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Meet Michael Talbot, restaurant manager The Shack, Bophut Koh Samui

The Samui Times wanted to find out a little more about what has made The Shack such a huge success amongst ex-pats and tourists alike so got together with larger than life restaurant manager Mick for his insights into running this popular steak and seafood establishment.

ST: Good afternoon Mick, where abouts in Ireland do you come from?

shack 5MT: I am a proud Dubliner born and bred, from a very traditional Irish family of eight children.

ST: How long have you been on Koh Samui?

MT: It’s been just a little over six years since I came to Samui after having been working up in Bangkok.

ST: What was it that attracted you to the island?

MT: I had been in Bangkok for several years running restaurants, in particular Irish pubs and bars when I met the owner of The Shack, Larry who asked if I would be interested in the position of manager at his restaurant. Something just clicked between us and as I felt ready for a change I took him up on his proposition.

ST: Tell us about your career path and what made you decide to pursue a life in the restaurant business.

mick-the-shackMT: Right from leaving school I started work in pubs and bars in and around Dublin. My first job was as a humble glass washer but I just loved the atmosphere of these places and the characters I would meet and decided that this was definitely the life for me. Realising how popular the Irish pub theme was worldwide I decided to travel around Europe and see how other folk were making a success of it. I went to England, Germany, Italy, Denmark and Sweden before ultimately ending up in Thailand.

ST: How exactly did you first get involved with The Shack after meeting Larry?

MT: Larry had already heard about me form a mutual acquaintance so he came to Bangkok to meet up and he invited me down to Samui to see the restaurant. I immediately recognised that this man shared the same passion for hospitality that I have and after sampling the food decided that I wanted to be a part of the business. Larry offered me the position there and then and I have never looked back since.

ST: What, in your opinion, makes The Shack unique and so very popular?

MT: I think it really is down to the ambience that Larry initially created in his inimitable style, a laid back New Orleans feel to the decor and of course the great quality  products that we offer our customers. We always endeavour to make sure that the items on our menu are the best available, whether it be the Black Angus beef steaks, the magnificent Alaskan crab legs or our signature Maine lobster.  I have to say also that from the feedback I get, many people return to The Shack because of our great staff.

ST: Tell us more about who your staff are and their involvement in the restaurant.

shack 6MT: We are blessed with a great team of dedicated staff some of whom have been here right from the very beginning. There are three brothers; Pop, Omar and Geng who are a huge asset to the business and nothing is ever too much trouble for these guys, they all give 110% at every service. Omar in fact learnt the how to run the grill from Larry and then his brother Pop took over when Omar saw that his true talent was in the kitchen. Pop has mastered the grill to such an extent that I saw him cook thirty two tenderloins at once, all to perfection, on a particularly hectic night. Geng is our head waiter and he is very popular with our customers. His understanding of English and knowledge of our extensive winelist makes my life a lot easier. When I first arrived he had a very pronounced Cockney accent as at the time we had many Londoners as customers, now though there is a definite Irish lilt to his speech, I can’t imagine why! Our two other waiters Chip and Ding and the very talented Fluke who runs the bar complement the team brilliantly. I have always believed in letting the staff have a voice in the running of the restaurant and after each service we will get together over a drink and discuss how the evening went. Over the years this mutual respect has been a major key to our success and I cannot thank them enough for their continued loyalty to us. We also decided some time back to include our staff in a profit sharing scheme that gives them an added incentive to always give the best of themselves and it really makes them feel a part of The Shack family.

ST: It must have been a very traumatic time for you all after Larry passed away, how did you bounce back?

shack 4MT: It was indeed, after the obvious initial shock Larry’s business partner John took over the reigns and was instrumental in keeping things on track, he minimized the rather extensive menu to offer only the best products available, extended our wine list much to our customers pleasure and brought on board a young and energetic co-owner in Johan whose business expertise is second to none. All of these elements together gave us the boost that we needed in keeping The Shack on the map and ensuring at the same time that Larry’s legend lived on.

ST: What is the part of your job that gives you the most satisfaction?

MT: That’s easy, it has to be seeing customers leaving happy after thanking me for a great night. That is what I work for, there really is no greater pleasure in seeing contented smiling faces, it makes all the effort and hard work worthwhile. It is also fantastic to see that we have a great support base from the ex-pats on the island who really are the backbone to our business many of whom have since become really good friends.

ST: What have been your most successful promotions and are you currently running any?

MT: The one that we are offering at the moment is a 20% discount on our Rib Eye steaks and it has been a runaway success and for regular customers we also offer a further 10% off any meal. It is a great way to offer something back to our customers to thank them for their continued loyalty. We will be running the promotion until December when the high season starts but the loyalty card is available to use all year round. We have also introduced a gammon steak to the menu for just 300 baht which is proving very popular.

The Shack 4ST: What has proved to be the most popular item on the menu at The Shack?

MT: Our burgers have always been a hit with our customers. We use a mix of the Black Angus and Rib Eye beef with our special blend of herbs and spices. They are made fresh everyday and never frozen so the quality is always assured. Often when people book a table they will at the same time order their burger in advance to avoid missing out as we only make a certain amount per day to guarantee the consistent freshness.

ST: Had you not got into the restaurant business what would be your alternative career fantasy?

MT: As a young lad back in Dublin I always thought that I might be a boxer but that didn’t work out for me.  I suppose a proper fantasy job would be to take over as CEO of Nana Plaza!  Until that highly unlikely event I am actually happy with what I do and enjoy my job enormously as restaurant manager at The Shack and am very proud to be a part of this team.

ST: Mick, thanks so much for your time today it has been great to talk to you and best wishes for the future.

MT: Absolutely my pleasure, thank you.

Neil Cretney.

To find out more about The Shack click here to visit their website or here to visit their Facebook page

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