“When I first opened my restaurant, I couldn’t afford to rent a room, so my family and I just slept in the restaurant, behind the bar, with my son between me and my wife, and my dog in our feet, keeping us warm with its fur. Then one customer saw me and gave me a mattress. Another one gave me a pillow. Then a blanket. ‘You’ll be fine,’ they said, ‘but take them for your son’.
I’ve loved cooking since I was a kid. I was from a very poor family, so every day before dinner my mother and I had to look for ingredients in the garden, or even in the bushes. Once we had enough, we’d cook dinner together. This habit gave birth to my life-long passion for cooking.
The economic situation in my home area in West Bali was very bad, so my family and I moved to Ubud to find work. I worked as a driver, housekeeper and janitor. I tried to save as much as I could from the little money I earned. After about 10 years, we had a little capital and finally we could open this small restaurant, which we called BintangBali. Bintang, which means Star, is the name of my son.
I hadn’t worked in a restaurant before, so I had to learn everything from scratch. I didn’t know what a burger or a steak was. I’d search on the internet, look at pictures and then I’d change the ingredients to give the recipe a local interpretation. People say my sauce for the grill is very good. I developed the recipe last year by visiting other restaurants and trying out their barbecue sauce, and working out what I liked. I wanted to create my own taste though, so I experimented with different ingredients, like cardamon, cinnamon, palm sugar and honey.
People liked the restaurant and after a year, we had enough money to rent a small bedroom. My customers loved the food and they’d ask me to do a cooking class. ‘How much does it cost?’ they’d ask. ‘Oh, it’s free,’ I’d say. You should share for free whatever knowledge you have. I learned for free from the internet, so I wanted to teach for free.
A friend once told me ‘Don’t dream your life, but live your dream’ – and that has always been my motivation.”
The genial Kadek and his wife Wayan are the owners and founders of Warung BintangBali, a charming restaurant up in the rice fields in the north of Ubud, which specialises in perfectly grilled and spiced meats and tuna and organic salads. Warung BintangBali is currently ranked #10 restaurant in Ubud on TripAdvisor, which is well-deserved and all the more impressive considering that its a kilometre or so from the centre.