"I cook by touch, by nose, by ear," says American-born chef Chris Salans, who has lived in Bali for the past 17 years. The owner of the award-winning Mozaic, Udud and Mozaic Beach Club, in Batu Belig on the southwest coast of Bali, credits his globetrotting parents, a French mother, and an American father, with inspiring him to become a chef.
"I was the third child, my brothers were seven and 10 years older than me, so once they'd left home, my parents couldn't wait anymore, they started travelling," he says. "Luckily for me, they took me with them."
A pre-teen Salans was a regular at Michelin star restaurants across Europe. "That early exposure to food and dining was formative," he says. "On those trips, in those fancy restaurants, I learned about proper balance of flavour," Salans says.
"Those dining experiences are my strongest childhood memories, not just the fine restaurants; the sardine shack at the side of the beach in Brittany has also stayed with me."
Salans is due in Sydney for Good Food Month, presented by Citi, to collaborate with his friend, fellow chef, Luke Mangan. The pair will prepare a four-course dinner at Mangan's Mojo, Waterloo, on Thursday 16 October, featuring a number of Salan's dishes from the Beach Club.
Mangan and Salans have been friends for many years. "I remember my first experience at Mozaic," Mangan says. "I thought Chris's food was amazing, it is intense yet well balanced, with strong Indonesian flavours." The friends have collaborated previously, at Mangan's Salt, Tokyo.
Salanas is hoping to present his version of the traditional Beef Rendang. "It has 36 spices, which I infuse in oil; along with coconut milk, and raw beef," he says. "I am keen to show off Indonesian native flavours, like andaliman (lemon pepper) and whatever other native Indonesian spices I can get my hands on in Sydney," Salans says.
Salans' cooking life began at Le Cordon Bleu, Paris, followed by jobs in Michelin star restaurants including Lucas Carton, Paris. A stint as executive chef at The Legian in Bali; saw him fall in love with Indonesia. However, he was soon lured to New York, and on to Thomas Keller's Bouchon in the Napa Valley. But Indonesia still beckoned him.
"I returned, and began cooking at Ary's Warung (a hotel restaurant in Ubud)," he says. "This is where I learned the most about Indonesian food. I had a whole team of Indonesians under me, and we worked to contemporise every traditional Indonesian dish," he says. "I gained an understanding of Indonesian flavours and textures, and how to use native ingredients; I've remained excited about indigenous ingredients since."
In 2001 Salans opened his first restaurant, Mozaic, in Ubud. "For me it was important to be in Ubud for several reasons," he says. "I wanted to create a destination restaurant, with a strong sense of place. A restaurant where people would come, not just for the food, but for the experience of being in a garden in a corner of Ubud," he says.
In 2013 Mozaic was awarded, 50th place in San Pellegrino Acqua Panna Asia's 50 Best Restaurants, the highest ranked restaurant in Indonesia, and 5th place in the Miele Guide's Best Restaurants of Asia. Salans believes there is a danger in awards. "One has to be careful that they don't go to your head, they can cause a chef to get frightened, to be hesitant, they can stifle one's desire to take risks," he says. "I've been to so many restaurants in Europe that have become boring as a result. I like food on the edge, and I like to take risks."
At Mozaic, Salans offers four degustation menus every evening incorporating French technique with ingredients sourced from local farmers and the market. "We are a restaurant where the chef is king," he says. "He even tells you what to eat." His newer restaurant, Mozaic Beach Club, is more relaxed. "At the Beach Club we have adopted the same philosophy – local produce and local flavours, served in a much more casual and accessible way."
Mozaic at Mojo: An Evening with Luke Mangan and Chris Salans
Bali comes to Waterloo. A four-course menu showcasing favourite dishes from both chefs' restaurant kitchens. (Thursday 16 October; $140)
Festival director's picks
Week two of The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Month, presented by Citi, is full of fine food ideas, from serious dining in hatted restaurants across town to some focused food exploring. Festival directorJoanna Savill offers some suggestions.
Asia on Your Doorstep:
Little Hay Street hosts a Friday night ''Little Eat Street'' market from 5pm, giving visitors the chance to tuck into traditional and lesser-known Asian dishes. The festival coincides with the launch of the latest Chinatown & Haymarket Food Lover's Guide – a great way to trawl the streets of our many towns (Chinatown, K-Town, J-Town, Thai-Town and more).
Shoot the Chef at Pullman Hyde Park:
Twenty-four finalists from this ever-surprising food-focused photography competition are on display in the heart of the city. Check them out on the street-facing windows of Pullman Hyde Park's Cafe 36 – exhibited as huge full-colour decals. (Till October 31.)
Newtown Good Food Fair:
Global goes local as the diversity of Newtown's restaurant scene takes to the streets. World-food inspired restaurants such as Southern American-inspired Miss Peaches, Greek-influenced The Animal @Newtown Hotel and Good Food Guide Drinks List of the Year recipient Bloodwood put on signature dishes at street-food prices. Proceeds go to a cause closer to home: the Newtown Community Centre. (October 12)
Foraging the Northern Beaches at Jonah's Restaurant:
Chef Peter Ridland uses local sea vegetables and greens to create six ocean-inspired courses. Jonah's jaw-dropping ocean view is included. (October 14)
Night Noodle Markets:
Just in case you hadn't marked up your food calendar already. The woks fire up from 5pm this Friday (October 10) in Hyde Park north. And yes, since you asked, Ramen Burger is back @ONE T Bar & Grill. There will be Sunday sessions at ''Noodles'' this year for the first time, from 4-9pm on Sunday, October 12 and 19.
For all the details, see goodfoodmonth.com