Chef de cuisine Christopher Warwick runs a restaurant at the Soneva Fushi resort in the Maldives. He talks to Janet Harmer about island living
What's the style and setting of the Soneva Fushi resort?
Soneva Fushi is an island paradise with organic surroundings made from sustainable materials, which gives it a very natural feel. It offers intelligent, barefoot luxury, and our philosophy is ‘no news, no shoes'.
How many bedrooms/villas and guests does it have?
We have 56 villas on the resort, creating space for up to 150 guests, with a mix of ‘Crusoe villas' for two people or a ‘jungle reserve' option for up to 10 people.
How many staff and chefs?
What are your responsibilities?
I am chef de cuisine of the fine-dining restaurant Fresh in the Garden, better known as FIG.
What makes the role unique?
Being part of this special island and having my own gardens to pick produce from one hour before service.
What encouraged you to work in the Maldives?
I have always followed and worked for inspiring people throughout my career and the island owners Sonu and Eva Shivdasani are two of the most inspiring entrepreneurs and hoteliers in the industry today. After my interview with Sonu I was hooked on his drive and ambition for his island and the philosophy for intelligent luxury.
How did you find the role?
A passing conversation between contacts developed into a more serious opportunity. I got glowing references from Marco Pierre White and John Campbell to add support to my application, and the rest is history.
How does the job compare to your earlier overseas roles in California and Dubai?
It's very different in many ways. I was working under super-chefs Jason Atherton in Dubai and Thomas Keller at the French Laundry in California.
It was Jason who gave me my first big break into the top end of the industry and gave me a huge responsibility as head pastry chef for Verre, Gordon Ramsay's signature restaurant in Dubai. I was very young and inexperienced, only 24 years old, and for that opportunity I will always be grateful.
In America, I was so broke it took me two years to fund it and five years to pay it off with my credit cards, but it was worth every penny to stand in that kitchen and cook some of the most refined food in the world for Thomas Keller.
The difference here is that I am running my own restaurant with a mature approach and creating a food style that fits neatly with the philosophy of the island.
What do you like about working in the Maldives?
Being able to focus in an environment that gives me the freedom to develop the team and myself at a restaurant with a very high standard of cuisine and service.
What do you dislike?
Not being able to see people I care about and love very much as often as I would like to.
What are the key challenges of working in the country?
I don't really see any challenges as overseas skills are embraced here in a thriving hospitality industry. I would advise anyone to go for it and be a professional castaway and enjoy every minute of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of island living.
Can you give some examples of the dishes you are now cooking?
There are two ingredients for which the Maldives is famous - coconuts and the world's best tuna. The tuna is caught by local fishermen, who we support. We have a tuna dish with lavender honey, beetroot and garden flowers, as well as our signature dessert, the Soneva Bounty. This is a Fair Trade chocolate-spiced ganache served in a coconut shell au naturel with coriander oil and natural coconut ice-cream.
What advice would you give to anyone in hospitality wishing to work on a remote island?
Be committed to your position and be prepared for some of the things you took for granted back home not to be so readily available. The rewards override anything you may miss.
August 2014-present Chef de cuisine, Soneva Fushi
2013-14 Executive chef, John Campbell Restaurants
2011-13 Executive chef, Marco Pierre White Restaurants
2010-11 Head chef, Coworth Park under John Campbell
2009 Head chef/development chef, Galvin Bistrot de Luxe
2007-08 Head chef, Colette's at the Grove, Hertfordshire