The Biak-born Chef Mandif Warokka truly believes that life experiences serve as the best teacher to create greatness in the culinary world.
In 2011, Hello Bali named Chef Mandif Warokka as the Best Chef in Bali. Back then, he was still working for Ju-Ma-Na that you can find at The Banyan Tree Resort. After honing his culinary skills from different kitchens around the world, chef Mandif Warokka decided that it was his time to go home and pursue his dreams of owning a restaurant. And that decision led him to this island of the Gods. Being a chef was never in the book for him. During college, the idea of working abroad was the biggest temptation that made him choose culinary. At the age of 19, this guy moved to Malaysia and worked as a trainee. This experience then brought him to the Middle East and Europe where he gets to learn more about the European gastronomy.
In 2012, his dream came true when he opened Teatro Gastroteque. The little fine dining restaurant proved to be a hit among foodies that often visit Bali. At Teatro, he brings another level of sophistication on French cuisine but with an Asian twist. After the success of Teatro, he then opened BLANCO par Mandif that sits on the beautiful complex of Blanco Museum in Ubud. His idea of the perfect epicurean journey doesn’t only sit on your tongue, but also through the eyes with the warmest hospitality. Read more our exclusive interview with the only Indonesian born chef that we feature on this issue below.
1. Hi Chef, to start things off, what would be your go-to breakfast meal at home?
I always start my day with a glass of coffee and boiled corns. It’s either that or a plate of yellow rice to fill up the stomach.
2. When did you start learning to be a cook?
It started around 2000. I had just graduated from a tourism school in Bandung called Enhaii or Sekolah Tinggi Pariwisata Bandung.
3. You were born in Indonesia but spent a lot of time around the world. Which place that you’ve lived in that taught you the most about cooking?
I would say when I was in the Middle East. I got the chance to work as Comme Chef in Nad Al Sheba Golf & Racing Club in Dubai, and then I moved to Abu Dhabi and worked as Chef de Partie.
4. Is it true that you didn’t plan to be a chef?
It is true. Back when I was a kid, being a chef was not a profession. But as time moves on, my passion for cooking become bigger and it made me realize that being a chef is a promising career.
5. Tell us about your trajectory in the food world?
Long before I became a chef, I have to start everything from the bottom. But that taught me many things in life. For example, hard work will result in greater work. I will never complaints and always set a goal of owning my own restaurant someday.
6. You were awarded as ‘The Best Chef in Bali’ in 2011, what does an award mean to you as a chef?
An award means an achievement. It shows that after all the sweats and blood of working in the culinary industry, the people who we served in the restaurant appreciate what they had on the plates.
7. Who’s been the greatest inspiration in your cooking?
Chef Thomas Keller from the French Laundry Restaurant.
8. How would you describe the food you serve at both Teatro Gastroteque and Blanco par Mandif?
Both surely have different characters and taste, but they have similarities because they both came from the same mind.
9. As a chef and a restaurant owner, how important is the visual aspect of dining in your opinion?
It’s very important. I believe in order to enjoy fully the experience of going to a restaurant, you need to bring the same satisfaction to the eyes and the mouth.
10. What are your favorite local ingredients to work with? And why?
I would say coconut. Because you can use everything in a coconut, from the trunk, leaves, fruits, and the trunk. Coconut gives delicate emotion in recipes and creates elegance in authentic Indonesian dishes with a lot of complex seasoning.
11. What ingredient is posing a challenge or that you’ve yet to work with?
It has to be jengkol or dog-fruit. Many people still consider this as the ‘black sheep’ in the culinary because of its smell, but many of them still eat it.
12. You’ve had so many incredible chefs cook for you. What’s your memorable meal so far?
I had caviar and watercress at the same time, so that was one of the memorable meals so far. Both are from different places in this world, one being a plant and the other is considered seafood. But when they are together, it creates a perfect balance taste to the palate. As a chef, we always are facing the challenge to create a balanced taste from two different ingredients.
13. If you’re hosting a dinner party for six close friends or family, what will you serve?
I will be serving Indonesian foods. Maybe a combination of Padang cuisine with Manadonese cuisine because they are my favorites food in the whole world.
14. As a chef, you constantly have to find new flavors and bring them to the table. But, what is your day like when you’re not busy?
Surprisingly, at home, I usually cook home-style Indonesian food. Nothing fancy but filling and hearty for the whole family.
15. What is the one thing that a lot of people don’t know about you?
I have a fascination with the sound of wood.
16. Lastly, any advice you would give to someone wanting to become a chef?
They need to have passion and attitude. These two can create and shape you to become the best chef you want.