A slice of paradise less than 2 hours away from S'pore
Looking for the perfect getaway beyond the usual haunts? Look no further than Desaru Coast in Johor, an idyllic paradise that offers excitement, tranquility and unparalleled charm.
Nestled within this integrated resort destination lies a world of wonders: pristine beaches that stretch into infinity, sweeping views of the South China Sea, sprawling golf courses by renowned designers, and a massive Adventure Waterpark that promises non-stop thrills.
It is also home to a thriving ecosystem teeming with lush flora and fauna, providing endless opportunities for exploration and adventure.
Holidaymakers can further indulge in the retreat of their dreams at an array of upscale accommodations. Desaru Coast's four luxurious properties – One&Only, Anantara Resort & Villas, The Westin, and Hard Rock Hotel – are the ideal sanctuary for those seeking respite from the hustle and bustle of city life.
And all of this is just a short 90-minute ferry ride away from Singapore.
A recent highlight at the trendy vacation spot was the second installment of Desaru Coast Gourmet Series 2023, which unfolded at ultra-luxe resort One&Only from September 1 to 3.
Aptly named An Ode to Nature, the culinary extravaganza is a six-hand collaboration of award-winning chefs and showcases the best of Malaysian gastronomy.
Au Jardin’s Chef Su Kim Hock, one of the first restaurateurs to earn a Michelin star in Malaysia, helmed the event alongside Chef Johnson Wong from Gēn Penang and One&Only’s Executive Chef Valerio Pachetti.
The trio meticulously crafted a menu with sustainability and the region’s identity in mind. The result? A cornucopia of sumptuous dishes that are nothing short of tantalising, decadent, and comforting.
Chef Su’s signature Bread & Spread with Tomato Chutney Butter was an instant crowd favourite. Although it was the first of 10 dishes, guests could be seen unabashedly savouring the velvety and creamy butter throughout the entire dinner. His Cornette of In Season Peas and Longfish Emulsion proved just as popular, with each bite being a wondrous explosion of flavour.
Equally remarkable was Chef Wong’s Lobster with Lotus Seed, Root and Leaves. The chunks of succulent lobster and crunchy lotus was indeed a mouthwatering match made in heaven that left taste buds in delight.
Meanwhile, Chef Pachetti’s Oxtail with Assam Pedas Barley and Kacang Botol Gremolata delivered an enchanting concoction that hit all the right notes. The beef was tender and aromatic, forming a flawless union with its counterparts.
To conclude our gastronomic adventure, we relished a refreshing Chocolate Concierge dessert courtesy of Chef Pachetti. Accompanied by almond jelly, almond snap, lychee and rose sorbet, it was a sweet crescendo to such an exquisite meal.
Speaking to the media in an interview on Sept 2, Chef Su shared that the Gourmet Series 2 menu is seafood-driven as a celebration of the destination’s produce, with some meat and plant to achieve perfect harmony.
He also acknowledged that while all three chefs have “very, very different styles of cooking", they had incorporated not just Malaysian ingredients, but also local culture and flavours.
When TNP asked the culinary icons what they hoped to achieve with this first-of-its-kind event, Chef Pachetti jovially quipped, “A giant cheque?” which elicited rapturous laughter in the room.
What truly matters to him most, however, is how it would be a valuable learning experience for his team, made up of youths from all over Malaysia, and to allow them to feel a sense of achievement.
He added: “For me, it’s important to just have a friend, a new connection, someone I can maybe message and say, ‘I was thinking about sharing knowledge.’”
Chef Su echoed his sentiments about the event being a way to exchange ideas and forge new connections, especially with those who haven’t had a chance to enjoy his creations.
He said: “It’s definitely a good reach-out to them, and to bring back some inspiration as well.
“Desaru Coast has been very, very accommodative and helpful to us. We haven’t faced too much of an issue in terms of sourcing and things like that, because as much as possible, we try to find something that’s true to us.”
While preparing for Gourmet Series 2 went without a hitch, the life of a chef isn’t always a bed of roses, as TNP finds out.
Chef Su revealed: “At some point, there will definitely be a plateau where you go, ‘Am I moving somewhere or am I not?’ I think that’s very common, especially in this industry where it's very, very physical and you have to put in the hours to make this happen for ourselves. And sometimes, you know, the effort that you put in in your early career doesn't really justify the outcome that you get.
“So I think the key is to persevere. There’s no guarantee, but I think if you persevere, if you hang on, the chances of succeeding are definitely higher.”
Despite his multiple accolades, he humbly added: “I am not there yet, I am still climbing my career at this point.”
Chef Pachetti agreed that it’s important to “keep trying and trying and trying”, especially in a field where you have to work your way up the rungs of a ladder one by one even if that means starting from dishwashing.
He told TNP: “People nowadays think chef life is so cool, so Instagrammable, like, wow, Michelin star. But chef life is really hard. The challenges are always presenting themselves in a different way, whether it’s ingredients, staff, chinaware or kitchen. Every place has its own challenges that are constantly happening and you just need to get it done.”
Chef Su chimed in: “That’s also what adds up to the fun of working in a kitchen as well. Every day is a new day and every day you have different challenges. Generally for chefs, we like things to be calm and predictable, but unfortunately it’s not going to be like that. But it’s also part and parcel of our work.”
Mark your calendars: the Desaru Coast Gourmet Series 2023 is set to return for its third installment in November, promising yet another extraordinary culinary odyssey that you won't want to miss.