Lifestyle

Meet Patricia Yeo, Celebrated Head Chef of Maslina Resort on Hvar

May 7, 2020 - Maslina Resort is a five-star boutique hotel, slated to open this summer in Maslinica Bay on the island of Hvar, just minutes away from the UNESCO-protected Stari Grad.

As Maslina Resort gears up for its summer opening in Maslinica Bay on the island of Hvar, it is actively recruiting to craft the ideal team. 

With a mission to honor the UNESCO-protected Mediterranean diet on the island, the Wine & Dine department at Maslina Resort is of crucial importance - and perhaps the most prominent character to the puzzle is pronouncing the perfect chef - Patricia Yeo. 

By fusing elements of an international upbringing that took her from Malaysia to England to the United States, with a precision that she honed as a trained scientist, Patricia Yeo has been celebrated for her unique cuisine ever since her first restaurant, AZ, opened in 1999. The favorite of The New York Times also received two Michelin stars in 2002. 

But the accolades didn’t stop here. After AZ, Yeo received three New York Times stars for a Mediterranean concept Pazo in 2004, and in 2008, two New York Times stars for a French-Vietnamese restaurant Sapa, all while consulting and launching projects in Boston. 

After over twenty years in fine dining in Manhattan, Yeo explored a more corporate role in national and international restaurant groups, and her culinary prowess was pivotal in restaurants within hotels in Las Vegas, the Caribbean, London and Singapore. Hooked by the luxury travel bug, Yeo roamed to remote and exotic locations around the world, from stints in Oman and Turkey with Six Senses to Shina Mani Wild in the jungles of Cambodia while overseeing food and beverage services at Shinta Mani and Treeline in Siem Reap.

Promising to balance traditional and innovative techniques, and local and international culinary styles, Patricia Yeo is the ideal candidate to lead the culinary team at Maslina Resort. TCN met up with Patricia to learn more about her role in the new luxury resort. 

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Nataly Lee

First, tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to being head chef at Maslina Resort?

I am culturally confused; I'm of Chinese ancestry born in Malaysia, raised in the UK and the US. I’ve also lived for extended periods in five other countries.  All this traveling is a real advantage culinarily.  

I was browsing LinkedIn and saw a post for the chef position at Maslina, I usually would not respond, but on a lark, I sent Zoran a note, he responded in 2 hours, and two weeks later I was moving to Croatia.  

How would you explain your culinary philosophy? 

I think my food is very much ingredient-based. Use the best ingredients and treat them with respect. This means using meats that are ethically grown and killed humanely, using the whole animal not just the prime cuts, fish that is locally and preferably line caught (i.e., not trawled with large nets which catch fish indiscriminately trapping young breeding fish interrupting the live cycle), produce that is locally grown and in season. This means I do a lot of preserving, whether it is pickling, curing, jamming, dehydrating. It allows me to use cherries in December because I brandied it in June.  

How will this philosophy integrate into the cuisine at Maslina Resort?

Part of the reason I am so excited to be at Maslina, is because it is a prolific growing region with a great variety of fish and game. I have gone foraging with a local lady who is an ethnobotanist, and there are so many wild plants and herbs that are edible. Having the ability to use local, foraged ingredients is such a treat. I can’t wait for the mushroom season this fall. As someone who is inspired by ingredients I am in heaven, nothing inspires and excites more than picking perfect kumquats from a fruit-laden bush or watching figs ripen on a tree down the street. Really, everywhere one walks on Hvar, there are sights and smells that inspire, rosemary, pine, wild sage, briny sea breeze, lemon blossom. It is fabulous.  

How will you implement local producers and suppliers?

We are fortunate at Maslina to have a great organic garden that is in a sheltered bay with lots of light, water, and well protected from the winds.  Mario, our fabulous head gardener, will be able to grow a lot of herbs and soft greens for the kitchen. We are also going to work with a number of farmers from the Stari Grad Plains, and in some cases, they will grow specialty products for us and in others, we will simply use what they normally grow.  We have made really good contacts from local goat cheese producers to beekeepers for honey and wax to fishermen. Because of the style of the menu (which will change daily, we are able to work with whatever ingredient they bring us. It is a more organic way of cooking, letting the ingredients dictate what we cook rather than having a menu dictate the ingredients we use. It is also a lot more fun.

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Nataly Lee

What would you name as the key differences between working in a hotel or resort and a standalone restaurant?

The main difference is not the work in the kitchen, by that, I mean the cooking and production of good food are the same in both cases. The difference is the financial aspect of the business. As a chef of a standalone restaurant (especially if you are also the owner), there is a constant worry about making enough to pay the bills. In a resort or hotel, one of the most expensive fixed cost is eliminated. Rent usually takes up as much as 40% of a restaurant’s revenue, so with not paying rent, you are already ahead of the game.

From a Food & Beverage perspective, what is required to operate in a luxury resort? 

Producing good food, whether it is in a luxury resort, a fine dining restaurant or even in your home kitchen, is the same, I think. You need to care about what you are doing; you need to be flexible and adapt to the needs and desires of your guest, you need to create a great environment for your guests to enjoy the meal. Luxury means different things to different people.  Luxury, for me, means having a choice, be it caviar and champagne or a grilled cheese sandwich. Our goal is to provide this choice. 

Has the island of Hvar and Croatia been able to provide everything you need so far?

It has been fabulous, not just in terms of cuisine but also in terms of a wonderfully beautiful place to live. The people in Stari Grad have been so warm and welcoming. They are so willing to share recipes, cooking techniques, local knowledge of ingredients.  

What are you looking forward to most about running the kitchen at Maslina Resort? And about being in Croatia?

One of the first things I am going to do once I can get into the kitchen at Maslina is cooking for my co-workers, who have become my family in Croatia. There is nothing better than cooking for the people you love.

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Nataly Lee

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