Local Personalities: Silvio Mutzner

by Dr. Iain Corness

The brightest ‘new’ restaurant in Pattaya is The Bay at the Dusit Resort. The brightest new chef in Pattaya is Silvio Mutzner, who resplendent in a bright yellow chef’s jacket, is the man tasked with overseeing this restaurant. Silvio has worked all over the world, but has found that Thailand has a special attraction.

His name is interesting - an Italian first name and a (Swiss) German surname. Apparently his maternal grandfather was Italian, and when Silvio’s Swiss father wanted the new baby called Stefan after himself, his mother said no, so Silvio Stefan Mutzner was the compromise.

Despite the confusing names, Silvio is Swiss, born close to the Austrian and German borders, the youngest child, having two elder sisters. His father ran a carpet warehouse and his mother worked in the office of the family business, but there was an interest in the hospitality business, with both his elder sisters going on to work in hotels.

By the time Silvio was 13 he was sure that he wanted to be either a cook or a baker. Carpets held no interest for him at all. His elder sister arranged for him to have some work experience in a hotel kitchen and he sampled the life from the point of view of both cooking and baking. “You have to get up too early in the morning in the bakery, so I decided on being a chef,” said Silvio.

So the young man who liked to sleep in began a three year apprenticeship in a cooking school in Switzerland. This was after Mutzner senior gave up trying to get his son working in the carpet business.

Silvio found immediately that he had made the correct choice. Right from the beginning, from the most lowly positions in the kitchens, he loved it! Both practical and theory held a fascination for the young man.

After graduation he did as many chefs do in Switzerland, alternating between the different regions of the country for the summer and winter seasons. For Silvio, this meant that he would spend six months of the year in the French speaking side, and then the next six months in the Italian speaking regions. “I learned Italian and brushed up on my French, and also learned more about French and Italian cuisines.” (His personal favourite is Italian, as he considers that French cooking is too heavy.) This lifestyle was to be his work for the next five years, but the young man already had his sights set on working overseas.

“One of my dreams was to see the world. With the job that I had you can do it, see foreign countries and cultures. My dream came true with the offer of a job in Canada,” said Silvio.

This position was in a hotel in the Rocky Mountains. “It was absolutely beautiful and fantastic scenery. I was working with people from all over the world, and this mixture of people was what (I now know) I really liked.”

After 15 months his contract ran out and he returned to Switzerland, but the travel bug had bitten by then, and it was not long before he was on a plane to the other side of the world, to work in Sydney, Australia.

However, this came as a culture shock for Silvio. “Australia was too big for me. After three weeks I wanted to go home!” (You must remember that Switzerland is a country you can drive through in a few hours, whilst Australia is an island that takes six hours to fly across from the west coast to the east coast. For comparison, Bangkok to Perth in Western Australia is only seven hours.)

Fortunately for his employers, the visa situation meant that he had to stay, and after two years he enjoyed it so much that he spent the next five months travelling around the great sunburned land down-under. “Travelling there was beautiful. I went everywhere except Darwin, and I’ll probably go back down-under again when I have holidays next year,” he said.

After five months travelling he returned home. He had not been homesick, but looked forward to meeting up with his family and friends. Silvio did also mention one situation we have all experienced - when you live overseas you always get plenty of visitors from your home country, many of whom were never close friends when you lived there!

As well as his dream of travel, Silvio had another aim in life. “My second dream was to have my own restaurant, and in 1999 I opened my restaurant, with my younger sister, in our home town of Altstaetten.” His second dream was not a nightmare, but as the years rolled on he found there were many down sides to it. “It was a good experience, but honestly not for a lifetime. In Switzerland there are so many regulations and other problems such as taxation, insurance and superannuation for the staff.” After four years, Silvio and his sister decided they would get out.

By now it was 2003 and Silvio had to make some career decisions for himself. “For the first time in my life I didn’t know what to do. I had a friend working in Thailand on Koh Samui who asked me if I wanted to work in Thailand, but to start with I said no.” Silvio went on to mention that for a chef to work overseas, it is more than just cooking. “It’s the language (problems) and just living abroad,” he said.

Eventually his friend talked him into it and he arrived in Koh Samui and then Koh Yao, but the hotels were not yet finished and he returned to Switzerland. However, he soon found that he was missing Thailand, “The culture and friendliness of the people. Everybody laughing and smiling and the helpfulness of the Thais.” And he very quickly found the position at the Dusit Resort and returned to the Kingdom.

I have the feeling he will be here for some time to come!

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