Where to Eat in Phuket
An exclusive fork-to-table restaurant in Phuket, Thailand, gets Thailand’s first Michelin green star for its commitment to gastronomy and sustainability. Check out this exclusive Accidental Travel Writer interview with the locavore eatery’s chef de cuisine!
The Michelin Green Star Explained
Michelin introduced a new symbol in its eating out guides in 2020.
Representing a green star, the green four-leaf clover was conceived to recognize restaurants engaging in environmentally friendly practices.
For example, the guides consider sustainability, the protection of biodiversity, and the use of renewable energy when evaluating eateries.
To qualify, a restaurant must have Plate, Bib Gourmand, or at least one Michelin star.
“Faced with constantly evolving challenges including production methods, sourcing, and waste management, chefs are striving to improve their practices,” says Gwendal Poullennec, International Director, Michelin Guides.
“Often, these initiatives combine the best of the knowledge of our predecessors with the creativity and innovation of chefs who are never short of ideas.
“The ambition of our approach is to amplify the scope of the good and ingenious practices of chefs by putting them in the spotlight.”
While several restaurants in Thailand have received one or two Michelin stars, only one has received the coveted green star: the 100% locavore eatery, PRU, at Trisara, an exclusive resort in Phuket.
To clarify, PRU is an acronym for Plant, Raise, and Understand.
- The restaurant was awarded one Michelin star for its high-quality cooking. In other words, Michelin thinks it’s worth a stop!
- In addition, it was awarded a green star for its commitment to gastronomy and sustainability.
- Finally, it was recognized as a comfortable restaurant. Therefore, Michelin calls it one of its “most delightful places”.
Interview with Chef Jimmy
Learning of PRU’s green star designation, I got in touch with its PR department. And they arranged an on-line interview for me, which follows:
When was PRU established and by whom?
The Phuket Michelin star restaurant was established in 2016 by Chef Jimmy [Ophorst] and the team of Montara Hospitality, which owns and manages Trisara, where PRU is located.
Also, what was his background?
Prior to the opening of PRU, Chef Jimmy was with Trisara, which he joined as Chef de Cuisine of the then Mediterranean restaurant, Trisara Seafood.
His background included working with Chef Gaggan Anandm at Gaggan [restaurant in Bangkok], which was then one of Asia’s and the World’s 50 Best.
He also had a lot of experience at reputable restaurants in his home country of the Netherlands.
Thailand’s First Michelin Green Star
How do you feel about being one of the first restaurants in the world and the only restaurant in Thailand to receive a Green Star from Michelin?
We feel this award rewards what we have been trying to achieve for the whole community of farmers, fishermen, and small artisans in Phuket and across Thailand.
This says more as much about the people around us than us.
We feel our amazing producers and purveyors are also getting recognition through our restaurant, which is amazing.
Were you aware that you might be in the running to receive this accolade? Or did it comes as a surprise?
While we thought we might be on the inspectors’ radar for this accolade, it came as a surprise as we know other restaurants with maybe more visibility are also doing a lot of sustainability.
Being in Phuket, you are a bit far from the main dining scene that is Bangkok, but maybe for us being on an island, surrounded by amazing nature and right next to the ocean, has motivated us more to do our part in terms of sustainability.
Can you explain your relationship with the organic farm? Also, how it came about?
Towards the end of 2015, we realized we were dependent on imported products, and that our international guests would have access to these products in their home country anyway.
So it did not make sense to us anymore and [we] decided to stop what we were doing and work on a new concept that will showcase local ingredients.
Our owners had a piece of land 10 minutes from Trisara, which was used as a nursery to grow the plants found around the resort.
We then started to develop this land into a farm, which could provide us with the freshest seasonal ingredients we could get.
It took us a few months to set it up and get it running.
And still today, we are trying to plant new vegetables, herbs, and fruits on a regular basis, learning along the way what works and what doesn’t.
How closely do the chefs at the Phuket Michelin star restaurant work with the farmers?
When working with small, local farmers and fishermen, maintaining consistency can be difficult.
