It started with a reflective traipse through the mountain wilderness, says Samir Mohammad, recounting the day he made the difficult decision to quit his job at Black Pearl, where he's been the executive chef since January of this year. But he's not just departing the kitchen of Black Pearl; he's leaving Denver altogether for what he calls a "life change" -- and the opportunity to become the executive chef and food & beverage director of two surfing paradises.
"I went on this crazy mushroom-seeking hike near Mount Evans about a month ago, found this really cool spot to sit down and meditate, and just started reflecting on the fact that there's so much to see outside of Colorado, and with that realization came another realization -- an awareness that I needed a change and to experience life...again," says Mohammad, who made a big name for himself in Denver while cooking at the Village Cork, following up that stint with chef positions at Lala's Wine Bar + Pizzeria and Black Pearl.
After his meditative hike, he got home, pulled out his laptop and started career searching on Craigslist, with the intent, he says, of cooking overseas, an endeavor that Mohammad is no stranger to. Prior to moving to Denver, he was a mess cook in the military, cooking aboard a United States Coast Guard ship. In addition, he cooked for crew members aboard a ship stationed in Alaska, and he also spent time in Samoa.
Mohammad honed in on an ad posted by Pegasus Lodges & Resorts seeking an "executive chef to parachute (not literally) into our boutique surf resorts located in Indonesia and Samoa." The job, it continued, "would focus on menu development/refinement and training of the local staff." As an added incentive, it was a full-time commitment that would also give the right candidate the title of food & beverage director. Mohammad fired off a resume and cover letter, and, not long after, did a phone interview, which went well.
As part of the interview process, the company, which specializes in stunning, remote and eco-friendly surf lodges that only accommodate eight guests for ten days at a time, asked Mohammad to develop menus -- breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and an additional three-course dinner -- for both the Indonesian and Samoan properties. And those menus, along with his cooking and travel experience, made him the perfect candidate for the position.
"It really came down to the cultural snippets: his experience in Samoa, being in the Coast Guard, his resort experience and his personal touch with food," says Bobby Brewer, who oversees the resort's public relations efforts. "No one was a better fit than Samir, plus he has a really good appreciation of seafood, and he seems like a really good educator -- and we need someone to come in and guide our staff," he adds.
Mohammad will leave Denver on June 11, where he'll spend one month at the Samoan resort training the staff, and then he'll jet off to Indonesia, where he'll do the same thing, as well as "figuring out how be a fully sustainable island," says Mohammad, adding that the island is home to just 200 inhabitants, some of whom he'd like to employ.
The resort also has plans to add a third lodge in Indonesia to its repertoire, coupled with a boutique resort in Brazil, and Mohammad is looking forward to the experience. "I've been cooking for seventeen years, nine of them as an executive chef, and the bottom line is that while Denver has made me who I am -- and I'm so grateful for that -- I have to make a life change; it's something I have to do, plus I don't want to be just a chef any longer," says Mohammad. "I want to be part of the hospitality aspect, too, and being the food & beverage director will give me that opportunity."
Justin Hall, who Mohammad hired as his sous chef at Black Pearl, will officially become the exec chef of Black Pearl beginning on Friday, and Mohammad will bid goodbye to Denver at a party at Vesper Lounge on Monday, June 9.
And while Mohammad admits that he's going to miss his friends in Denver, he extends this invitation: "If you ever have the urge to catch some waves, come visit me: I'd love to cook for you."
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Time to book an airline ticket.