Every artist is unique. We ask the same questions every month for unique insights into the varied experiences of Indonesia’s leading chefs.
What is your earliest memory of cooking?
I remember being in our home kitchen with my arms deep in dough and flour all over my face (and the floor) attempting to make cinnamon rolls. I can hear Mum grumbling in the background. Not sure what age that was, but by the time I was about 12, I was famous among the DeNeefe clan for making pavlova topped with fresh passionfruit
or juicy red strawberries.
What smell in the kitchen do you love?
I go crazy for the scent of roasted coconut. The deep nutty aroma reminds me of freshly baked butter cake when it comes out of the oven.
If you weren’t a chef, what other profession would you like to attempt?
Once upon a time, I thought I would become an artist. I actually studied art, and some of my paintings hang in Casa Luna and Indus. In my early days in Ubud, I had this romantic notion that I would paint in the mornings and then laze around afterwards like some sort of Balinese Gauguin who had escaped to the tropics.
What is your go-to ingredient?
I have about 25 go-to ingredients, but tamarind is a big favourite. With any dish that calls for red wine, I use tamarind instead (which means I get to drink the wine!). Tamarind is fabulous with osso bucco and all sorts of meaty casseroles.
What did you have for dinner last night?
I love experimenting with local dishes and adding an interesting twist. Last night I ate salmon pepes at Indus – a chunk of salmon with Balinese spices and kemangi, rolled up in banana leaves and then char-grilled for about seven minutes. The salmon was still a teeny bit pink in the centre and a dream to eat.
What turns you on creatively?
Ubud! The creative energy here keeps me plugged in 24/7 and the ideas flow morning, noon and night.
What is your favourite Indonesian dish?
Impossible to answer. But one of my favourite Balinese dishes is smoked duck. I think it’s as fabulous as rendang and deserves more attention. I love the elegance of the spices, their deep aromatic mystery and the slow-cooked, melt-in-your-mouth tenderness.
What is your next travel destination?
I am praying that my next travel destination is Malta. This was the home of my grandmother, and I have spent a lifetime wishing I could visit there. My dream is to find my relatives, learn how to cook traditional Maltese food
and ignore my emails!