Chef Jimmy comes from a family of farmers, so what he has done is try to share as much of the knowledge he had from the farm and from others around him, with our producers in hopes that they will in turn make better products.
And with the increase in quality of the products, of course, comes an increase in price and then higher income for the farmers.
We hope that this will start a chain reaction within the local farming industry, where small producers around the country will begin to change their ways to be more sustainable and consistent.
Inspiration for Phuket Michelin Restaurant Dishes
How are dishes served at the Phuket Michelin star restaurant conceived? Do the chefs tell the farmers what they want? Or are the chefs inspired by what the farmers produce?
We always try to work with new and unknown ingredients to create a special experience for our guests.
And we always work with what is available from our farmers and on the hand from their produce, we create the new dishes.
For me to create a new dish, it’s very important that I come across some ingredients I have never seen before.
This is always the most exciting part of creating new dishes at PRU!
Is there a signature dish?
We are working with two signature dishes on our current menu. And one of them is the dry-aged duck.
The first time we put this on the menu, it took us 9 months to develop the technique of cooking the perfect duck,
Since we put it on the menu a few years ago, we have always tried to improve the quality of the duck. That’s why we call it our signature dish.
The other signature dish is a pre-dessert created from Phuket pineapples, Thai basil. and wild pepper.
How often are menus changed? Also, are they set menus or a la carte?
We try to change the menu every 2 to 3 months. We are working only with set menus, where there is a choice between 5 and 7 courses.
Dine Good, Do Good
Are there any other interesting insights you can share?
We know that we can’t change the world. But we try our best to help out wherever we can through action but also by talking to people and changing their mindsets. It works.
Five years ago, there was only a handful of organic farms in Thailand whereas today, we actually have choices.
Now the farmers have deals with bigger corporations with a large reach that ensures they will get paid, even if, say, 20% of their crop ends up not being sellable.
We also launched a new philosophy called Dine Good Do Good, where we try to educate guests about the benefits of eating local ingredients and supporting the local economy.
This is more important than ever since the international borders are closed. So most income for everyone in Thailand will come from within Thailand.
And finally, is the restaurant located at Trisara? Is there a relationship with the resort or is it a stand-alone operation?
The restaurant is part of Trisara, which is where it is located, which is managed and owned by award-winning Montara Hospitality.
Introducing Chef Jimmy …
Jim Ophorst is Chef de Cuisine at PRU Restaurant, which is situated in Trisara, an all-villa resort on the Southern Thai island of Phuket.
While he is originally from the Netherlands, Chef Jimmy arrived in Thailand in October 2012 to launch Trisara’s signature restaurant, Seafood.
In 2014, he moved to Bangkok, where he worked at Gaggan. In fact, The World’s 50 Best Restaurants ranked Gaggan as the best restaurant in Asia and the 4th best restaurant in the world from 2014 to 2018.
Finally, Chef Jimmy returned to Trisara in 2016 to launch PRU.
Chef Jimmy’s Favourite Dishes
As one of Chef Jimmy”s favourite ingredients, Jampada jackfruit is sourced from Nakhon Si Tamarath, a province in Southern Thailand.
He uses it to create a dessert representing the local ecosystem.
Other ingredients include wild passion fruit, bamboo leaves, and raw baby bananas. And it is served with coffee from the same region.
One of Chef Jimmy’s favourite entrees is river prawn from Surat Thani, another province in Southern Thailand.
First, he poaches the prawns in a beurre blanc of fermented bean paste and rice wine. Next, he quickly smokes it over longan wood.
Finally, he finishes it with Galangal leaf oil and pickled ginger torch flower.
Three snacks represent the letters of the restaurant – P. R. U.
Plant — crispy potato with young beans, salted mackerel, and passion fruit from the farm.
Raise — sturgeon and caviar from Hua Hin.
Understand — 3-way mushroom; tempura, mousse, and raw-sliced mushrooms
PRU restaurant – 60/1 Moo 6, Srisoonthorn Road,
Cherngtalay, Thalang, Phuket, Thailand. Telephone: +66 76 310 100.
The restaurant is located at Trisara, one of Phuket’s most exclusive resorts.
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