It is with great pleasure that this issue of About Him welcomes Marco Boscaini, Executive Chef of Prego Restaurant and Amaya Food Gallery. I’m quite sure it’s around 15 years we have been enjoying not only Chef Marco’s excellent cuisine but also his warm friendship and hospitality.
Not a surprise really that Marco is one of Samui’s longest-standing chefs and expats. So, on the search for some of his secret recipe tips, One Coast had to find out more.
1. Marco, welcome to One Coast. Could you first tell us a little about where you were born, grew up and what you did before arriving in Thailand?
I was born in Varallo Sesia, a small tourist village in Piedmont in northern Italy. After my studies and military service, I started my journey as a cook’s assistant in a small restaurant where I refined my skills as a cook and later ran a restaurant of my own for three years. At the age of 30, Thailand called and I decided to try a new experience.
2. Was Prego your first restaurant in Thailand?
It was in 1996 when I was called to conduct training on Italian cooking in Thailand. I worked in some restaurants in the kingdom before reaching Amari where I was given the opportunity to work as the head chef a new restaurant in Samui called Prego.
3. Have you been Prego’s chef since the beginning of the Amari restaurant?
It was 2003 when Amari decided to open Prego and I was part of the project from the beginning – from looking at the construction site, to planning the kitchen, hiring the staff and training them. It was an exciting time that continues through today.
4. The last 15 years has seen many changes on Samui. What was it like for you back then?
Fifteen years ago, Samui was an island not yet very well known, with not many facilities or large hotel chains, so even finding authentic products was really a challenge. Many products were sent to me by air and I personally picked them up at the airport.
5. What changes has Prego gone through in these years?
Prego was immediately a point of reference for Italian cuisine in Samui, and was a great success for all of us. Over these years, we have experienced many changes, including the development of the island, which has brought more suppliers so many products can now be purchased on site. Additionally, we had the great renovation of the restaurant two years ago, which provided additional comfort to our customers with a new bar and lounge, two air-conditioned dining rooms, the new al fresco dining room, as well as totally new kitchens with the most advanced equipment imported from Italy!
6. Now you are also looking after Amaya Food Gallery. Can you tell us something about this?
I can say that this has been a process of growth for me. After many years at Prego, with the total renewal of Amari Koh Samui two years ago and the creation of Amaya Food Gallery, I have had the opportunity to experience different cuisines, not only Thai but from other regions of Southeast Asia too. With our open kitchens, our customers can not only enjoy local and regional dishes, but also see their preparation.
7. One of my personal reasons for always visiting Prego, apart from the amazing dishes, is the service of your staff. I think I’ve even complimented you on it before. What is Amari’s secret to such excellent quality of staff?
This is another part of our success. Amari is famous for forming excellent elements; and at Prego, this is amplified by our team attitude and being proud to be a part of a great experience. Constant training makes the difference and helps the team to grow.
8. What does the future hold for Prego?
Prego always has an eye on the future. You can see our plans on our website www.prego-samui.com. Our Facebook page with weekly promotions, our Prego Sunday Brunch to Saturday Night Tapas, and the Resident Dining Card (an instrument that many residents use constantly) are all elements that help us to look towards the future with a smile.
9. It seems that when I come to Prego, you are always there! Do you actually have any time off and what do you do for recreation on Samui?
Really? I do my job enthusiastically and it is a pleasure for me to be a part of Prego.
As for my free time on Samui, I just relax with good music or a good movie, and certainly visit restaurants and wine bars.
10. What would be your favourite dishes? One meat and one pasta?
If I had to choose a meat dish, definitely Saltimbocca – thin slices of veal covered by a slice of Parma ham and a leaf of sage with a jump in a cooking pan. The pasta? Do not ask me this. I was born in the middle of fresh pasta, so when we talk about pasta – if it’s home-made, anything in every sauce.
11. Do you have a secret Italian cooking tip for our readers? Something where you know most non-Italians would go wrong?
Surely, talking about cooking pasta, remember the famous 10, 100, 1,000 – that is, in a litre of boiling water, 100 grams of pasta and 10 grams of salt. This is a simple rule to remember. Keep in mind that the salt is thrown in the pot when the water boils, immediately followed by the pasta.
12. Tonight, you are going out with friends to enjoy a good meal in a non-work environment. Where do you go and what do you choose?
Spending a lot of time with the Italian flavours of Prego, I would opt for something simple but of quality. It could be a nice dinner in a cosy small restaurant looking at the sunset or certainly an aperitif at Drink Gallery followed by an evening at Stacked, where there are not only hamburgers but many other culinary surprises.