Sunday, 27 May 2018

What chefs eat… (by Chef Kevin)

I started cooking because I absolutely love food. Since little, I have been obsessed with eating. My holidays are planned around breakfast, lunch and dinner and they would suck without great food. The success or failure of any trip has everything to do with delicious.

Having said that, the truth is that when it comes to what chefs eat day to day, you may be surprised. Given our profession, the assumption is that we eat better than anyone on earth, mouthful after mouthful of the most magical bites of goodness… but ironically, this is just not reality.

Chefs cooking at the highest level tend to be skinny, tasting often but eating rarely. Sitting down for a proper meal is almost unheard of and most meals are taken in seconds, not minutes, by packing as much as possible into your mouth in the shortest amount of time. You can always spot a chef at a dinner when he has finished before everyone else has picked up their fork. We chefs are always behind in our work, always facing new problems sprouting up like mushrooms in our pursuit to be ready for “dinner service”. The best things to eat are logically set aside for guests so trimmings, leftovers and scraps are our fuel. Food is our obsession but the actual consumption of it has its challenges, as most chefs just don’t have the time, the money or the appetite.

So, what do chefs eat then? It is after work that the true caveman comes out. After midnight, like a vampire, we feast giving our malnourished bodies the nutrition to keep us alive for the next day of battle. We are looking for the most fulfilling comfort food possible, nothing challenging, no experimentation, honest old school classics that never disappoint: macaroni and cheese, meatballs, roast chicken, scalloped potatoes… anything that grandma would make and the food that makes you feel loved; the dishes that hold your hand before bed and put you to sleep.

So, the next time you ask a chef for his recommendations on what to eat, keep in mind it may be like asking a four year old what he wants for his birthday.

However, if now you want to find out Where Chefs Eat… don’t miss this great little book. And yes, you guessed it, Cuca is on their list!

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Swig & Nibble™: a food event like no other

Food in restaurants has come a long way. Nowadays every city on the planet has access to all sorts of deliciousness. It is now taken for granted but I assure you that growing up things were very different and it would have been unthinkable to get a lunch of authentic dim sum, Korean BBQ, Indian Tandoori or a killer Turkish Kebab.

So indeed food has come a long way but there is one style of food event that is deeply rooted in tradition, unable to move forward, good but not great and in need of repair. Ladies and gentlemen, we are talking about the dreaded Cocktail & Canape Reception! You may remember the last time you attended one of these beauties as people hung around for hours in uncomfortable yet elegant clothes looking happier than they should, sipping on room temperature champagne and eating small food from silver trays that is easily spat into napkins. We at Cuca are here to help.

We present to you the next gen of canape feasts, a fairy-tale food and wine experience:  Swig & Nibble™, Cuca’s uniqua-licious gastro tour!

This is how it goes: guests arrive at a unique space set up specifically for the event, locations are never repeated and guests are never the same. Three action-packed hours of 20 magically crafted savory and sweet canapes are presented on oversized trays brimming with humor and intrigue and served in a non-stop, predetermined sequence. All this, snappily orchestrated with meticulously paired wines and funky techno swing sounds.

Curious? We will let you know where we pop up next but until then, I guess it’s back to the violin and smoked the salmon.

Fish n Chips: one of our 20 tasty morsels 

Friday, 23 March 2018

Happy people, more fish

Those simple words were the opening statement for the most recent sustainable seafood roundtable held in Bali. The goal was simple: to educate fishermen to fish responsibly Indonesia’s bounty of seafood ensuring a future for the oceans and providing better lives for those fishermen.

Local communities are carrying out multiple programs to teach old and new generations of fishermen and suppliers this very important lesson: less volume, better quality, more money.

Cuca was invited by MDPI (a non-profit organization operating regionally to promote sustainable fisheries and improve fisherman livelihood in Indonesia) to attend and shed light on the challenges we restaurateurs face currently working with local fishermen and suppliers. Our commitment to our customers is to ensure that the time from ocean to kitchen is as short as possible and all the steps along the way are icy cold. We need the seafood to reflect the magical pristine environment it came from and be a perfect example of the hard work that goes into making a dish the best someone ever had. No chef can revive a 5-day old fish but even a four year old can make that fish just caught, undoubtedly delicious.

Now "What can I do about all this?", you may ask. Well, lesser known fish are no less delicious so try and eat the things that are abundant. If you have no idea what you should or should not be eating the best way is to check the WWF fish guide for your county. It will probably have you shocked at what you should be avoiding and excited at what is best to devour. Wild fish taste better and are better for you so hopefully, we don’t become dependent on the manufactured chickens of the sea. Sea-food for thought!



