Chef's Talk

Chef Ricardo Nunes

Chef Ricardo Nunes, Head Chef at hom restaurant, took his first steps in a professional kitchen at tender age of nineteen and since has honed his skills at several Michelin-starred establishments including Potong, La Dame de Pic, Belcanto and Gaggan. Resident fermentation specialist at hom, Mateo Polanco, works closely with Chef Ricardo to further develop the intricacies of the fermentation techniques utilised across all dishes and beverages at hom. Both Ricardo and Mateo have a strong belief in the pursuit of perpetual improvement; this innate curiosity and passion for discovery enables the duo to create endlessly innovative menus.


Was your decision to become a chef conscious or did you fall into it?

My decision to become a chef was not entirely conscious; it was more of a serendipitous journey. Initially, my passion and dream were focused on football, and I pursued it until I was 22/23. However, I found myself working in a small burger restaurant to make a living while still holding onto my football aspirations. It was during this time that I had an unexpected opportunity – an internship with a 2-star Michelin chef. Little did I know that this experience would become a turning point in my life. During my internship at his renowned restaurants Mini Bar and Belcanto in Lisbon, I discovered that cooking shared many similarities with football – hard work, discipline, consistency, repetition, and team effort. These familiar aspects provided me with a sense of belonging and comfort during the initial years of my chef journey. Eventually, circumstances forced me to let go of my dreams in football, and that’s when I fully embraced cooking. The passion I had for football slowly transitioned into a genuine love for food.


Who was your biggest influences to embrace a cooking career?

In my journey towards embracing a cooking career, I don’t have any specific individuals who served as my biggest influences. I was driven more by curiosity and desire to learn. Initially, I didn’t pay much attention to the Michelin star concept or any awards. However, I recognized that those establishments awarded with Michelin stars were the places where I could delve deeper and learn more about cooking.

Rather than being influenced by specific people, I was driven by a desire to immerse myself in environments where I could gain a more profound understanding of the craft. I looked for opportunities to work in restaurants with acclaimed reputations, such as — Belcanto in Lisbon, Gaggan in Bangkok, Ikoyi in London. These experiences allowed me to learn from talented chefs, observe their techniques, and absorb knowledge through hands-on work


What are some emerging food trends that you’re noticing?

I have noticed several trends, and while some I see as annoying (such as complete made-up story telling narratives) there are others that I believe are important to highlight, such as increased emphasis on local sourcing and supporting local farmers and artisans.

Dining establishments are recognizing the value of using ingredients that are locally and sustainably produced. Another trend that stands out is the focus on sustainable practices. Restaurants are implementing measures to reduce waste, minimize their environmental impact, and promote responsible sourcing. While there are certainly trends that might come and go, local sourcing and sustainable practices remain important in the (fine) dining industry. A few other are Plant-based cuisine, Tech-driven interactive concepts, and fusion of cultural cuisines.


How easy or difficult is it to find the right ingredients for your cuisine in Phuket?

Finding the right ingredients for hom, can be both easy and challenging, depending on the specific ingredient and its quality requirements. In general, every ingredient can be considered “right” as long as it aligns with the intended flavors and techniques of the cuisine being prepared.

Ultimately, the success of a dish relies on our skill and creativity, and our ability to work with the ingredients at hand. That being said, one aspect that poses a challenge is finding high-quality meat. While meat is available in Phuket, I feel that the quality is rarely met. I know that great food starts with great ingredients and while the availability and quality of certain ingredients may vary, it doesn’t limit the potential for deliciousness.


What would you cook at home if you were just making a laid-back dinner?

I love charcuterie board and gnocchi with wild garlic pesto and Portuguese canned sardines.


What’s the difference between being a Chef in Portugal and in Phuket?

The main difference between being a chef in Portugal and Phuket, apart from the obvious variation in ingredients, lies in the mindset. In Portugal, there is a stronger emphasis on the restaurant culture and a greater sense of shared knowledge among chefs. There is a rich culinary tradition, and the focus is often on pushing the boundaries of restaurant dining.

On the other hand, in Phuket and Thailand as a whole, I feel the culinary landscape may be more diverse and influenced by street food culture. While there is certainly an incredible restaurant scene, there is a greater emphasis on local and traditional flavours, as well as a strong presence of street vendors and local markets. The culinary knowledge is more decentralized and rooted in family recipes and traditional techniques.


How is people’s relationship with food different between Portugal and Thailand?

In my experience, the relationship with food in Portugal and Thailand has distinct characteristics that reflect their respective cultures. Growing up in Portugal, I’ve witnessed how food holds a special place in our hearts. It’s not just about nourishment but also about comfort, tradition, and family.

Our meals are often an opportunity to gather with loved ones, share stories, and savor the flavors of recipes passed down through generations. Whether it’s enjoying a hearty Portuguese stew or the sweetness of a pastel de nata (my favourite and soon to be on the menu), there’s a deep sense of connection and nostalgia associated with Portuguese cuisine.

On the other hand, my time in Thailand has exposed me to a vibrant food culture. Thai people have an incredible passion for food, and it permeates their daily lives. Street food is an integral part of Thai culinary traditions. Eating at a food stall or exploring a bustling night market is a sensory adventure. There’s a sense of excitement and joy in exploring the vibrant street food scene.

