Thomas Stork is gearing up for the busiest season of the year, and the enigmatic Chef can hardly contain his enthusiasm; “I feel immensely lucky to be doing something I love in such a beautiful setting.” Stunning, indeed, is the view from Sea Grill’s lively wooden-decked terrace, overlooking a raging sea, on the day of our meeting, whose waves never seemed so dramatic or frothy white.
Thomas loves his job and everything to do with cooking; he has played the role of Executive Chef of the Puente Romano Beach Resort & Spa for five years and was deemed the Best Chef at the Al Andalus de Gastronomía awards.
Yet his passion for food began much earlier – at the tender age of 14, in fact, when his natural talent, combined with discipline and intense focus, started him on a path that would see him honing his craft at some of the finest establishments in the world (including 3 Michelin-starred Residenz Heinz Winkler, an experience he describes as “more educational than even the very best university could be.”).
In Marbella, the chef has shone in a variety of gastronomic havens, including the Hotel Las Dunas, where he worked for 10 years, achieving the Hotel’s first Michelin star.
If you’ve dined at Sea Grill, then you are probably familiar with his inimitable style. “Being a Mediterranean destination, it makes sense to give the spotlight to catch-of-the-day fish and seafood,” he says, though the restaurant is equally famous for its top grade steaks, as well as its bevy of dishes which emerge, sizzling hot, from a tandoor oven.
I ask Thomas what his aim was when he commenced at the Puente Romano. He answers wisely: “To remain true to its beachside essence. It is important to retain one’s identity, yet make a few changes to ensure one is up-to-date.” Health is a priority for Thomas. “We have a strong organic, low carb focus here,” he says, adding, “At lunch time, we offer a varied salad buffet and we keep it truly healthy.
Salads are dressed simply – with olive oil, lemon, salt… by the same token, we recognise some people are in the mood for something more ‘sinful’, such as a tropical salad. All the ingredients are there for them to select and richer sauces are offered on the side.”
Sea Grill offers an à la carte menu and the salad buffet for lunch, as well as à la carte dining in the evening. On weekends and during high season (including Easer), lunch tempts hotel diners and non-guest foodies alike with a full buffet which includes lobster, black tiger king prawns, scampi, gambas and more. It is an ideal family or business lunch spot and also a romantic dining haven by night.
There truly is something for every style of diner, with dishes ranging from ultra-healthy salt-baked fish, to a two kilogram tomahawk steak, dry-aged for 60 days and hailing from famed producers in Galicia. The latter serves four to six, making it an excellent shared dish.
Thomas is currently working on Sea Grill’s Easter menu and he lets me in on some of the highlights. “We will be serving escargot from France, and will be making our own foie gras, marinated in white Port and Moscatel wine.” This year will also see another first for Sea Grill: “We will be serving rice,” announces Thomas, “not just risottos, but rice dishes from across Spain.”
The team is also working on a new dessert menu – if you love Thomas’ famous donut dessert (featuring mini donuts dipped into an array of different sauces), fret not – the revered dish will always be available at Sea Grill.
Sea Grill has more on offer apart from the mouth-watering cuisine – live entertainment, fashion show lunches and more. Seasonal menus will also be offered. “Asparagus season lasts from March until mid-June,” Thomas notes, explaining, “It is vital that the asparagus be harvested at exactly this time of the year, to ensure the plants continue to produce good yields the following year.”
Crisp, healthy white asparagus will play a starring role in this special menu, although green varieties will also be served. The menu will feature asparagus with its classic partner, Hollandaise sauce, as well as fitting mains such as tenderloin steak, Iberian ham and King crab, “served hot and gratinated.”
Thomas smiles warmly as we part ways, but not before noting that the waves are particularly spectacular today – consistently curious, observant, in movement… this is one chef who will always be aware of how the world around him contributes in infinite ways to his passion.
Words Marisa Cutillas / Photography Kevin Horn
At the Puente Romano Beach Resort & Spa.Blvd. Príncipe Alfonso von Hohenlohe s/n, Marbella. Tel: 952 820 900.