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Exclusive Interview With Chef Ketut Suwantra of The ANVAYA Beach Resort Bali

Eat Vacation sits down with Chef Ketut Suwantra of The ANVAYA Beach Resort Bali to talk about the rich flavours and potential of local Indonesian food. 

Ever since he was a young boy growing up in Bali, Chef Ketut Suwantra of The ANVAYA Beach Resort Bali has been fascinated by the culinary world. On the Island, where many traditional ceremonies involve a whole lot of food, cooking is even more common of an activity, which led him to wonder: how do these people become such good cooks?

The question led him to embark on his path in becoming a professional chef, and the Resort’s Kunyit Restaurant is part of his journey in making authentic Indonesian food more known to the global audience.

“When people come to Kunyit, the moments they acquire while they are here: I hope it is a good memory to them. When that’s the case, they will always remember and come back again,” Chef Ketut told Eat Vacation in a recent interview.

Fresh ingredients are key to the rich flavours of Indonesian food, Chef Ketut highlighted during the interview – the process in which these ingredients are processed also produces a distinct aroma.

This is part of what inspires him the most at work, the promise of a good dish from his own hands to the diner’s plate, and the good service that is provided for the guests. Chef Ketut highlighted the importance of positivity to instill joy not only in doing the work itself, but also the product created as a result.

For Chef Ketut, Indonesian food is unique for its fresh ingredients – where most of the spices undergo traditional processing that adds to the aroma of the dishes. In the making of basic ingredients, for example, Indonesian dishes still rely on crushing the spices with ulekan as opposed to using a modern blender. The former, he said, is more effective in ensuring that the real flavour is extracted.

The Balinese chef has worked in the industry since 1993, training to master different cuisines and also doing stints in different parts of the world. When it comes to dishes he enjoys preparing the most, he said fresh seafood is on top of the list, something Bali is certainly well-known for.

Chef Ketut’s career in the culinary industry began in 1993, and with more than twenty years of experience one of his mission is to further Indonesian food in the international scene.

“When you prepare grilled fish, for example, we can serve it fresh in a relatively short amount of time, right to the guests’ table. It’s very simple,” Chef Ketut said.

In his kitchen at Kunyit Restaurant, the chef treats all his team members like family, which he said is important to ensure that should any problem arises, no one would hesitate in voicing it out.

“From hearing what they have to say, we become more aware. And I have been in their positions – so I will not close the doors to any ideas,” Chef Ketut said.

Chef Ketut believes that positivity while cooking translates into the dishes served, and emphasised this at Kunyit Restaurant as to give guests the best experience.

As for his process when creating or adding a new dish, his method involves tracing the origins of the dish itself, doing research and ensuring a balance between the real taste and how it should be adjusted to fit the guests’ palate at the Hotel. The process, Chef Ketut said, could take about three months, during which it would also be put to a taste test various times.

“For those who are just embarking on the culinary world, I always suggest that the first thing one should do is to dig out the potential of local cuisines,” Chef Ketut said.

He said that local cuisines, whether it is from Bali, Lombok, or other parts of Indonesia, will increasingly be a high selling point, because of their distinctively unique qualities. It also fuels the pride of the nation, and even become a part of a process to teach others on how to appreciate local culture and cuisines.

Furthermore, local cuisines can help promote the regions and reinvigorate local economies, as many local dishes will require ingredients from the area, too – therefore creating a kind of circular economy that is good for a lot of people.

As a Balinese, Chef Ketut has a lot of stories to share about the Island and the food, and especially how every dish tells a story. In fact, from Eat Vacation’s conversation with the chef, it’s obvious that those stories are part of what makes him so passionate about what he does. However, joy is still what he hopes to convey to his guests, as he aims to make his guests happier with every meal he serves.