Nantanit Juljorhor might have one of the best jobs in the world.
Born in Thailand, she has spent her life cooking delicious cuisine in some of the world’s most luxurious hotels. Her career has taken her from Bangkok to Turks and Caicos, closer to home in Phuket and on to the Maldives, where she is currently the Executive Chef at COMO Cocoa Island. Elegant Traveller readers can attempt to recreate one of her best-loved dishes at home with this exclusive recipe.
The Maldives remain something of a dream destination for any luxury traveller, so to have your office there is particularly special. For Chef Juljorhor, after fourteen years in the COMO family, designing mouth-watering menus that do justice to the perfection of the location itself is an invigorating challenge.
In an exclusive interview with Elegant Traveller Chef Juljorhor told us about her life in travel and her passion for creating unforgettable cuisine that is a key aspect of a flawless five-star stay at COMO Cocoa Island.
Chef Juljorhor your CV reads like a list of the world’s best destinations! Can you talk us through your career and how you were able to gain experience in such different cultures?
Overcoming the challenges of living and working abroad such as working with different cultures, learning about different work practices and surviving without your support network of family and friends increases resourcefulness and knowledge. Experiencing different food or learning varieties of food ingredients really helped me in furthering my career.
Growing up in Thailand you must have enjoyed fresh, rich flavours as standard. Does Thai cooking continue to influence you even after such extensive travel?
Thais are famous for their love of snacks. There are food stalls near every public place. These stalls sell hundreds of different snacks. Among the most popular are fish cakes, egg rolls, fried rice, and noodles served with a choice of seasoning. The taste and flavours inspires my cooking a lot.
The freshness of ingredients makes a big impact on the dishes we serve. We purchase most of the leaves and fruits from Thailand for this very reason. Quality and freshness are an integral part of my cooking.
Tell us about UFAA at COMO Cocoa Island.
“Ufaa” means “Happy”. Our restaurant opens for breakfast, lunch and dinner with flexible dining experiences for our guests. Menus feature European dishes with a blend of Indian and local traditions, emphasising on locally caught seafood (yellow fin tuna, grouper, red snapper, job fish etc.) and lobsters that we catch ourselves. With fresh and carefully selected ingredients, our healthful COMO Shambhala menu complements the main menu for a wonderful dining experience.
What are the challenges involved with stocking a kitchen that is the only resort located on such a tiny island as Makunufushi Cocoa Island?
We are fortunate to work with some of the best suppliers from around the world in addition to our local partners. We usually receive our supplies on three different days each week. We ensure the ingredients are properly packed and stored at correct temperatures. If anything is not up to our standard we will not accept it.
We also have temperature balanced storage chillers and containers to make sure the safety and quality is guaranteed.
Are any ingredients particularly difficult to source?
Yes, mainly seasonal fruits and some vegetables. Example like mangosteen, rambutan, longan, etc.
As we don’t serve frozen fish items, sometimes the sea is too rough or too windy even for the local fishermen. Not being able to go fishing becomes a challenge. To overcome this, we always look at the weekly weather forecast to order enough items for our service.
UFAA has a raw-food spa menu for guests wanting to make healthier choices during their stay. How do you make raw food as appealing and flavoursome as the a la carte and other menus?
It all comes down to the quality and freshness of ingredients, especially with raw cuisine. We only accept the best ingredients from our suppliers and our kitchen teams ensure to prepare and then store the items before they are used in our menus. Raw cuisine can be extremely flavoursome and we continuously explore news ways of preparing our dishes.
COMO Cocoa Island is synonymous with romance and guests can enjoy a number of private dining experiences during their stay. What are the most popular menu requests for a private dining experience in the Maldives?
The most popular requests are our five fish menu or our seven course menu. Most couples enjoy trying different seafood and my team and I make sure to always have an eclectic choice of fish on the menu.
What does a typical day at COMO Cocoa Island look like for you?
Every day on COMO Cocoa Island is special for me, since we have new guests arriving on a daily basis which brings exciting new challenges to cater to a real variety of guests. I also really enjoy cooking for special occasions like weddings, romantic Valentines dinners or wine and food pairings.
Do you think there are extra pressures or barriers for female chefs seeking the level of success you’ve enjoyed?
Not at all, as long as you are confident and know what you are doing. The result is positive and the job is done! It’s also important to be a good team player, which makes it easier to deal with any kind of pressure. Cooking is my passion – I love cooking and and I do it from the heart.
What Thai dish is your go-to comfort food when you’re seeking a taste of home?
Raw papaya salad with prawns or crab…mmm so yummy. And of course the Tom Yom soup with seafood.
Which of UFAA’s specialist theme nights do you most enjoy being part of?
The seafood barbeque is the highlight of the week, the fresh and raw flavours from the sea including locally caught lobsters, tuna, jackfish, job fish, squid and jumbo prawns with a choice of three different marinades – the seafood is then grilled to perfection in front of our guests.
I also love our dessert counter with a variety of dishes including passion fruit and coffee macaroons.
Living and working in the Maldives must set your travel standards exceptionally high, where do you like to explore when you’re not working?
Living in the Maldives, I would like to explore more of the Indian Ocean and nearby countries such as India and Sri Lanka. These countries have a rich, colourful and exciting food culture with a lot of influence in the cooking world. I’d love to see different and rare spices and flavours and learn how they are mixed with other ingredients and of course discover secret recipes.
Raw Tuna Salad With Sea Vegetables, Spirulina Noodles & Japanese Dressing
80g Tuna Raw Diced
1 Cup Spirulina Noodles
½ Cup Curly Kale
¼ Cup Spiraliser Cucumber
¼ Cup Daikon
1 Shaving Pickled Ginger
½ Avocado Sliced Into 8 Segments
1 tbsp Hijiki
1 tbsp Arame
1/2 tbsp Spring Onion Sliced
1 tsp Ginger
20g Mustard Powder
2g Dried Chilli
2g Cracked Black Pepper
250ml Tamari Soy
150ml Sunflower Oil
20ml Sesame Oil
250ml Apple Cider Vinegar
150g Coconut Necture
1 Red Onion, Washed in Ice Water and Finely Diced
400g OO Flour
2 tsp Spirulina Powder
1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1. Mix Spirulina with the eggs, salt and extra virgin olive oil. Whisk.
2. Make a well with the flour and pour the egg mix into the centre. Fold the eggs into the mix.
3. Knead for 15 minutes
4. Roll down to 1.5 on the pasta machine, book folding twice
5. Put the noodles through the fine noodle cutter
To enjoy more recipes from COMO luxury hotels, why not read our exclusive interview with COMO Metropolitan Bangkok’s Head Chef?
For more information about luxury hotels in the Maldives or to make an enquiry, please call our expert Travel Consultants on 01244 897 578 or visit elegantresorts.co.uk.