Chef Dave Pynt has cooked in some of the world’s most vibrant cities, but opening up a poolside restaurant, The Ledge, at the secluded Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi is one of his most exciting adventures yet.
“It made sense to bring our style of cooking to the Maldives,” Pynt says. By “our style,” he means Australian wood-fired barbecue. It’s the key element at his famous Burnt Ends restaurant in Singapore, which earned a Michelin star. In fact, one of his favorite Burnt Ends dishes made the voyage to the Maldives: steak frites and fish and chips, playful appetizers that riff on the classic pairings.
Pynt says the steak frites—beef tartare resting on a potato cake topped with a dollop of French caviar—starts off with “incredible beef” from a wagyu supplier out of Australia. He thinly slices the potatoes in the Pommes Anna style, fries them in beef fat, and cuts them into bite-sized batons for the “frites.” In the fish and chips version, Pynt tops the potato with yellowtail tartare. “It’s a nice little snack to get started with,” he says.
ON THE LEDGE
With a panoramic view of the aquamarine lagoon beyond the pool, The Ledge is a stunning spot for a relaxed lunch or a romantic dinner. And of course, it features a more seafood-focused menu than Burnt Ends’.
Still, the common thread that runs through all of Pynt’s projects is a fanatical devotion to cooking fine meats and seafood over an open fire. It’s a passion that started during his childhood in Perth, Australia. “My dad always built a wood-fired barbecue in the backyard,” Pynt recalls. After cooking in Perth and Sydney and working at Copenhagen’s world-famous Noma, Pynt landed in Spain at Asador Etxebarri, where his mentor was Victor Arguinzoniz, the master of cooking over a wood fire.
“I went there and was blown away,” Pynt says. “I thought, how could barbecue be this good?” The budding barbecue master then moved on to London’s St. John Bread and Wine. After that, a pop-up barbecue restaurant in the courtyard of a coffee roaster drew enthusiastic attention. Word spread far beyond London, and soon he was recruited to open Burnt Ends in Singapore’s buzzy Chinatown.
COOKING WITH FIRE
What is it about the combination of fire and meat that he finds so compelling? “I find the process really enjoyable because it’s not something you ever have complete control over,” Pynt explains. “You have to learn how to work with the fire, and you have the challenge of mastering it.”
He was ready for a new challenge when Waldorf Astoria came calling, and fortunately he was already familiar with the island republic. As The Ledge came together, the chef and his team made several trips and got to know the local products. “They bring in lobsters fresh from the day boats,” Pynt says.
He imported the same monster 4-ton ovens he uses in Singapore to coax the full potential from the meats and seafood. “To me, it’s one of the best barbecue setups you can use,” he says.
What’s a good way to follow up the savory steak frites and fish and chips? “There’s nothing better than lobster and garlic butter,” the chef advises. Live lobsters are simply cut in half and put straight on the grill, shell-side down. Pynt says, “You won’t get anything fresher out of the ocean than that.”
Book your stay at Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi and reserve your table at The Ledge for Chef Dave Pynt’s gourmet steak frites and fish and chips.