Religion is a hot-button topic these days. Nearly every war being waged on the planet right now is about religion in one form or another. I’ll be honest and say I think we could all do with a little less adherence to these arcane notions. Then again, I’ve never felt “the spirit move me” the way some people claim it does.
That is until I went to Koh Phangan. Now, I know what most of you are thinking; “Orlando, Koh Phangan is home to the world’s most decadent Full Moon Party”. Did I slurp down a bucket of mushroom juice and find the Holy Spirit while gyrating to that awful trance music?
The story this picture tells is about God … Chef God to be exact. While on a week long holiday on Samui’s little sister, I stumbled across the Santorini Restaurant in Thong Sala. As I strolled down a tourist-trap encrusted avenue I came upon an indoor/outdoor bistro that proudly displayed a large and colorful mural boasting food from Chef God. I don’t know about you, but I had to take a look at that menu.
For a shop-house hole-in-the-wall, the menu was quite “chefy”. Equally surprising was the efficient and courteous staff serving up a house red wine at just the right temperature. Without going into lurid detail, I found myself bellied up to the trough seven out of seven nights at Santorini; digging deeper into the oh-so-subtle menu each time.
On my fourth night, a diminutive Thai fella came out of the kitchen sat down at my table and introduced himself as God. “I thought you’d be taller” I said. God chuckled …. “Everybody says that”.
As it turns out, God spent nearly 15 years working for the Dusit Group and is a Cordon Bleu trained Chef. That explains the fancy food in such an oddball place. God is living the dream of all Chefs. He moved back to his native province, opened the restaurant he always wanted cooking the food he truly enjoys.
Every night God would join me for a glass of wine and a rigorous culinary chat. He is as good a host as he is a cook.
On the morning of my last day, I got some bad news from friends in Pattaya. An old friend of mine had passed away suddenly. Chef Ray from The Blue Olive had died in his sleep without warning. I was heartbroken. Many evenings had turned into long nights commiserating with the jolly German consuming his outrageously good food and copious amounts of wine.
That night I dragged myself down to see Chef God one more time, but my heart wasn’t really in it. “I’m not very hungry” I told him. And I told him about the loss of a good friend.
God listened attentively and when I was finished with the tale he asked, “What’s the first thing he ever served you?” “That’s easy” I said. “Braised lamb shank and a Greek salad”. God gave me a wink and whispered, “I’ll see what I can do”.
Two glasses of wine later God himself presented a steaming rendition of Chef Ray’s meal. He placed a compassionate hand on my shoulder and said, “For your friend”. It brings a tear to my eye just writing about it.
It is as close to a religious experience as I ever want to have. Thanks God.