In conversation with Chef Raymond Tham on the Dior Café pop-up at Desaru Coast
As you have probably heard and seen all over social media by now, the Ember Beach Club at One&Only Desaru Coast has been given a very fashionable makeover from now until the 6th of August with Malaysia’s first Dioriviera hotel takeover, offering guests and shoppers an unparalleled retail experience while basking the beauty of the serene beachside backdrop.
What’s equally as impressive and exciting is the accompanying Dior Café, a second iteration for Malaysia, led by Dior’s Chef partner, Raymond Tham, Executive Chef and co-owner of Kuala Lumpur’s renowned restaurants Beta KL and Skillet @163. In his secondary collaboration, the culinary maestro looks to the Dioriviera collection for inspiration, offering a Mediterranean twist with summer flavours for this extraordinary occasion. We speak to the chef about his menu curation, sourcing process and more.
Congratulations on your second café collaboration with Dior! How has the process leading up to the pop-up been?
“Thank you! When I first learned about the project, I was told it would be very challenging. The location wasn’t revealed until two months before the launch, but I knew it would be a beach destination. Then, I had about a month to decide on the menu, which I had to submit to Paris for approval. Subsequently, it was a lot of fine-tuning according to Dior’s requests. Once that was settled, I brought my team here to do the prep.”
Will you be based here throughout the entire pop-up duration?
“I would love to, but no, as I have several other projects coming up. My sous chef will be here overseeing the Ember Beach Club team, who will help us to execute the menu.”
How different is your menu now compared to the one at the first Dior Café in 2021?
“The first Dior Café in Kuala Lumpur was inspired by the Cruise 2022 collection, which had references to Greece and Greek Mythology. With Dior being a French Maison, I combined French fare with touches of Greek cuisine.
“For this round, as a Malaysian, we are very honoured to be given the opportunity to set up here. In terms of food, I thought about how I could do it differently. Of course, it still has the French DNA, but there’s a little bit of Malaysian flavours in there as well. I also love Madame Maria Grazia Chiuri’s creations. She’s the Creative Director of Dior, and she’s Italian, so I thought of paying homage to her roots with homemade Duck Prosciutto. And, of course, there’s a bit of the Mediterranean taste too, an ode to the Diorviera collection.”
What dish should one look forward to at the café?
“It’s tough for me to choose because I curated the menu. There’s even a Masak Lemak dish because I’m from Negeri Sembilan. We also came up with a lot of different techniques, such as slow-braising jicama with seaweed and then glazing it with charcoal.”
Some of your ingredients are locally sourced. Tell us more about that.
“Yes, they have a herb garden here in One&Only, so my team will pick the ingredients every morning. In fact, I created two vegan dishes, which were not originally part of the menu—the Sarawak Black Pepper Crusted Tempeh and the Soy Glaze Eryngii Mushroom, Jicama, Kale, Turmeric and Coconut—when we arrived here. I quickly sent it to Paris for approval, and thankfully, there were no issues. The great thing is that all these herbs are organic and homegrown, so you can rest assured that everything is freshly produced.”
Book your spot at the Dioriviera Café here.
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