Monday, June 30, 2014

Living the Dream #4: Daniel Moran

Kristie Kellahan continues her series looking at the enviable lives of ex-pats in Thailand.

Who: Daniel Moran, 38

Where: Cape Yamu, Thailand

Why: Executive Chef Daniel moved to Thailand in 2003 for the opening of a luxury hotel called the Metropolitan by COMO, Bangkok. Since then he has worked for COMO around the world at hotels in Bali, Bhutan, the Caribbean and Miami, before moving to Phuket in September 2013 to join Point Yamu by COMO. There he oversees the restaurant and hotel operations, including COMO Shambhala Spa Cuisine, Nahm Yaa, southern-inspired Thai cuisine, and La Sirena, a modern Italian eatery.

His environment: At work, Daniel says he is fortunate to work at a “seriously hip hotel”, originally designed by Philippe Starck and decorated by “amazing” Italian designer Paola Navone. 
When he heads home, it’s to a little Muslim fishing village overlooking the Andaman Sea. “There I spend most of my free time cooking with my younger brother who is also a chef with me at the hotel,” he says. “We have a really amazing house where we have set up an outdoor kitchen cooking with traditional Thai charcoal grill, our own Gastro Temple.”

Life before Thailand:
 Daniel is from Narrabeen, one of Sydney’s gorgeous northern beaches. 
“I pretty much spent my life surfing and doing all the other water sports that go with it,” he says. “My cooking career started in the kitchen at age 16, working for Neil Perry at Rockpool restaurant - one of the luckiest things that ever happened to me, working in such an amazing restaurant, with amazing produce and such an inspirational chef was mind-blowing and a real motivation in my life.” 
At age 22, Daniel left Australia to work in Europe and London and he has lived abroad ever since.

Any big culture shock moments in Thailand?
 “The sights, smells and sounds of Bangkok were a shock at first,” he says, “but after that not really for me as I am quite an open-minded person and accept culture for what it is. Thais are very proud people and I respect that this is Thailand and this is how it is done.”

Daniel’s tips for success in Thailand: 
Do – smile, give a polite wave, respect the monks, respect the royal family, and understand Thai family morals, take life easy as the Thais would do it. 
Don’t – touch children or anyone really on the head; point your feet at things. 
“The deeper I go into the culture and the closer I become the more I get lost, so don’t think too much and just accept the Thais for who they are,” Daniel says. “I think to myself sometimes, Maybe I should be like the Thais a lot more.”

Biggest challenges of your life in Thailand?
 Learning a little of the language.

...and biggest rewards of your Thai life
 “It would have to be the road from hedonism to Buddhism,” Daniel says. “Being an expat in Thailand for the first time, your think this life is a dream, this is a party paradise and it’s true but it eventually catches up with you. These days there is a different life that I’m choosing to lead, and it’s interesting to see how Thailand looks through these sober eyes and a clear mind focusing on spirituality.”

Favourite places to hang out in Phuket: 
When Daniel tears himself away from the gorgeous Como location at Point Yamu, he heads to Phuket Town. He says Sanaeha at Yaowarat Road is a cool place to hang out and listen to live music, and Anna’s Cafe has a great vibe. Comics Cafe & Bar rates a mention for the cool cartoon art on the walls, and Ka Jok See is his go-to spot for dinner and a party in one place.

Where to eat in Phuket:
 Three of the chef’s favourites are: Raya House, serving Peranakan Thai-style cuisine; Mor Mu Dong, a “must-see” traditional location; and Ang Seafood (opposite Bang Neiw Shrine) for seafood on the beach in huts. He also recommends the Phuket Weekend Market near Naka Temple.

Pics: Point Yamu by COMO

Where to go for pampering:
 Hands down, it’s the COMO Shambhala Spa, says Daniel.

Favourite downtime activities:
 “If we are not cooking for our friends we are walking through local markets, buying exotic fruits, vegetables and seafood that you would never find in western markets,” he says. “I have done a lot of travel in my life, but Thailand still has the best cuisine of all.”

Favourite Thai expressions:
Mai pen rai – no problems

Aloy aloy – very tasty food

Sanuk – having fun

Narak - very cute

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