Authentic cooking is a passion for many chefs, as it allows them to explore different cultures and create new dishes that honour the region’s history and traditions. By cooking authentically, chefs can bring a unique flavour to their dishes and help bring the cultures of the world to their diners.
In this article, we went deeper into the chefs’ heads to find out what authentic cooking really means for them and how they balance keeping a recipe’s authentic flavours and ingredients with the need to make adjustments based on public requests.
Through casual interviews with lots of laughs, this compilation focuses on the unique perspective of a different chef, highlighting their love of food, culture, and cooking.
Senior Executive Chef SEAP at Karma Group
From my experience, being an American chef, there is a turning point in the reach for authentic food and cooking. To keep food authentic outside of its region, you have to really experience it. You have to have access to the ingredients, and if you don’t have access to the ingredients you have to be able to work your way to recreate the same flavour that’s from the region. I think you will never be able to recreate the perfect recreation outside of the region because the experience is different, but you can get it close.
To really be able to create an authentic dish, that’s not from your surroundings, you can’t do it from a cookbook alone. You can’t do it from research. You have to have that experience, and that’s actually more important than having the ingredients. However, having access to those ingredients makes it easier to achieve it. Food is the vehicle, but the whole experience is so much bigger.
As my food became more refined, I keep it more true to the region. So, for example, if I’m doing something that includes Japanese heritage, I don’t mix in lemongrass. Same for blue cheese, mixed with mashed potatoes.
For me, I never blend countries together. I think too many people do it for me, and it becomes “confusion fusion”.
Executive Chef at Mamaka by Ovolo
So cooking authentically, for me, it comes down to my trainer. I worked in an Italian restaurant, with 24 chefs who were all Italian. All the food was imported directly from Italy itself, so we had the proper products. It gave me “the understanding” of how flavours work. The fundamentals of preparation techniques as well, it comes down a lot to techniques, but also ingredients. Here it is quite difficult because we want to be more sustainable. It comes down to following the recipe from the people that taught you.
It just comes down to respect for products. If you cook Mediterranean food, it’s very simple. You let the natural tastes of the fish, seafood and vegetables. It’s unfast cooking. And it’s about sourcing as well. In Bali that is more difficult obviously, because we are not going to import everything since it is not sustainable.
Executive Chef at The Apurva Kempinski Bali
We have to adapt. But the quality of the product is really difficult for me, to find the best one, and to create a dish, I have to measure all these aspects. I create with my basics, and my basics come from France. When I come here, I have the French mindset and the technique and we can modernize their own product. We try to combine 2 cultures, that grew up with different minds, but there is no right or wrong.
We are in Bali, so we have to use the product that we can find here. The world is changing, and we have to be adaptable and flexible. I come with my own basics, but we should adapt to the guests. If you want the guests to come back, you have to deliver the food that they want, or you can close your restaurant.
Norberto Valdez Palacios
Executive Chef at W Bali Seminyak
Over the last ten years, most chefs have been focusing on highlighting the local flavours, culture, and products. It totally makes sense to me as I am currently in Indonesia, and I am really interested and willing to learn about Indonesian food, local traditional markets, organic gardens, and many more. As an Argentinean chef living in Bali, I tried to cook less Argentinean food because, in my opinion, it is really a waste of time. However, in my country, we love to cook with grilling and smoking methods, so I find it interesting how locals in Bali also love to grill in a traditional way using dry coconut shells, while in Argentina we love using oakwood. As a chef, I believe that we need to adapt to the culture and methods of local cuisine and this is why we as chefs love travelling around the world.
I think this concept has been misunderstood by some people. Most chefs and many people may not agree with me, however, in my opinion, the only way to stay true to a recipe is you stick to the original ingredients of the recipe. Let’s take a common example, Mexican food, you can find places outside of Mexico that can achieve good flavours, even replacing the chillies. But in my opinion, it will be never authentic because you have it in a different place or region. For me, you only can find the most authentic Mexican food only in Mexico, and this applies to every country.
Preserving tradition is super important, as a chef I am very careful with preserving recipes and flavours from my country. As time passes, it gets easier to change and adapt the food to different countries, and maybe this may help create more or new flavours. Working at a hotel like W Bali – Seminyak, with so many guests from various countries, we need to have international dishes, we need to have risotto on the menu, and I will bring a really good Italian carnaroli rice for it or Arborio. We will also have fantastic aged parmigiana cheese and butter. Every ingredient is important. However, if guests ask me, I will always suggest any local rice dish, it is going to be more authentic and traditional, my recommendation, if you are in Bali, is to eat Balinese food.
Executive Sous Chef at TENKAI Japanese Nikkei Restaurant
Once a cuisine is removed from its origin, I see that as a way to demonstrate versatility and tolerance, be creative, and be adaptive to any situation. I also take this as a chance to share my culture and traditions with the world through my dishes, in ways that can vary worldwide until they can bring authentic tastes and memories to every palate, as they should be served.
PET A.K.A. Eka
Executive Sous Chef at Hotel Nikko Bali Benoa Beach
Authentic cooking to me means creating dishes that are rooted in tradition, with a focus on flavour, quality, and technique. It involves using the freshest ingredients, and traditional cooking methods to create dishes that reflect the cultures and flavours of a particular place. But personally, for me, nothing can replace the originality of a dish.
In order to maintain the originality of the dish, we must have knowledge about that dish. We may need a lot of reading references as well as experience. We also must know the structure of the food, what the original taste is like and the people who come from the region where the dish originates.
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