Friday, 23 February 2018

All about taste

When we tell people that we live in Bali their reaction is always one of jealousy. They instantly assume a tranquil life of surfing, sunsets and total utter relaxation. Well, unfortunately, the reality couldn’t be farther from the truth as we don’t surf, the last sunset we saw was almost a year ago and we are constantly running around stressed. The reason is simple: since we moved to Bali six years ago we were determined to add FOOD to the list of reasons people come to visit this beautiful island paradise.

Food here 10 years ago was either simple inexpensive local “warungs” serving deliciously traditional cooking or huge luxury hotels with extravagant cliff top fine dinings boasting the best of the world’s imported ingredients. The entire mid-level casual dining market did not exist and that’s exactly how we saw ourselves fitting in. We would simply take all the attention to detail, passion and precise cooking of those expensive fine dining joints but use the fabulous local ingredients available in traditional markets. The result is something different with big exotic flavors and affordable pricing providing a new style of casual dining called "Cuca".

Being too relaxed for the tuxedo-wearing glamorous socialites and too gourmet for the thrifty island surfer, Cuca found its market with the obsessed food driven gourmet traveler. The people that plan their days not only based on where to go and what to see but what delicious things they want to eat.  If you find yourself among the few who plan a trip around finding those wonderful places serving food made with love and eating mouthfuls of culture and magic, you may want to consider a trip our way.

Cuca's classic Crispy Fried Chicken: all about taste.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

New year, new travels, new ideas

Changing a menu in a restaurant may sound simple but I assure you it is not. First, in Cuca we must identify which items to remove from the current menu that will hopefully avoid anger and frustration when that die-hard foodie returns for his favorite dish and it is no longer there. Second, we need to find new amazing products from all over Indonesia that actually arrive when we order them. Third, the new food must be our best attempt at giving a customer the best dish he has ever eaten, otherwise what’s the point of putting it on the menu?

If all those things actually get done, we are then only left with updating and printing the menus, changing the website, creating the costing and buttons for the sales system, taking the new dish photos, re-printing the waiter order taking cards, updating kitchen recipes, training the entire kitchen and dining room team, sending the press releases, redoing all the food allergy information to ensure no one ever eats something they can’t and finally timing all of this to come together and be ready on the very same day.

You can then understand that once those new items hit the menu we feel just as proud parents delivering them to the world and totally exhausted. The truth is we don’t change the menu often in Cuca mainly because it’s tough to make the best thing anyone has ever eaten.

Delicious takes time but let me tell you what made the cut for our next menu change in Cuca. All available from February 1. 


Hot Potatoes: onion fudge, charred scallions, spiced keluak gravy
We are proud to deliver the religious experience of biting into the molten creamy delicious happiness of a classic Spanish croquette. Our filling instead is inspired by the timeless cooking of Indonesia as we recently discovered in a market in Toraja. The dish becomes mysterious by our use of the local fruit “keluak”, one of the most unique ingredients we have ever tasted with its earthy hints reminiscent of dark chocolate, toasted almond and olives. A flavor like no other.

Hawaiian Cracker: double smoked ham, melting cheese, clove spiced pineapple
Inspired by the legendary Hawaiian pizza, our version is flavored with both thin slices of lightly salted, deeply smoked, cured ham and gently poached ribbons of pineapple scented with clove. These succulent morsels are left standing on a wafer-thin multi-seed cracker that shatters like glass when broken apart. It’s not really pizza, it is one hell of a cracker!

Ricotta Gnocchi: cheese dumplings, roasted watermelon, sun-dried tomato pesto
3 months of recipe testing finally came to an end with these soft pillowy mouthfuls of tender silky fresh cheese. Inspired by the humble Italian classic “Gnocchi Pomodoro”, we use roasted watermelon to mimic the sweetness of delicate braised tomatoes and add the tomatoes instead to a sauce that brings the dish to a brighter level. We’re not Italian but we think we won this one hands down.

Bali Soft Taco: homemade brown rice tortillas, braised mushrooms, chili salsa 
After 21 days in Mexico, we now understand Tacos. We ate many and even when bad they are actually still pretty good. So, determined to serve tacos in Cuca, we decided to make the most delicious taco entirely vegan and have no one know that those charred strings of moist tender meat are actually slow braised onions and mushrooms. We crafted a super unique tortilla from organic local brown rice and created a crunchy topping of grilled fresh coconuts. Bali now has Tacos!