Coconut Marinated Salmon, anyone?
Move over Neil Perry and Tetsuya – another Aussie chef is making his mark on the world’s culinary stage. Kevin Chung, 34, recently quit his job at Melbourne’s Westin Hotel to take over as chef de cuisine at Starfish Bloo in Bali’s hip new W Hotel Retreat & Spa.
At the humming seaside restaurant, Kevin chats to The Starfish:
Kevin, how are you enjoying it here in Bali?
I’ve been here a couple of weeks, and I’m loving it. I’d never been to Bali before. But already I feel at home! I spent the first eight years of my life in Mauritius, so island life feels normal to me. It’s taking my partner, Xanthe, who moved here with me, a little longer to adjust to being away from family and friends. She’s been a great support to me as my career has progressed over the past ten years. We really are a team.
How old were you when you realized you wanted to be a chef?
I can’t remember wanting to do anything else. Some of my earliest memories are sitting on the stool helping mum stir things over the stove. I’ve always loved eating. But thankfully I have a high metabolism! When I left school I did a hospitality traineeship at Star City in Sydney. A few years later I ended up working with Neil Perry at Rockpool. That’s when I really felt I was moving ahead. Neil’s head chef told me, “You’ve got it.” But no matter how long you’re a chef, there’s always more to learn. Because I look Asian, people have often just assumed that’s my speciality, but it’s taken years to learn the different types of cuisine.
With your background at the Westin, and before that, Longrain in Sydney, you’re used to high turnover, so does that make this job a piece of cake?
This new position is way bigger. It really is an exciting new challenge. I’m in charge of 19 chefs on rotation throughout the day.
What’s the first move you made when you hit Bali?
I had to get to know and understand the local produce – the seafood, meats, chickens, fruit and vegetables. We want to support local regions wherever possible and use fresh local ingredients. I use some really exciting local fruits in some of my desserts. Most of the seafood supplies come from Jimbaran, and the pork, from central Bali. And I’ve been to a few of the local restaurants to sample what’s on offer. I’m very impressed with the standard at some of the places I’ve been to, like Sarong and Warisan. It’s good to have competition among chefs – we motivate each other.
What sort of food will you be preparing here?
I’ve been given a free hand. My dishes are pan-Asian, a fusion of influences from Chinese, Malay, Thai and Balinese dishes, combined with modern cuisine. I’m very, very excited to have come to Bali and be representing Australia over here.
The Starfish is delighted to present another of Kevin’s brand new creations in our Yum section. Check it out!