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Meet the Expats at The Helm of Bali’s Culinary Scene

Meet the Expats at The Helm of Bali's Culinary Scene
Meet the Expats at The Helm of Bali's Culinary Scene

In the heart of Bali’s culinary tapestry where flavours from around the world converge, lies a fascinating narrative tucked away behind the scenes—hidden stories of the expat chefs shaping the island’s top culinary venues.

These culinary virtuosos bring with them a rich tapestry of cultural influences, innovative techniques, and a passion for gastronomy that transcends borders. From the bustling kitchens of beachside cafes to the elegant dining rooms of luxury resorts, these five expat chefs are the unsung heroes crafting unforgettable dining experiences that tantalise the taste buds and captivate the senses.

Join Indonesia Expat as we delve into the intriguing journeys and culinary philosophies of these remarkable individuals, offering a glimpse into the dynamic world of Bali’s culinary scene from an insider’s perspective.

Diego Recarte – Head Chef at Dome, Desa Potato Head
Diego Recarte – Head Chef at Dome, Desa Potato Head
Diego Recarte – Head Chef at Dome, Desa Potato Head
  • Restaurant: Dome
  • Age: 37
  • Nationality: Peruvian
  • Moved to Bali: 2023

What brought you to Bali?

Opening a restaurant gives me the opportunity to further develop as a chef. I am learning from new cultures, traditions, ingredients, and cooking techniques. This blend of experiences will give me stronger skills and refine my culinary approach. In essence, I came to become a better chef.

How would you describe your culinary philosophy, and what sets your cuisine apart?

Throughout all these years of cooking, my main interest has become developing a clear culinary philosophy. I could say it involves working with regional products, respecting seasonality, opting for organic whenever possible, and collaborating with producers who prioritise environmental sustainability. However, these shall be the foundations of any chef with a strong professional conscience. That’s why I couldn’t define my culinary philosophy right now, I guess just making sure that everything tastes delicious!

On the other hand, what sets my cooking apart from others is that it’s highly personal, which makes it more challenging to explain. “I don’t do classic or modern cuisine,” it’s a blend of all the good things I was lucky enough to learn during my travels around the world. This has given me a lot of perspective when creating new menus. I aim to create a very casual cuisine that incorporates technique and aesthetics, easy to understand yet with enough detail for my guests to appreciate. I don’t want my cuisine to differ only in the way it’s cooked but also in the ambience, it creates within the restaurant.

How does your cultural background influence your cooking?

It has a huge impact! I always incorporate the spicy, acidic, bitter, and salty flavours into everything I cook. These are deeply ingrained flavours in the culinary traditions of my homeland.

What’s your personal “Chef’s recommendation” at Dome?

They’ll always be the specials of the day, of course, because it’s the latest one I’ve whipped up, and that’s why I hold it dear. My tendency to get bored quickly means that whatever I put on the menu last ends up being the most fun to cook

Eelke Plasmeijer – Chef at Locavore Group
Eelke Plasmeijer – Chef at Locavore Group
Eelke Plasmeijer – Chef at Locavore Group
  • Restaurant: Locavore Group (Locavore NXT, Herbivore, Nusantara, Peggy’s Brass Knuckles, Club Soda, etc.)
  • Age: 41
  • Nationality: Dutch
  • Moved to Bali: 2008

What brought you to Bali?

A job. I was cheffing in Jakarta in a restaurant that was not working out at all and got the chance to move to Bali together with Ray–my partner in crime in Locavore–and we jumped at that opportunity…

How would you describe your culinary philosophy, and what sets your cuisine apart?

We run a few different restaurants and bars but our main culinary philosophy is using Indonesian ingredients only. In our new Locavore NXT restaurant it is safe to say that 100% of our ingredients are coming from Indonesia. Ray and I both think that people don’t travel to Bali to come and eat food they can get (better) in their own country. So we have been on a long journey finding tasty and interesting ingredients within this beautiful country. Especially in NXT we don’t use dairy products, wheat flour and way less animal protein. But to understand how this is different from all others you simply have to come for a meal.

How does your cultural background influence your cooking?

It doesn’t.

What’s your personal “Chef’s recommendation”?

If you like recommendations on where to eat I would for sure say come and try Nusantara, our authentic Indonesian restaurant. Here we serve dishes that you cannot find elsewhere from all over the archipelago.