Both Portugal and Thailand have left an impression on me, each with its unique relationship with food. Portugal’s emphasis on home-cooked meals and family connections has instilled a deep appreciation for tradition and heritage. At the same time, Thailand’s street food culture has opened my eyes to the wonders of bold flavors and communal dining experiences. These have broadened my perspective on food and taught me that the relationship with what we eat can be diverse, personal, and profoundly enriching.


Is there one dish that sums up your style?

I continue to refine my craft, I don’t believe there is one specific dish that completely sums it up at this stage. As I progress on my journey, each dish I create brings me closer to discovering my unique style. My approach to food is deeply influenced by my travels, experiences, and emotions, resulting in a highly personal and heartfelt expression.

One aspect that characterizes my style is a preference for minimalism. I strive to achieve simplicity and elegance in my dishes, allowing the flavours and ingredients to take centre stage. By focusing on elements and eliminating unnecessary distractions, I aim to create dishes that are visually appealing and balanced. As I mature as a chef, I find myself resonating more and more with the quote by Miles Davis, “Sometimes it takes you a long time to sound like yourself.” It encapsulates the understanding that developing a distinctive voice is a gradual process that evolves over time.


Will any of the dishes you discovered recently be making their way onto your menus?

Yes, one dish will indeed be making its way onto the menus soon. It is a young jackfruit, that Mateo has been playing with it, cooked in roses mead and served with a torch ginger and berries praline. This dish represents an explorative direction that hom is embracing. While it may require some explanation and open-mindedness from our guests, I believe that it exemplifies the direction in which my cooking is heading, embracing exploration, bold flavours, and unexpected combinations.


Do you try out dishes on your family or friends?

I sometimes invite my girlfriend or my brothers when they are around, to come and have dinner at the restaurant. Probably the only opinions I trust coming from honesty.


How often do you change at the menu at hom?

The frequency of menu changes at hom depends on several factors, including the availability of seasonal ingredients and our ongoing culinary exploration as well feelings towards the produce.


Do you serve vegetarian dishes?

We have vegetarian dishes, we can cook it, but it’s not my focus right now to have vegetarian options. If at one point, season or time, when vegetables and fruits are in abundance, peak seasonality and delicious and we feel like shifting direction we will.


What do you think the most important qualities are in a young chef?

Patience, humbleness and aggressiveness to go after knowledge.


What do you think about chefs like Gordon Ramsay, who have taken haute cuisine to the masses via reality TV?

Personally, I think Gordon Ramsay have made a positive impact on the culinary world by taking haute cuisine to the masses through reality TV. His achievements in the industry and his expertise make him deserve of his status as a reality TV chef.

Additionally, the financial rewards that come with reality TV are undoubtedly appealing. I know I would take it. Being able to earn significant paychecks for a few hours of recording is an opportunity that any chef would find enticing. It not only rewards the hard work and talent but also opens doors to new opportunities and collaborations.

However, it’s important to acknowledge that reality TV can be criticized for its sensationalism and the potential distortion of the true essence of cooking. I can argue that the focus on drama and entertainment overshadows the haute cuisine. It’s also important to acknowledge that not all chefs resonate with or aspire to the celebrity chef culture promoted by reality TV shows. Some chefs prefer to focus on their craft and the integrity of their creations without the distractions of fame and media exposure. This doesn’t diminish the value of their contributions to the culinary world.

In the end, while I appreciate the exposure and entertainment value that chefs like Gordon Ramsay bring, I believe that the true essence of being a chef lies in passion, dedication, and the pursuit of culinary excellence rather than seeking fame through reality TV. Each chef has his own unique path and priorities, and it’s up to individuals to decide what aligns with their goals and values in the culinary industry. It’s worth mentioning that in Thailand this culture is different than in Europe or US and its more based on connections and fame rather than talent.


Can you name some famous people you have cooked for?

Alain Ducasse, David Munoz, Paulo Ferreira, some Thai actors that my staff gets excited about it and others I can’t remember.


What’s the one cooking tool that a Chef should not be without?

Knife and flexible spatula


What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

There’s some quotes sent to me by friends/family but I memorized the following as it felt right at that moment in my life:
– “No matter how good you are, if you stay for too long you spoil it. A good dancer must know when to leave the stage.”
– “Be that quiet man, you don’t have to tell people everything you know.”


What’s are your favorite restaurants in Phuket?

Kaab Gluay, Mor Mu Dang, hom


Your favorite holiday destination?

I love the tranquillity of the Philippines, Portugal and Italy.


What’s next for you (plans, dreams, …)?

What’s next for me is an exciting chapter of self-expression and personal growth as I am looking to venture into a solo project. Working under someone else can sometimes limit the extent to which I can truly express myself, so I am determined to create a space where every aspect, from the décor to the food, is a reflection of my unique vision and identity. In line with my passion for exploration and culinary diversity, I plan to continue traveling and immersing myself in different cuisines.

As part of this journey, I am currently trying to organize a long-term pop-up in Portugal, my native country. This will give me the opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills I’ve acquired to the ingredients and culinary traditions of my own culture, bridging the gap between my experiences and my roots. While I have been more inclined toward short-term plans in the past, I am now embracing the idea of long-term vision and planning. The next 5-10 years are going to be exciting.

Discover Chef Ricardo’s hom restaurant at InterContinental Resort Phuket here…