Mario Hofmann – Executive Chef at the Hua Hin Marriott Resort & Spa, Thailand
Mario Hofmann is Executive Chef at the Hua Hin Marriott Resort & Spa in Thailand. This German chef oversees five restaurants and bars at the 5-star beachside property.
We chat to Chef Mario about what it’s like working in big hotels around the world, accessing and using local ingredients, and the specialities of this part of Thailand.
Mario Hofmann – A Chef’s Portrait
Mario, when and how did you decide to become a chef? Were you always attracted to the kitchen?
I decided to become a chef at the age of 16, because of my grandmother. I used to watch her cooking at her home and she had so much passion. She always used the best ingredients she could find; instead of going to the supermarket she went straight to the farmers or local producers. I found this inspirational.
You started out working in your home country, Germany, in Nuremberg and Berlin, and then moved to the role of Executive Sous Chef at Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok – did you find that it was different cooking in Thailand?
Of course the style of cooking is different, with new flavours and ingredients. Also, generally speaking, food is much healthier in Thailand than in Europe; here there is a great balance between meat, vegetables, herbs and spices. In Europe the focus is more on meat as the main component.
How have things changed now that you’re back in Thailand?
Many things have changed and moved forward in the last eight years. There are now a lot of local farmers and artisan producers offering very high quality ingredients. Going local is the new trend!
Before coming back to Thailand, you worked in the Kempinski Hotel “Das Tirol” Kitzbuehel Alps, and then in a Shangri-la hotel in Malaysia. Do you find that each hotel has local issues, or is working in a high-end hotel anywhere in the world similar in most ways?
Every hotel has its own particular issues, often depending on the local culture. For example, Das Tirol is in the Kitzbuehel Alps area, which is very busy during winter and quiet in the summer. In Malaysia, dinner starts very late – usually after 9pm – which is a challenge if you work in a busy hotel!
Do you find it’s easy to access all ingredients in Hua Hin?
You can find everything you need here, but you need to plan ahead. Some items come from Bangkok or need to be imported from overseas, so it’s important to be organised.
Are you able to access local, seasonable produce?
Yes, that’s what we are focusing on. We want to go local and we constantly research new sustainable suppliers for our hotel and restaurants.
Are there any unusual ingredients you cook with?
Not unusual for Thailand. We aim to be as authentic as possible, so we need to use local Thai herbs and spices. Wherever in the world I cook, I believe it’s important to use local produce.
How would you describe your cooking technique or style?
My motto is “less is more.” I believe it’s important to concentrate on high quality ingredients and let their flavours shine.
Can you tell us a little about the various dining venues at Hua Hin Marriott and what you are offering guests there? Do you serve any very unique Hua Hin specialties?
Hua Hin Marriott Resort & Spa features two restaurants: Amber Kitchen, our all-day destination which focuses on contemporary Thai and international cuisine, and Big Fish, our unique beachfront restaurant and grill, which promises premium meats and seafood. In addition, Siam Bakery serves freshly baked cakes and breads, and Hua Hin Beach provides a unique setting for special occasions. Hua Hin is very famous for seafood and we are fortunate to be able to source it daily from local fishermen directly in front of our hotel.
What’s the dining scene like in Hua Hin generally? Can you get a variety of international cuisines? Are there plenty of local restaurants, and Thailand’s famous street food?
There’s a great variety of restaurants in Hua Hin, and many excellent chefs are driving the destination forward. The international cuisine and seafood is superb; I would recommend trying the local specialty of scallops with garlic – a must-try for visitors Hua Hin!
In terms of Thai cuisine, Hua Hin is home to some famous “kao man gai” restaurants – boiled chicken with rice, cooked to perfection.
Thank you, Mario, we wish you continued success in Hua Hin, and thanks also for the tip – a visit to a kao man gai restaurant is now on our travel list.
Chef Mario shares his recipe for a dish that’s perfect for a hot and sunny day at the seaside:
Tuna | Lemon | Tomato
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