Ni Wayan Jepun – fondly known among here colleagues at Karma Kandara simply as Mama Jepun – is one of the talented chefs at Karma Kandara. She kindly took some time out from her hectic kitchen schedule to answer some questions for Karma Community…
Where are you from in Bali (region, village, banjar)?
My name is Ni Wayan Jepun, a short but beautiful name. My mother gave it to me. You said that Mr. Clinton commented on my mischievous smile saying, “Yes, if there are no naughty people in the kitchen, it’s not Jepun.” I’m from Bangli, but I married someone from Tabanan and have three children. Currently we live in the Kampyal Nusa Dua area.
What is the most famous dish from this area?
From Tabanan there is a dish called Jukut Kelor. Another famous dish is Lawar Gedang from Bangli, which is papaya mixed with grated coconut. It tastes quite good and can be a little spicy, just like me (Cheeky Smile). I really enjoy spicy food, especially with pork or chicken.
What is your favourite dish to eat?
My favourite is Babi Guling, and the second is a fish that is quite famous in Kintamani Bali called Mujair Nyat Nyat. This is a spicy dish served with a blend of Indonesian herbs and spices, and I highly recommend trying it. The experience of eating Mujair Nyat Nyat in Kintamani is really the perfect marriage of local cuisine with authentic Balinese ambience.
Why did you start cooking?
I have a personal story of what pushed me to become a chef. As a child, I faced days of not eating due to our family’s poverty, so I know what it’s like to go to bed hungry. This experience inspired within me the dream of studying culinary arts in order to prepare and present various kinds of food. Ultimately, I want to make my own dishes and food products. I believe that by doing this, I can truly give the best to every guest, sharing the love I put into my cooking. It always tastes better with love in it.
Who or what is your biggest culinary influence?
I admire technique and passion in the culinary world. Two of my culinary inspirations are England’s Gordon Ramsay and Australia’s fun-loving Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver. Both have brilliant engineering techniques and emphasise cleanliness and sanitation, which I really appreciate and always do myself.
What three words best describe your approach to cooking?
Cooking for me is heart, challenge and passion. At Karma Group, we create and develop menus based on our market. Just as Chef Joseph Antonishek creates Indian cuisine for the Indian market, Thanksgiving for Americans on holiday – we always try to meet our guests’ preferences and give them a little taste of home.
What’s the best prank you’ve ever pulled in the kitchen?
I believe in maintaining a positive and supportive atmosphere in the kitchen. Sometimes, when tensions rise, I break the seriousness by breaking into song or dancing randomly. It’s important to keep team morale high, as we spend more time at work than at home.
What is your favourite dish on your menu?
We offer 6 courses, starting with Tuna Tartare as a starter and ending with an Ocean Initiative dessert. It’s impossible to pick just one favourite from such a wonderful dining selection.
How long have you been with Karma Group – and are you happy working here?
I have been with Karma Kandara for almost 6 years, and I really enjoy working here. The team, especially in the kitchen, are very supportive. We have grown together and developed our skills. Karma Kandara feels like a family. This company also provides many benefits and has helped me advance my career from Chef de Partie to Sous Chef.
What would you recommend as a must-try dish in Bali for all Karma Group guests?
I highly recommend trying the Royal Rayunan dinner at Restaurant di Mare. We create each dish to represent various regions in Indonesia, such as Rendang from Sumatra, Ayam Taliwang from Lombok, Urab from Bali, and Bebek Tangkap from Aceh, all of which showcase the diverse flavours of Indonesia for an authentic culinary journey. Don’t forget to try the chili sauce; this is absolutely delicious!