Jeremy Simeon | Executive Chef of Song Saa Private Island, Cambodia
Jeremy Simeon is Executive Chef of Song Saa Private Island in Cambodia. He trained in French technique and macrobiotic cooking, and brings a philosophy of simplicity, balance and health to the kitchen.
Here we chat to him about working and living in a remote tropical paradise and what he’s learned from years spent cooking at luxury hotels.
A Chef portrait of Jeremy Simeon
by Victoria Burrows
So Jeremy, what’s it like so far living and working on an island paradise?
I’ve been on the island for eight months now. I feel blessed every day to be here and to be part of the Song Saa team.
Can you access all of the ingredients you need? What’s easy to source, and what’s more difficult? How are the local suppliers?
We have a garden on the island, and between it and what I can forage from around Song Saa and Koh Rong Islands, I’m covered for fresh herbs and flowers.
Initially it was quite difficult, but I’ve since created great connections with suppliers through a chef in Phnom Penh, who has been in Asia for 20 years. The local suppliers seem to add a lot of commission on products sent to the Island, so it has been a work in progress to get suppliers to deliver good quality at a good price.
Living so close to the natural environment must make you very conscious of the environmental impact of what you do – has this influenced your approach to cooking at all?
Yes, being from New Zealand, I was brought up to be very conscious of the relationship between nature, the universe and all things living, whether that relationship is one of food or the sheer pleasure of being a part of its incredible beauty. I have great respect for life, our planet and our place in it. It has always influenced my cooking but most of all, working in more remote destinations over the last eight years, I’ve had to learn and adapt to different climates and plants and their uses.
Please describe a little about how you incorporate local Cambodian cuisine into your cooking and menus.
New Zealand is part of the greater Pacific so we use a lot of Asian flavours. I am very familiar with a lot of the balance such as lime, ginger, lemongrass, coconut, chilli, coriander, and the list goes on. Although Cambodian food is not as complex as Thai or Vietnamese for example, we all use very similar ingredients so this transition has been very exciting and not so difficult for me.
Are you also integrating macrobiotic concepts in your cooking?
The macrobiotic understanding that I have with food is one of health, so although my style is not driven entirely by the full regime of eating macrobiotic food, my menus are always simple, balanced and healthy in their own way. For example, I love to use herbs not as a garnish but for flavour and because they are good for you.
The hotel allows guests to have a meal anywhere on the island – what are some of the challenges this creates?
Yes, you can have a private dining experience anywhere you like and it does bring challenges but nothing that can’t be sorted out easily.
You’ve worked at some other prestigious hotels, including Hapuka Lodge, Kaikour, and Minaret Station, Wanaka, in New Zealand – what’s the one thing you have learned from these experiences that has most shaped you as a chef?
To be perfectly honest, one real thing I have learned from working at these luxury properties is that the guests are aware of what they eat and enjoy modern Asian-influenced dishes. Most of all, simple, beautiful and healthy food gets a lot of positive feedback.
Thank you, Chef Jeremy, and all the best with your beautiful food on your beautiful island.
Chef Jeremy shared this mouthwatering recipe with us – take a look!
Watermelon and toasted quinoa salad with salted yogurt, roasted nuts and seeds and fresh herbs.
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