Jean-Baptiste Natali – Executive Chef at Koral Restaurant
Jean-Baptiste Natali – Executive Chef at Koral Restaurant
Jean-Baptiste Natali – Executive Chef at Koral Restaurant, The Apurva Kempinski Bali
  • Restaurant: Koral Restaurant, The Apurva Kempinski Bali
  • Nationality: French
  • Moved to Bali: 2024

What brought you to Bali?

There is a little backstory on what brought me here to Bali. Over 5 years ago I came to Bali for a children’s charity event that was held here. That experience profoundly touched me, sparking a deep fascination with Indonesia as a whole.

How would you describe your culinary philosophy, and what sets your cuisine apart?

My culinary philosophy revolves around prioritising taste above all else. Each day, I aim to savour and appreciate the flavours of the moment. I operate within a Bastien kitchen, where creativity and eco-responsibility take the main role. Nothing goes to waste as we utilise every part of the ingredients in the dish. While ideas may not always come instantly, I enjoy the process of crafting innovative dishes. Although I do get tired quite easily, yet I thrive on change and enjoy regularly updating my menus.

How does your cultural background influence your cooking?

Food isn’t just about eating. It’s tied to who we are as a culture and influenced by what we talk about and dream of together. These conversations create food stories that become a part of us. Every time we eat, cook, or talk about food, we keep those stories alive.

What’s your personal “Chef’s recommendation” at Koral Restaurant?

I appreciate it when customers choose to let us craft and surprise them with dishes through our creativity, rather than the customers choosing dishes from the menu by themselves. This thrills me as it allows me to unleash my creative side by crafting unique dishes for the customers to enjoy. I tend to use all kinds of herbs and mushrooms to elevate my dishes.

Will Meyrick – Chef at Mama San Bali
Will Meyrick – Chef at Mama San Bali
Will Meyrick – Chef at Mama San Bali
  • Restaurant: Mama San
  • Age: 47
  • Nationality: Scottish
  • Moved to Bali: 2004

What brought you to Bali?

I moved to Bali in 2004 at the age of 24. I really wanted to cook Asian food in Asia and Bali was a place that resonated with me on many levels but I didn’t realise that when I first moved to Bali. I have tried to leave Bali at least three times now, but it somehow still calls me back.

How would you describe your culinary philosophy, and what sets your cuisine apart?

My personal culinary philosophy is more about understanding food culture and the migration of food through history. What once was from one country can now be part of another as people travel and experience cultural migration.  We started off doing street food and now we have moved toward combining culinary worlds, but I wouldn’t call it fusion, it’s more than that. Fusion is a fad but migration is about 3 or 4 generations, which means it’s more permanent and ingrained.

How does your cultural background influence your cooking?

My cultural background gives me the opportunity to understand how cultures can work together and understand each other. It also allows me to push boundaries that are set by society which can be broken. Nothing can stay the same in life. It is always changing as you meet people and are influenced.

What’s your personal “Chef’s recommendation” at Mama San?

My personal favourite is the Feed Me menu as you get to select what is new and what is hot at the moment on the menu, it is definitely worth a try.

James Ephraim – Chef at LUNA Beach Club
James Ephraim – Chef at LUNA Beach Club
James Ephraim – Chef at LUNA Beach Club

What brought you to Bali?

I moved to Bali in 2007 after working in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia. Upon arriving in Bali, I joined Mozaic Ubud as a head chef.

How would you describe your culinary philosophy, and what sets your cuisine apart?

My culinary philosophy revolves around perfecting flavour combinations and prioritising the consumer’s experience above all else. We believe that food is more than just sustenance; it’s about creating memorable experiences for our guests through exceptional flavours and immersive dining encounters.

How does your cultural background influence your cooking?

From the UK’s classic cuisine to Asia’s local ingredients, my 25 years of cooking experience has evolved. I introduced new flavours to guests by incorporating local ingredients into dishes.

What’s your personal “Chef’s recommendation” at LUNA Beach Club?

LUNA Beach Club offers diverse dining experiences, with LUNA Beer Garden serving up flavorful American and Latin dishes, while Jelly Bean brings the whimsical world of Willy Wonka to life. By day, Jelly Bean is a family-friendly gelato bar, transforming into a late-night cocktail and dessert bar after dark. Meanwhile, LUNA Restaurant offers high-end ingredients with impeccable service, featuring a Chef’s Recommend tasting menu of 12-18 courses. Table 369 provides an elegant private dining space with a unique mother-of-pearl table, symbolising enlightenment and spiritual awakening.

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