Pang Boon Aik, Director of Food & Beverage, Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas

Pang Boon Aik, Director of F&B, Anantara Desaru

Pang Boon Aik

In this interview, Pang Boon Aik, Director of Food & Beverage, Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas, tells of tough times during the pandemic, sustainability practices and how he got into the industry.

What do you do?

I am Pang Boon Aik, director of food and beverage at Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas. They call me Boon which can sound like Bond.

My family and friends see me working at the beach resort and are like “What a wonderful job life!” In reality, my job is to make the guests at this resort feel wonderful. But seriously, overseeing the entire resort’s food and beverage planning and service, with duties that include menu and wine planning and costs, preparation and presentation of food and drinks based on our concepts, and adherence to quality and safety standards. Plan, coordinate, and oversee special events, and provide input for strategic decisions that affect many areas of responsibility.

How did you get into the industry?

It was during the school holidays and I wanted to earn some pocket money so I worked at Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur as a part-time casual worker in the banquet. I admired all the managers and even the waiters – the way they led a large group of staff and successfully executed every large and VIP event. From that moment on, I knew that this is the place that will groom real leaders in this industry.

Share with us a story from behind the scenes.

Being the first property of the Anantara brand to open in Malaysia, we were unknown to many suppliers and the hospitality industry. As a new destination, we had to introduce ourselves to suppliers, and fly to Sabah and Langkawi to hire most of the fresh graduates. Looking back on this amazing journey from the opening back in 2019, it has given all of us here as a team real satisfaction as we position our resort on the world map today by achieving various international awards.

What’s a food memory from your childhood or travels that stands out?

My mom’s cooking. When I was working abroad, knowing I will only be able to enjoy my mom’s cooking less frequently, I bought flight tickets for mom to visit me and I made a recipe book based on her cooking style and most of the recipe measurements were “agak agak” (at your own taste). To sharpen my cooking skills I would cook for my mum when I came home.

What’s the best part of your job?

Meeting people from all walks of life and making their special moments with us happy ones. I also get the opportunity to be creative with menus and banquet set-ups.

What’s your favourite food and beverage pairing?

Everyone has different tastes and preferences, and each person had their own favourite pairing. For me, it’s sake and yakitori. A simply grilled yakitori and a bottle of sake complemented by soft music and candles complete the dining experience.

What’s one of the craziest things you’ve seen behind the scenes?

So many stories range from ghostly encounters to crisis handling situations, but I would like to share a short story from my first job. It happened during the New Year’s Eve events. My colleagues and I had to lead a team to set up the NYE party in the hotel lobby. We could only start the set-up when all the guests were back in their rooms and we had to complete it before the guests woke up. We managed to complete all the set-up by 6 am and we both decided not to take a hotel room instead we took a quick nap in one of the banquet functions rooms before reporting back to work in two hours for the final preparations for the NYE gala dinner. The next thing I realised when I opened my eyes, we both were surrounded by our colleagues reading the day’s tasks while we both lying on the floor. We both felt so embarrassed and decided to pretend to sleep till the meeting finished. Till today, we both laughed about it whenever we meet up.

The perfect day off would be…

Not waking up to the sound of the alarm! Cooking, eating with my wife. And doing everything with her.

A day in the life of Pang Boon Aik is…

Like in other areas of the hospitality industry, it is busy all the time and I have never experienced a 9 to 5 day or having a public holiday/weekend day off. Every day is different and situations change constantly. We cannot survive and thrive if we are not passionate about F&B and keeping up with trends and how to exceed our diners’ expectations.

What does Pang Boon Aik do for fun?

Try new restaurants. My wife will do the research as we like to support our local and innovative restaurants and bars, especially since the pandemic has hurt so many of them.

What’s something you’d like guests to know about Desaru Coast?

Desaru Coast was recognised as one of the World’s Greatest Places in 2021 by Time Magazine. The imminent opening of the Desaru Coast Ferry terminal will also offer increased travel options for Singaporeans and Indonesians. Being recognised as an aspirational holiday destination that stands out for its unspoilt beauty is an honour and we look forward to showcasing the best of Malaysian hospitality through signature Anantara touches.

How has the pandemic changed you, your perspective, or the way you operate?

It was an unimaginably difficult year that impacted me both personally and professionally. The pandemic has taught me to understand the changes in diners’ behaviours, how to react quickly to the situation and to learn how to be open to business opportunities.

What’s something you’d like people to know about being a Director of Food and Beverage as a profession?

Located in remote areas, you not only have to know how to use the best of everything but to use everything we have and bring out its best.

What’s your view on the restaurant and bar scene on Desaru Coast?

As a destination for our guests, all resorts around us complement each other. Each hotel has its own concept and unique selling points. We offer different cuisine, different price tiers, and special venues that can cater to honeymoon couples, family gatherings, company outings, events launching to weddings ceremonies.

What practices do you currently implement or hope to implement in the future to work towards social responsibility and sustainability?

At the corporate level with a 500+ hotels portfolio, the Minor Hotel Group International is committed to achieving social responsibility and sustainability over the years. We celebrate Minor Founder’s Day annually which is a day that we give back something to the community such as our time, good deeds or contribution. At Anantara Desaru Coast, we feature organic wines in our wine list, sustainable seafood, practice bio-fuel sustainability, supporting “plastic free” by using paper cups and take away boxes, wooden cutlery, stirrers and rice straws. Our latest project is working with “FOLO” (Feed Our Loved One) organic farming system that collects our food waste which is then turned into rich organic compost. And we are in the process of building our own water plant to supply drinking water to our guests. Additionally, we hosted the venues for an art exhibition painting by autistic children and proceeds were donated to the National Autism Society, Malaysia.

What’s in store for you in the upcoming months?

The team and I are very excited to have the borders opening back to the international traveller and eager to showcase our exclusive dining experiences such as our Signature Dining by Design which is a romantic dining at the beach. Culinary Journey, Spice Spoons which is a cooking class with options of Thai or Malay dishes and our villa guests will be able to enjoy in-villa BBQs by the side of their private pool.

Read more interviews such as this one with Pang Boon Aik here, and stay up to date with the latest food and beverage happenings in KL here.

3 Comments

  1. Anantara kinda sounds like Indonesian.

  2. The whole interview shows a great passion and love for gastronomy. Great!

  3. I always love these interviews, well done another great one. Cheers Diane

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