The Dunn Thing

The perfect recipe

Issue 2 · Summer 2015
By Andrew Dunn, founder of Scott Dunn · Illustration Graham Samuels

“A great joy of travelling is trying regional dishes, finding a night market in Thailand and seeing the chef wok all those great, fresh ingredients”

Issue 2 · Summer 2015
By Andrew Dunn, founder of Scott Dunn · Illustration Graham Samuels

“A great joy of travelling is trying regional dishes, finding a night market in Thailand and seeing the chef wok all those great, fresh ingredients”

Food is such a memorable part of a holiday. I still recall being 13, in Barbados, in 1976. It was very hot, my sister was ill, but what I really remember is tasting suckling pig – not to mention rum and Coke – for the first time. It has always stuck with me. Travellers are far more demanding and knowledgeable about food than they were when we started Scott Dunn back in 1986: it’s a key part of what makes the holiday special. It’s no longer enough to have one dining room and offer half-board at a hotel or resort. You have to offer several options – Thai, Italian, fine dining, a barbecue – because people now expect choice and also have different needs. For example, when I’m with our children at one of our resorts we’ll go to the buffet or have Italian, but couples will obviously want something more special.

To be fair, food has always been important to discerning travellers. But everyone has become much more savvy in the past 20 years. Consider London. We now have any cuisine you can name from Asian fusion to modern British. We’ve become educated, and that’s a good thing, but it means the bar is set higher when you’re abroad.

My personal favourite food is Thai. The flavours are amazing and it’s wonderful to find a night market in Thailand, sit on a plastic chair, have a Singha beer and see the chef wok all those great, fresh ingredients at extraordinary temperatures. A great joy of travelling is trying regional dishes. In the Caribbean recently I ate local rice and fish and it was excellent. I also went to Jordan and although I didn’t expect anything special, I was knocked out by the best hummus, falafel and mint tabbouleh I’ve ever tasted.

We have to meet demand. Some guests want to eat out at the best places, like The French Laundry in the Napa Valley, near San Francisco. We’ll make it happen for them, even if it means booking three months in advance. And some guests require healthy options that work around their allergies or dietary requirements.

Even when they’re staying in great hotels or resorts, guests often want to have a night out somewhere else. A good neighbourhood restaurant is a wonderful experience when the company, service and setting works well. I’ve got a few personal favourites. There’s Rodel-Alm in St. Anton: very good value, family-run and offering a great ham hock for two. Franz and Heidi’s Restaurant Findlerhof in Zermatt serves the most delicious food from a tiny kitchen. But a particular favourite is part of a hotel, and that’s Benz’s restaurant at Soneva Kiri in Thailand. You reach it by boat, and it only offers one menu: whatever was fresh at the market that morning. That’s good for me, as I love not having to choose.

In our catered villas and chalets we take a lot of trouble to find good chefs. They tend to like the job as what they get to cook is very varied – from canapés and starters, to main courses and desserts – whereas back in their restaurants they’re normally working in a specialised part of the kitchen. It’s a great apprenticeship. We like to offer good service, so before the guests arrive, our chefs call them up and find out what they want. Some just want lasagne and salad, others more serious fine dining, and sometimes they want theatre: recently, we have done Harry Potter, Strictly Come Dancing and Sound of Music themes. We‘ve also had chefs from MasterChef as well as from Michelin-starred restaurants like Le Gavroche. As Gordon Ramsay says, a good way to test a chef is to see if they can make a good breakfast. If they can make a poached egg to perfection against the clock, they can cook.

On holiday, what really counts is that combination of place, atmosphere, people and food. It doesn’t always have to be about the world’s fanciest restaurant. A few years back I canoed down the Zambezi at sunrise, landed on a bank and had a breakfast of bacon, eggs and Buck’s Fizz. Breakfast doesn’t get any better than that.

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