History of Tequila Reef!
All of Our Fabulous Food recipes Come from Robb Vaughn. We kindly thank Pattaya Mail for the following article:
Anyone who can use the words sociology, anthropology and cooking in the one sentence has to be an interesting person. Robb Vaughn, one of the partners in the new Tequila Reef Restaurant, and responsible for the cooking side of it, is one of those – an interesting man who thinks while he cooks.
Robb was born in San Diego, California, the younger child of an aeronautical engineer father. By the time he was 13, the family had moved to Hawaii, where Robb completed his schooling and then entered the University of Hawaii where he completed three years of a Sociology degree. This he described as, “A truly useless degree course from a 2nd rate university, whose motto was Truth, Knowledge and a Great Tan.”
Dropping out of uni, Robb moved to the beautiful island of Kauai and became a fully fledged hippy with shoulder length hair (where is it now, Robb?). “We were not ready for the world, we didn’t want real jobs, we wanted to surf.”
It was there in Kauai that Robb met the Magic Mushroom. This was a surfer style restaurant and he and a friend invested $3000 each and bought it. It should be pointed out that the $3000 came from his long suffering father, who when he saw his son’s living quarters at the restaurant said, “Robb, do you know you live in a chicken coop?”
As his business partner was a drama major it was decided he would do the “front of the house” duties, so the almost sociologist Robb became the cook by default. However, he found that he loved it. (For those with an eye for trivia, the original menu for the Magic Mushroom is framed on the wall at Tequila Reef.)
After 12 months, they sold the Magic Mushroom and went their separate ways, with Robb, now engrossed in his cooking career, taking a 12 month apprenticeship with a French restaurant. “This was my entry into the real world.”
From there he was snapped up by the Sheraton in Maui, whose executive chef became his mentor. “A complete Nazi perfectionist!” It was this man who recommended him for further chef management training within the Sheraton group and it was with them that he rose through the culinary pecking order.
By now, the still young Robb, at 26 years old, understood that his career path was actually a means of travel to the beautiful places in the world, and he moved to Carmel in California. It was from this base that he became exposed to the California Nouvelle Cuisine, and with frequent trips to Mexico became enamoured of that country’s cooking as well.
By the time he was 30, he had moved to L.A. where he became vice president of Merlin McFly’s restaurant and then moved around the country opening up the new McFly’s chain.
However, after the chain was sold, he packed his portable skills in his overnight bag and moved to San Francisco where he worked in consultancy positions for the openings of new restaurants for a couple of years and then opened up a Mexican restaurant there himself.
Around this time, Robb also made his first trip to Thailand at the behest of his cousin Darrell Woolley, who was also in the restaurant business in Thailand, but in the management side. The culinary attraction of Thailand was very strong for Robb. “Thais are obsessed with food. I am just fascinated by the Thai street vendors in the way they cook.” Following this attraction, Robb made another trip to Thailand and spent some time here to do a cooking course at the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok and then returned to San Francisco where he opened his own restaurant, The Occidental, in 1993.
This restaurant was very popular, known at one stage as San Francisco’s Martini Mecca and Cigar Bar. Life was good, but like all good things, there was to be an end after the pralines, coffee and cigars! The restaurant building was earmarked for demolition, as it had not been built to the new earthquake standards, and restaurant cigar smoking had become outlawed and the Occidental was closed last year.
This time the cousins put their heads together and the Tequila Reef project was born. As Robb said, “Moving to another country was something I had never done before. I have a curiosity about life and like learning new things. A recipe is like anthropology. How the culture values its foods can tell you so much about the country,” said Robb, getting all excited about the project ahead of him.
For Robb, success is “Being able to live in beautiful places and having the ability to move somewhere to learn new things, new cultures and be creative.” When asked what his advice would be to those who would wish to follow his steps through the world’s kitchens he said, “Chef’s make the worst husbands. It is very difficult to have a personal life because you’re always working. It takes immense work – you need passion.”
There is no doubt about the fact that Robb Vaughn has maintained his passion. “I find cooking intellectually stimulating. I am still buying cook books and in the kitchen you live in your own world, where you can create things.” That passion includes a five year business plan for the Tequila Reef project which involves agricultural ideas such as importing and growing his own special chillies as well as expansion within SE Asia.
You get the feeling that Robb Vaughn will never stop. He is a wonderfully articulate host whose enthusiasm for his food is infectious. Pattaya welcomes the sociological anthropological chef. A breath of fresh air in Soi 7.
NACHO SUAVE’S WORLD FAMOUS MARGARITAS & COCKTAILS
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