Checking out Samoa with Chef John

By Elizabeth Ah-Hi ,

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A TOUR WITH A DIFFERENCE: Chef John of Chef John tours.

A TOUR WITH A DIFFERENCE: Chef John of Chef John tours. (Photo: Misiona Simo)

With just his humble kitchen in tow and the beauty of Samoan nature as his backdrop in his outdoor café, Chef John of Chef John Tours has won over legions of fans from all over the world with his unique brand of tour guiding that allows you to experience Samoa with all the senses for an unforgettable time.

Chef John Tours takes you on a journey where you can experience the stunning sights, sounds and smells of Samoa all the while enjoying a fine dining experience especially personalized for you.

The 24-year-old has been making a mark with his own special take on mobile chefing for just over 10 months now and recently won the award for Best Tours at the Samoa Tourism Authority Excellence Awards. 

“I felt excited when we got the award because all of the hard work paid off,” he told the Samoa Observer. 

“I was shocked though because I didn’t think we would win because we’re just a new business we just started 10 months ago.”

On his wife Irleen’s insistence and encouragement, Chef John decided to pursue the idea of a food tour after they realized that there was no one else in Samoa offering one. 

Combining what they loved doing, which was cooking, eating and enjoying Samoa’s natural beauty, Irleen began to market John’s cooking skills and unique food tours.

“I know there’s lots of different tours here in Samoa but I wanted to do a tour that include all the local Samoan foods. That why the palagis and overseas people look forward to coming to our beautiful islands.”

Chef John takes his clients through a process that mirrors his own natural routine of choosing ingredients and likes to keep his tours casual and easy going.

“My first stop is to pick up the tourists from their accommodation and then go to the fish market to get some fish but also show them all the different types of fish at the market. 

“Then we all go to Fugalei markets and get our fresh veges and fruits. I design my menu around whatever available and in season at the markets. 

“Then off we go around the island for a tour and around lunch time we stop at somewhere like Piula caves and the tourists go hang around and take their time doing what they want to do while prepare the lunch.”

“I bring all the own sauces and spices and set it up on the table. The people just love looking at everything that I’m doing, everything is out in the open.”

Sharing a slice of his Samoan paradise to tourists in his own way which is showcasing our beauty local natural produce makes John happy knowing that he is doing his own bit to promote Samoa tourism. 

One of the most important things to him to demonstrate through his artfully made dishes is the importance of taste and conscious eating.

“Some of my dishes are my own, I make a simple dish of ulu hashbrown, with special sauce. To me what’s important is that the dish is tasty and healthy – it’s not about the size. 

“For people overseas they understand portion sizes but here our people we think ‘ hey that’s too small for us” because they want to feel full and they are not savouring the taste.”

While he receives top marks for his cooking from his clients, it seems Chef John is his own tough food critic. 

“Sometimes when I’m cooking, I don’t smell anything, it makes me full to smell all the cooking so I don’t eat my own food. So my wife cooks for me – just eggs on toast though. I cook for my family but I don’t eat the food myself.”

Asked to share something interesting about his work and Chef John says that he does have a preoccupation that dominates his thoughts when he stops at the location to set up lunch for his clients.

“I always say to everyone, ok wait here. Then I go check out the restrooms and make sure that everything is clean for my clients. I keep telling the S.T.A we need more clean toilets and that’s why I pick Piula for lunchtime because they really look after their area and keep it clean. 

“It can spoil the atmosphere when after you have a beautiful lunch and you need to go to the bathroom you find that it’s not clean and nice. So I always check the restrooms out anywhere we go and if needed sometimes I clean it myself.”

When talking about the secret to his sudden and still rising success, Chef John shrugs and says simply that he just wants to make sure that everyone is happy and reveals that as well as being a talented cook, he’s also somewhat of a relationship guru.

“I always have fun in what I do, I have outside café and I just feel it’s so easy and not stressful. It’s not like being in a kitchen and doing hard work. 

“It’s just me, my humble kitchen and myself happy to do my own thing and enjoy the time with the tourists. If someone comes to Samoa, they should be happy because this is a happy island.

“If you feel stressed we will make you feel better here. I always ask my clients, so what is the reason why you are here? And they usually say I’m here for a holiday because I’m stressed out and stuff. And usually it’s always because of relationship problems. I think maybe our islands fix all their problems.”

“I fix peoples problems. Just kidding,” he jokes. “Even though it’s a food tour, some of the tourists who are girls, they just share to me all their problems and I say to them – they should find a Samoan husband. The tourists are always asking me, where can I find a good Samoan husband? I tell them, not in the night club but you can find one in a church.”

As Chef John Tour’s popularity continues to soar, the young chef says that he and his wife and business partner have so many ideas and plans on expanding the business that includes a possible food show on a New Zealand television channel. But in the very near future, Chef John will be coming live to a local TVchannel near you. 

“I think next week we are going to be doing some filming, the main thing with filming is to do with Samoan food and how to make a healthy meal with a budget of $10 tala. 

“The thing that is really important to me is making healthy food for our people that is organic and that’s something that I’m working to promote.”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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