Chef of the Week: David Newstead of Soneva Kiri
We sat down with David Newstead, Executive Chef at Soneva Kiri, a luxury beach resort in Thailand’s Koh Kood.
Chef David Newstead has 30+ years of international experience as an Executive Chef in the UK, Middle East, Moscow, Germany, the Maldives, and Thailand.
What inspired you to become a Chef?
I always loved to go around to my grandma’s house when she cooked. She always seemed to have a big bowl of dough rising near the fire and cake batter on the go. I actually got into professional cooking by accident. On a schoolwork experience program, I was sent to a local restaurant and absolutely loved it.
Where did you train to cook? Do you recommend a formal training for someone who wants to become a chef (i.e. culinary school)?
The culinary schools are fantastic these days teaching such a wide range of techniques from the classic French to molecular. Also, there is far more awareness on healthy foods/ingredients from all over the world.
However, I suggest working in the industry directly because you can’t compare the hours and pressure from a culinary school to the full on everyday operation where every plate is scrutinised and posted all over social media – so the impact on the business is very real.
Tell us a bit about your collaboration with Soneva. How did it happen and what attracted you to it?
I have known Joanne Bowen (Soneva Global HE Director) for over 25 years and when she asked if I could help with the opening of Soneva Jani in 2017 I jumped at the chance to work in this world class resort.
After that I was offered the position as Executive Chef at Soneva Kiri and I am almost two years into this project.
Do you follow food trends? If so, what influence have food trends on your menu?
Yes, you definitely have to be aware of what your direct competitors are doing. Soneva is known for being innovative and very creative as a company so as senior managers we are encouraged to think differently.
An example of this is because of the rise in the demand for plant based dishes, we use less animal based gelatines and stabilisers and more plant/seaweed based products.
Your ice cream room at Soneva Kiri is quite unique. How did you come up with the concept and what are craziest flavors you were asked to do?
All Soneva resorts have a complimentary chocolate and ice cream room.
I use this to have some fun with the guests by asking them to give me an unusual flavour and I will make it for them.
Grilled mango and goat cheese came out so well it’s now a staple on the menu – but the craziest was roast chicken and waffle. I have the video 🙂
Where do you source your produce and ingredients for Soneva? Can you please provide some specific examples?
We buy our fresh fruit and vegetables from the market on the mainland 2-3 times per week. To go to the night markets is an amazing experience any chef would love. The hustle and bustle, street food and of course mountains of fresh fruit and vegetables, some really unusual is a wonderful experience.
It’s great for young chefs to see as it gives them an understanding of what is seasonal and even more important – local. We also use fresh fish caught in Koh Kood.
Do you have a signature dish or a favorite dish that you enjoy cooking?
I love cooking everything. I honestly can’t say I have a favourite one. I think it’s more a case of when I do something that guests truly enjoy then I’m happy. I then think how I can make that dish better.
You have a lot of international experience working at five-star hotels in London, Moscow, Germany, Saudi Arabia, and the Maldives. Are client expectations any different in Thailand than the places you have worked before?
Not really, guests always (rightly so) have high expectations. The difference here is that it’s not a shiny city hotel – it’s a jungle resort with nature right there with you and a concept of no news no shoes.
What advice would you give someone who wants to become a top chef?
Go for it, there is an increase in beautiful hotels and resorts all over the world but a shortage of good chefs. If you’re passionate about food and are prepared to sacrifice a lot of your time to learn, then it’s a rewarding career as you get to do what you love in stunning locations all over the world.