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Bonjour Jonathan, so tell us your Koh Phangan story...
It started last august when I came to see the business prospects and to look for business possibilities on the island, especially in terms of food and restaurants.
I was owner of a bar in Diego Suarez in Madagascar. Fred is my very close friend, he calls me his ‘little bro’ and is a very well known chef in the Indian Ocean. He was the chef of the
best restaurant ‘La Villa’ in Tananarive.
So myself and Fred had been living in Madagascar for ten years when we decided that we wanted to work in another country and to launch another business. So the two of us, along with Didier and Ronan went to Koh Phangan to see if there were possibilities for a food business.
We noticed Koh Samui had a lot of restaurants but only two real french ones. The idea was to look for a place here to launch a new restaurant which would be a typical high quality french food restaurant as Fred is a very good chef.
We looked around and wasn’t completely sure but noticed that Phangan is going to grow up more and more and so there will be more possibilities here at this time, than in Samui. The island is more pleasant also.
We found this place, it was owned by two people from Switzerland and they wanted to leave.
Among all the possibilities we thought that this place was a good one so we made the deal.
Why the name ‘Baobab’?
Because Madagascar is known for having the most beautiful Baobab trees in the world, more than Africa itself.
It’s a well known African tree which is very special and almost sacred in Africa.
What is the concept of the restaurant?
Traditional french food with local products, mixed with the experience of chef Fred in Madagascar.
And to make it famous in Koh Phangan compared to the other restaurants for its French elaborate food.
What is Fred’s style of cooking?
Traditional french, It’s no new cuisine, in France it’s how our Grandma would make cuisine.
He is passionate about good quality, local products but it is more difficult to find good products here.
So how do you source these quality products?
Because of Fred’s experience he looks everywhere! Here on the island he is asking people, and also in Samui or Bangkok to try to find the best quality. Especially for the vegetables but it’s not easy.
Explain to people the ambience of the restaurant...
Warmful with a friendly atmosphere, it’s not stiff, people can talk easily and it’s especially beautiful at sunset with soft music.
Where do you see the restaurant in a few years?
To do well not only in Koh Phangan but the whole of Thailand!! In fact, if it becomes the best restaurant on Phangan and Samui it will be very nice; there’s already one chef in Samui who has made his the ‘best in Samui’ but it’s small with only twenty six covers. But it is not necessary to have a great big restaurant to succeed.
What is certain is there is no there chef like Fred on Koh Phangan, that’s for sure. But to make it known on Phangan is not very easy.
There are two kinds of consumers, the backpackers - that’s not for here, then the local residents and high level tourists. There wasn’t that high level a couple of years ago but now there are more high level resorts etc.. and they don’t want to stay just in their resorts, they want to go out and try things and that’s where we fit in, we’ll see...
What is special for you about Koh Phangan?
The island is special among the isles in Thailand because it is not completely wild but it’s more so than Samui, it’s ‘smarter’ than Samui and it’s better, with less people drinking beer all night etc, that’s not the kind of customers we meet (well apart from at Full Moon).
The landscape is more wild and natural and I hope it will stay like that, there’s less real estate and resorts but still development potential.
Koh Phangan also has a reputation as a well appreciated island by the King of Thailand, he liked Koh Phangan very much and used to have a residence here, this makes it special also.
What is your favourite thing to eat?
Our ‘homemade duck ‘foie gras’ (liver), wild peppers and onion compote with rosemary’ and for the main it would be ‘candied lamb over a wood fire as with granny’.
It is not only that it’s French but I like every food in the world with good ingredients, good flour and good products, the choice of products is important to me.
Fred will take much more care with products even if it is difficult here in Thailand.
Thank you so much for having us, what is your life philosophy?
To avoid stupid people.