A lot of work goes into managing and maintaining a luxury villa. The service team that works in these sophisticated and gorgeous holiday homes dedicates a lot of their time and energy to keep it pristine and at its best for every guest that enters its doors. The villa staff’s job doesn’t end with keeping the property clean and inhabitable; they also ensure the guests are in their utmost comfort and luxury.
The villa manager (VM) and chef have the most crucial roles in shaping the guests’ experience during their stay in the villa. The manager is the guests’ go-to person for anything they need in and out of the property. They act as their butler, willing to grant any requests that will ease the guests’ concerns and make their stay as pleasant as possible. Meanwhile, the chef’s presence in the villa is felt through taste. Food is paramount in vacations because it’s among the most memorable part of the experience. Though they may have little contact with the guests, their job still entails providing them with satisfying and remarkable meals throughout their stay.
Villa Analaya’s villa manager and chef have long-standing experience in the hospitality industry. Khun Aobb worked in various hotels before becoming Analaya’s villa manager, including the JW Marriot and the Banyan Tree Hotel. Khun Taew is coming up to his 10th year as a professional chef, formerly working in Six Senses and JW Marriott. To gain an in-depth perspective of their roles, they agreed to answer questions about their day-to-day responsibilities at the villa and for its guests.
What is the difference between working at a hotel and working at a villa?
Khun Aobb (VM): At hotels, I only worked for my department. As villa manager, I also take care of the villa.
Khun Taew (chef): Very different. At the hotel, I work with other chefs. But as a villa chef, I manage everything on my own. I like working at the villa because I can decide what to cook – I don’t have to follow a single menu. I have the freedom to choose my dishes, and I can experiment and perfect my signature dishes.
(For VM): What is your secret to providing luxury assistance to guests? Tell us about your approach.
Khun Aobb: Personal service and remember their face. When there are 12 or more guests, I remember all by name and face, even the kids. I make a profile of each guest in my head – their preferences, their habits, etc.
How do you anticipate a guest’s request or their needs before they even ask?
Khun Aobb: I pay attention to the details. I talk to guests, and I listen a lot. You have to do more listening than talking. And you have to pay attention not only to what they say but also to what they don’t say – when they are silent, happy, laughing, and moving.
(For chef): Can you describe Thai food and what makes it unique?
Khun Taew: Thai food is very complex. It has many ingredients and many elements. When someone asks me about Thai food, I cannot explain it in words alone, so I always say, “I will show you.” And I bring them to the kitchen and let them see how I do it.
What’s your signature dish?
Khun Taew: I like Japanese and Italian, like sushi, beef wagyu, pasta, steak, and salad.
I always strive to be better. Every Thai chef can cook Thai food, but I developed my expertise in other cuisines. I’ve worked in five-star hotels that offer Japanese and Italian. Back when I worked in restaurants, nobody wanted to learn these cuisines because they thought they were too hard for Thai people, but I like to challenge myself.
Once, I did a Thai-Italian fusion dish – presented as Italian, but I used Thai ingredients and flavors.
Khun Aobb: I saw her do it. She used a flame thrower on the beef in front of the guests, and they were all impressed.
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(For VM): What are the guests’ first impressions of Villa Analaya? What do they usually call their favorite part of the property?
Khun Aobb: When guests enter the villa, they first see the pool from the stairs and are amazed immediately. Many of the guests also love the beach. On our side of Phuket, the entire coast are rock cliffs. Villa Analaya is the only part where there is a beach. Guests are usually surprised at how secluded the villa is and how close it is to the beach. And when the guests have kids, they go to the trampoline right away.
What do you love most about being a VM and chef?
Khun Aobb: I’m happy to work in such a great environment. I like assisting guests and making them happy, being able to give them what they want. It’s a very fulfilling job that I really enjoy doing. I do the same thing to other people even if they are not villa guests. It’s not like I’m working and just being myself.
I also like learning things from guests, hearing their stories, and discovering their culture and country. It’s like I get to travel just listening to them.
Khun Taew: I like the villa kitchen because it is open to the dining area. I get to talk to guests while cooking – they can see how I cook, and I can show them how to do it. In a restaurant, you are behind walls and feel like a stranger to the people you cook for.
What is your most memorable experience with guests?
Khun Aobb: My most memorable experience are actually not the big events but the simple ones. For example, a couple from England stayed with us, and their favorite thing to do was take photos of the animals and nature around the villa. And there was this blue bird that flew to the sala table every day in front of the guest. It’s like the bird wanted to be photographed.
In hotels here in Thailand, Thai guests have a reputation for being bossy and demanding. I had experiences like that when I was working in hotels. However, during COVID, most of our guests were Thai, and I was surprised at how they were. They treated us as family, and I think being at a villa is a factor on that. The guests don’t see me as just another one of 100 employees at a hotel but as part of the villa – of this home. They related to that because they have a home of their own.
Khun Taew: I had one of my best and worst experiences with the same guest. This one guest arrived and said he was very hungry and wanted to eat right away – he likes spicy food. For Thai, spicy is really spicy, and if the guests say they like spicy, once we give them the food, it’s often too spicy. So sometimes we serve them food with just medium spiciness to start. However, this one guest enjoyed a spicy flavor and complained that the food we served him wasn’t at all spicy for his taste. So I said, “Okay! I will fix it next time and will make it spicy.” So I did in all the following meals – Thai Spicy! And when he left, he was so happy that he ate so much and thanked all of us.
What is the most challenging request you got from guests?
Khun Taew: There was this case with a guest who had four pages of allergies and diet plans. He’s allergic to mushrooms, can only eat fish on a Monday, and has many other food regulations that he strictly follows. It was hard to follow, but I do like challenges. And at the end of their stay, the guest was very happy.
What do you think are the most important values a villa manager and a chef should possess?
Khun Aobb: To be knowledgeable and converse with guests – to talk with substance and not just say yes every time, but talk to them person to person.
It is also essential to be prepared for anything and not to stick to a routine because anything can happen. The most random instances may occur, like a branch from the tree falls, a cereal brand being unavailable, or a problem about this and that. You have to be ready to think of solutions fast. You have to be tough and be ready to work very long hours and go days without being able to go home. But you also have to be sincerely kind. It is the key.
Khun Taew: Personal service is essential because you don’t just cook for guests, but you also serve. You say hi to them, and you interact closely with them. Also, be familiar with different cuisines and not just Thai food. Learning to work on a given budget to adjust costs is also good.
What do you do when you’re not working at the villa?
Khun Aobb: I just got married last year. She is a cook. And when I go home, my job is to do the chores while she cooks for me. And I really like doing that.
Khun Taew: Sometimes I shop. Or I just stay at the villa, and I sleep. I like to sleep. I also browse the web and watch YouTube videos for new dishes. I cook not just for the guests but for the other staff too. But on my days off, I don’t cook at all. I order from outside. Someday, I plan to open a small restaurant.
Khun Taew: Sometimes I shop. Or I just stay at the villa, and I sleep. I like to sleep. I also browse the web and watch YouTube videos for new dishes. I cook not just for the guests but for the other staff too. But on my days off, I don’t cook at all. I tell them to order from outside (laughs). Someday, I plan to open a small restaurant.