Outrigger Beach Resort in Mauritius offers its guests so many dining opportunities. Each restaurant has its own character and will appeal to changing tastes and expectations throughout the day. Families with diverse requirements are catered for at all times in the other restaurants – but then one finds The Plantation Club, and that has a charm of its own.
Have you ever visited a restaurant and wanted to make it your home? Have you mused, perhaps, on reducing the size of its big professional kitchen and adding a luxury bathroom? Contemplated dividing the main restaurant space into sitting room and bedroom? No? Well, you have evidently never visited The Plantation Club at Outrigger in Mauritius.
The Plantation Club is housed in gentle, low, local colonial-style buildings with a quiet pool, next to a delightful vegetable garden, surrounded by exotic trees, attended by well-trained staff, serviced by passionate chefs, and garnished with outstanding food. Yes, in my dreams this would be my home.
We met one of those aforementioned chefs. Andy Ian heads this talented team and he presents the best of Mauritian and international cuisine. Every course is imaginative, every dish well-composed and every breakfast is gargantuan.
What is your background?
‘I was born in this lovely place, Mauritius, and grew up here, sharing the food together with Mum and Dad and the family – always the family. I went to the hotel school here. There is high demand for places at the catering college, because positions on cruise ships are very attractive to our students. Of course, they all want to be stars, to be famous and have their own TV programmes! But if that is their only motivation, and they lack the passion for cooking, they will not last.
‘I worked in Mauritius for two or three years; then I got a chance to go to France as an apprentice on stage. I did that for a while, then came back to Mauritius. I then had an opportunity to go to Dubai, to get more experience, and I was at the Royal Mirage there for four years.
‘After that I went to Bermuda for 3½ years at the Mandarin Oriental Group, and then transferred to Hong Kong. After 2 years there I moved to Montreal, Canada, and was there for 7 years, and was able to obtain a Canadian passport.
‘But Mum and Dad kept calling, and I decided to come home and take care of them. So I’ve been here at Outrigger for 3 years now – first at Edgewater, and now at The Plantation Club fine-dining restaurant.’
How would you describe the food at The Plantation Club?
‘I have a fairly free hand in the kitchen, and with the Executive Chef [read my interview here] and the General Manager, Mr Cyrille Carmona, we test and taste new dishes together, and change the menu. My style is a modern fusion-Mauritian cuisine. We have a lot of local produce that we can use – seafood, fruits and vegetables; the meat we tend to buy from abroad, such as from Australia. From what I have learnt in Europe and North America, combined with modern Asian cuisine and the great food available in Mauritius, we try to make delicious tasty dishes.
‘Although there are no great seasonal climate changes here, we do review the menu from time to time and introduce new dishes to the à la carte menu.’
Who has been the greatest influence on your career?
‘My biggest influence has been my Dad – he used to cook a fish curry for me when I was young. He worked in the police at the airport, and we would eat with him at the airport hotel every weekend. I think that experience, along with my Dad teaching me how to taste, what ingredients I should use to improve the dish, encouraging me to cook for him, really set me on the path to this career. But I should also say that I try to follow chef Alain Ducasse!’
How have the menus at Outrigger evolved, during your time here?
‘I think that my overseas experience has allowed me to bring new influences, little by little, to the menus at Outrigger. We are very open to new ideas here. Some of my staff here have real potential – while we have been working together, they have learned the right ways and I tell them that if they follow through, they will go further. I encourage them to have a feeling, a passion, for cooking.
‘Sometimes, you can see that someone simply does not have that passion, and they come to work just for a job. Discipline is not as strict now as it once was, and young people are drawn by the internet to believe that they can do whatever they like. They don’t understand that hard work and discipline are essential, especially in a kitchen environment. But eventually they ‘hit the wall’ and come back down to earth and accept what they must do to progress.’
Was your first overseas job difficult?
‘Going overseas was a challenge, as the way of thinking was very different, but here in Mauritius there is a strong urge to learn from others, and the college tutors were mostly from France. These days more are Mauritian, but all have that overseas influence.’
What did you miss when you were working overseas?
‘It was the real taste of spices – it’s different. At home we have a speciality, dholl puri, and we just couldn’t reproduce that familiar taste in Montreal. So whenever Mum and Dad came visiting, they had to bring dholl puri with them to Canada – and lots, too, so we could put some in the freezer!
‘Other typical Mauritian dishes include our Dim Sum: Shao Mai dumplings, and Niouk Yen balls, both made with local chouchou or chayote, related to squashes. Our fried noodles, too – the Chinese dishes found in Mauritius are really quite different from those elsewhere in the world.’
Resorts anywhere have the task, and it isn’t an easy one, of feeding guests en masse. It’s a pleasant surprise to find The Plantation Club, with all its high-end and polished quality. Discerning diners will not be disappointed!
Outrigger Mauritius Beach Resort
Phone: +230 623 5000
Fax: +230 623 5001