The Blue Elephant Group comprises a growing list of gorgeous restaurants and cooking schools that have been pioneering and serving Royal Thai cuisine in various global capitals since 1980. The Group was founded by Nooror Somany Steppe and her Belgian husband Karl Steppe, who opened their first restaurant in Brussels in 1980. Their son Kim has recently opened the Phuket Blue Elephant in the lovingly-restored Phra Pitak Chinpracha Mansion where we recently had the good fortune of sharing lunch with him.
Can you tell us a little about your unique Phuket Blue Elephant restaurant and the building it’s in?
We spent two years repairing and restoring this grand, 108 year old Sino-Portuguese mansion during which we replaced the roof and managed to find an exact match for its tiles from Italy. After an investment of two million Euros I am proud to say that we have brought this beautiful building a whole new source of life as a thriving Blue Elephant restaurant and cooking school. The challenge is to now continue the evolution and establish both the Phuket Blue Elephant restaurant and the cooking school as renowned “must see” establishments for our high end target customers.
Who are your target audience for the Blue Elephant?
I believe we are at the forefront of a wave of more elegant and up-market establishments that are serving to attract a more sophisticated and well-healed crowd to Phuket Town, which to my mind is at the very heart of Phuket. We are attracting more local and visiting Thais than we at first expected as well as better educated and discerning tourists. In particular we have had a lot of interest from Hong Kong, Australian, Malaysian and Singaporean visitors.
We offer an unrivalled venue for major events such as weddings, anniversaries and major business and corporate lunches and dinners. In addition our special events such as elephant polo on our front lawn have been a great success.
Please tell us a bit about the Blue Elephant cooking school
We offer half, full day and professionally-tailored private five day cooking courses where our well-trained chefs teach, demonstrate and guide our clients in the delicate art of cooking Royal Thai cuisine. This cuisine evolved over hundreds of years as that prepared and served in Thailand’s royal palaces and represents a pinnacle of ingredients, taste sensations and elegance of preparation and presentation.
The courses begin with a visit to the downtown market where our guests are taught how to select the best and freshest ingredients and how to differentiate between good and bad quality. A handpicked selection of suppliers also provides us with organically-grown ingredients guaranteeing the healthfulness, quality and freshness that are the basic pillars of our cuisine’s excellence.
What is your management style at Blue Elephant?
Being half Thai and half Flemish Belgian I feel I can apply the best of European business practice but also bring a great deal of understanding of Thai ways to managing the Blue Elephant. I grew up in the business and even as a little boy I worked in our Brussels restaurant and became very close to the staff. I believe the keys to a successful management style are in open communication, straight talking and no politics coupled with good training and organization and of course a Thai smile!
Why is this wonderful endeavor called the Blue Elephant?
Blue is the royal color on the Thai flag and of course the elephant is Thailand’s national animal, so we combined these two in a name that is quintessentially Thai. Indeed if you saw a blue elephant you would never forget it and we hope that is how our customers feel when they visit us.
The Blue Elephant Cooking
School and Resta urant
The Governor’s Mansion
Krabi Road, Phuket Town
Tel. 076 354 355-7