Pattaya’s expat community has lost one of its gems. French-born restaurateur, chef, keen golfer and all-round good guy, Jean Morel, finally lost his battle with cancer when he passed away at 1335 on Friday 2 May, at Memorial Hospital, Pattaya.
Jean’s fight with cancer had been an on-and-off affair for some ten years, although few knew it. He was first diagnosed with cancer of the bladder in 2004. He underwent surgery which was successful, but was told there was a strong likelihood of it returning at some future time.
Jean-Yves Morel – 26 June 1948 – 02 May 2014.
There followed some changes in his life; he sold his business, cut his smoking from 60-per-day to zero, and made plans to retire in Thailand.
Prior to this, Jean had opened a French restaurant in Haslemere, Surrey around 1980. The restaurant received a Michelin Star (1992-94), as well as an Egon Ronay Restaurant of the Year award in 1992.
After selling the restaurant in October 1994, he launched La Toque, a chef and catering staff recruitment company, specialising in sourcing cooks from Europe to serve England’s burgeoning eat-out culture. He sold this company in 2004 and took up golf at various courses around Exeter, before moving to Thailand in February 2005.
He played with many golfing outlets, including the Pattaya Golf Society at the Elephant Bar and Jomtien Golf at Siam Cats, the Dark Side’s Outback Bar and the now-defunct Bowling Green. It was here that Jean, keen to create a good impression, introduced himself by offering to buy a round. Trouble was, as he would be reminded many times later, he left without paying for it.
Jean’s golfing handicap at this time would have been in the thirties. It was to get as low as 17.
From early 2005, Jean enjoyed trouble-free golf. Every three-months he would go to hospital and undergo his regular cancer-check, until mid-way through 2012, when, for the first time, he forgot. It was shortly after that he noticed his urine passing blood. The cancer had returned. Worse, it had spread to his lungs.
His health started to go downhill from this time, although those around him wouldn’t have known. In July last year, the doctors told him the disease had spread from his lungs to his liver. They suggested intensive chemotherapy. When asked the point, he was told the treatment may extend his life by some months. He asked how long he had without it. He was told three months. “C’est la vie,” would have been his response.
The last thing Jean wanted was to undergo chemo. He knew and accepted he was done for. But he wanted to retain as much quality of life as he could, for as long as he could. And he wanted to keep his dignity.
Now ventures on to the golf course became a special treat. They also became more tiring. As each month passed he felt his energy and strength dissipate. The three month deadline came and went. Whilst he had beaten what was given as his use-by date, he started shedding weight, and significant body-mass.
The last few months have been hard on Jean and those around him, particularly Pupay, his devoted partner who has nursed him 24/7. A measure of her love and devotion was seen time and again by Jean’s closest friends, who marvelled at how well turned out he was, despite losing the ability to care for himself. Dignity retained.
Jean shouted me a lunch back in January. This was a time when he could golf no more, but he could get himself out occasionally. He made it clear back then that he had no regrets. “I had a good life,” he said. “I smoked 60 fags a day, drank copious amounts of wine, and enjoyed wondrous food and lovely women. What is there to regret? I will go happy and content.”
It was this attitude that characterised the man. Whether on the course or off, he was a delight to be around. He made friends easily. Always up-beat, he didn’t have a negative thought in him. He loved his food, his friends and his wine, often combining all three as he would test our culinary preferences on his latest pate or cheese creation.
Jean is survived by his only child, a son, Louis, who turns 20 in October this year.
There will be a service to commemorate Jean’s life at St Nicholas’ Catholic Church, Sukhumvit Road, nearly opposite Soi Siam Country Club. The scheduled time is 1.00 pm, Wednesday 14 May.
Rest in peace, Jean. You will be missed.