Chef Martyn Watkins Goes On the Road with Laksa Shack
In 2019 Martyn Watkins left his position as Executive Chef at The St David’s Hotel in Cardiff to take up a teaching role at Cardiff & Vale College. During the hiatus that was Covid and lockdown an idea began to bubble up and together with his wife they came up with the idea for a pop-up, on-the-road, noodle business that they called Laksa Shack.
The idea had been born at The St David’s Hotel when Martyn had been asked by the brass to come up with a noodle concept for a new restaurant in the hotel. One of the recipes that he worked on was for a Laksa which is a spicy noodle soup popular in South Asia.
Martyn put his twists on it using chicken, noodles and coconut gravy and it became a smash hit not leaving the menu for virtually his entire period of 4 ½ years at the hotel.
Laksa Shack launched at Cardiff’s Boneyard Market at the weekend and Martyn is excited for the future.
“It’s a pop-up food hut to go along with my other business which is making chopping boards for chefs,” he began. “I wanted to get back to cooking and this dish was so popular we thought it would make a good pop-up at markets.
“We make everything in a special prep kitchen I designed for home including all the laksa pastes and even the noodles. We have a regular egg noodle and a vegan noodle that is made from beetroot.
“Then it’s chicken thighs, coconut gravy and noodles plus some additional twists. It was so rewarding to see old customers come down who used to eat it at the hotel. They loved it and we had a great time.”
Laksa Shack demonstrates that there is never an end-point in a chefs career. More and more senior chefs are realising that there is a good and rewarding life to be had out in the real world when the long hours have become too arduous. Martyn Watkins is getting back to what motivated him to cook in the first place – by creating and serving a dish that is popular, wholesome and local for those in his community. This sort of cooking will never go out of fashion.