Emblematic of the growing pool of talented hospitality professionals hailing from Bali, is the increasing presence of young Balinese in key positions at leading hotels, both in Indonesia and abroad.
In keeping with this trend, 35-year-old Ketut Gede Eka Kurniawan was recently appointed as Executive Chef at the Conrad Bali Resort & Spa.
Born in Klungkung, "Eka" was destined from his earliest days to a life dedicated to the culinary arts. Hailing from a family where his Grandparents operated a popular local warung, or restaurant, and his parents were often called upon to prepare elaborate meals dedicated to God for local religious celebrations, Eka recalls cooking his first full-fledged meal at the tender age of 5. Equally fresh in his memory are adventurous outings to the local market with his Grandmother who taught him the intricacies of carefully selecting only the finest herbs, spices and main ingredients of the dishes on that day's menu.
Clearly, the man is passionate about his food. A question regarding the first dish he ever cooked, caused the interview to digress into an extended discourse on the relative merits of various recipes for Lawar - a deceptively simple staple of the Balinese table.
A graduate of Bali's Tourism Academy, he trained at a small hotel in Kuta and the former Bali Imperial Hotel before accepting a job at sea on a foreign cruise line.
Now, 3 cruise lines; a stint with the Ritz Carlton in Dubai; a period as a General manager of a small Bali hotel; and visits to 75 countries later – Eka has finally come home to Bali where his comprehensive knowledge of cooking has earned him the coveted role as Executive Chef at the Conrad Bali Resort and Spa.
Widely regarded as home to three of Bali's best restaurants the Conrad Bali Resort's - Suku, 8 Degrees and Spice, Eka has stepped into the kitchen clogs left unoccupied with the departure of legendary chef Gary Rosen – a man seen as raising the bar on local culinary excellence.
Does this intimidate Eka? Hardly. Eka told Balidiscovery.com that Gary was an outstanding mentor who bequeathed to him his kitchen axioms of a) "keeping it simple;" b) "simple is elegant;" and c) "cooking is not only art, but a matter of meeting the client's expectations." Armed with these tenets and a personal culinary vision to explore via the Conrad's three outstanding food & beverage outlets, Eka is destined to leave his mark on the culinary history of Bali.
Married with two children, Eka fills his busy schedule by keeping a steady hand on the Conrad's kitchen brigade and regularly leading his young children to local markets where he passes on Grandma's secrets on selecting only the freshest turmeric and other spices.
When we asked Chef Eka for a parting gift for Balidiscovery.com's readers, he generously provided the following recipe:
SATE LILIT BE PASIH
Mixed Seafood SateIngredients
100 gr Snapper fillet (skinned and minced)
20 gr Spice paste for sate
2 tsp Palm sugar
2 pcs Kaffir lime leaves (Finely chopped)
50 gr Coconut milk
5 pcs Lemon grass stick
Salt & pepperSPICE PASTE FOR SATE
20 gr Garlic (peeled and sliced)
40 gr Shallots (peeled and sliced)
20 gr Turmeric (peeled and sliced)
20 gr Ginger (peeled and sliced)
50 gr large red chilis (halved, seeded and sliced)
10 gr Bird's Eye chilis (seeded and sliced)
50 gr Tomatoes (halved and seeded)
10 gr Coriander seeds (crushed)
5 gr Shrimp paste (roasted)
100 ml Coconut oil
2 pcs Salam leaves
2 stalks Lemon grass (bruised)
50 ml WaterMETHOD (SPICE PASTE FOR SATE)
1. Combine all ingredients except salam leaves, lemon grass and water in a stone mortar and grind coarsely.
2. Place ground ingredients in a heavy saucepan, add remaining ingredients and simmer over medium heat for 1 hour or until water is evaporated and paste takes on a golden color. METHOD (SATE LILIT)
1. Mix minced snapper with spice for sate, add chopped kaffir lime leaves, palm sugar, coconut milk and seasoning with salt & pepper.
2. After mixing well, twist the mixture on the lemon grass stick.
3. Grill over very hot charcoal until golden brown
4. Serve with 'sambal matah' SAMBAL MATAH
20 gr Shallot (peeled, cut in half and finely chopped)
20 gr Lemon grass (finely chopped)
10 gr Large red chilis (finely chopped)
10 gr Bird's eye chilis (finely chopped)
2 pcs kaffir lime leaves ( chopped )
10 gr Roasted shrimp paste (terasi) - (finely grated)
10 ml Coconut oil
1 pcs Kaffir lime
Salt & pepperMETHOD (SAMBAL MATAH)
Combine above ingredients in deep bowl and mix well for 5 minutes, seasoning with salt & pepper and kaffir lime juice.
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