking Italian wine in Italy gives you a totally different experience and taste from having the same bottle elsewhere.
Please share your passion about the ‘turning food waste into treasure’ concept.
It is a philosophy about not throwing things away. It’s not like I’m serving you garbage, but we get creative with the chosen food waste, turning it into quality cuisine. Did you know that in the US, 50 per cent of food is gone to waste? This is unheard of in my world and it’s wrong. The inspiration came when I was eating sushi in New York City. As I went through my omakase, I started to wonder what these sushi restaurants do with the leftover fish skins, so I began to source and to buy them from one of those places. That’s how it all started.
How do you plan to invade the world with Nordic cuisine?
(At my restaurant in New York) I am not cooking Nordic. I engage more on adapting to local styles and tastes, while being true to my roots. The concept we are starting in New York is fire and ice; just a fire pit and ice, at the bar. It’s hard to explain. You have to see it for yourself. I’m not trying to build a restaurant. Instead, I’m trying to build a kitchen that integrates into a restaurant. For instance, having a dining table inside the kitchen will give you a sincere feeling of the food that is being prepared for you. For me it’s about fun and interactivity. The energy will be amazing.
What’s the philosophy behind your success?
Just do what you love. I don’t care about Michelin stars; they are not what drive me. What drives me is what makes people happy, how I could make my team happy. If you’re a happy person, you cook happy food and the guests can feel it.
In Danish, we have a terminology called ‘hyyge’. It’s about creating a cosy feeling; something you can bring to your friends. It’s about doing something nice for others. Thai people are like that.