From the streets of Tokyo, to one of the best resorts in Bali, Executive Japanese Chef Mitsuaki Senoo has taken the kitchen by the horns at KO Restaurant of InterContinental Bali Resort.
E: How did you first get into culinary arts, and were there any notable moments throughout your upbringing into the industry?
A: Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had a passion for cooking. I started by cooking at home while my parents were working to support the family. My brother and I simply had to cook to survive, so I was able to learn a lot from that. I wasn’t exactly a good boy throughout high school, and while I pretended to go to school, I instead went to various restaurants to help run their kitchen. This is how I first got into culinary work, and my first business was a food truck in the streets of Tokyo. It was when I noticed the returning line of people in front of my truck that I knew I could truly be a professional chef. I was 24 when I jumped into my first official position as a chef, and hence the true start of my culinary journey.
E: How did the opportunity to move to KO Restaurant at the InterContinential Bali Resort come around?
A: I knew about the reputation KO Restaurant held as one of the best Japanese restaurants on the island. As a Japanese, I had an extensive background in Italian, French and Asian cuisine, but I knew I wanted to concentrate my efforts on authentic Japanese cuisine. KO gave me the opportunity to provide authentic Japanese culture and cuisine to guests from all around the world. This is what brought me to KO Restaurant.
E: What brought you to Bali, in the first place?
A: It has everything to do with the people and culture. I also surf because of my kids, and that is what made me choose Bali. I believe Bali is a great stage for me to share my talents with a global audience, and working here has been a great opportunity for me.
E: What have been your favourite things about Bali, since moving here?
A: The people have been extremely friendly and kind. The culture is artistic, and I never feel alone.
E: You’ve had the privilege of cooking for an impressive list of prominent world figures, including the former President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. From your memory, can you share his favourite dish, or a dish you made for him?
A: Surprisingly, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has a very ordinary taste. His favourites include ayam goreng, mie goreng and sambal. We would prepare sambal dishes originating from several regions of Indonesia. He is a health-conscious individual, so our cooking would often include ingredients containing coconuts and virgin olive oil.
E: Some others you’ve cooked for include former Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, among others. What system is in place for preparing delicacies for such influential people, and what kind of menu did you provide for them?
A: Everything would have been chosen very carefully. We would be specially focussed on our first-class individuals, and showcase a unique menu to our VIPs. It would take up to four hours to prepare meals for these types of guests, as certain ingredients would be run by their individual doctors prior to each visit. It was definitely a challenge to overcome some of the hurdles placed by our famous visitors, as someone who simply loves to cook.
E: What is the biggest challenge you’ve come across in your career, and how did you go about handling it?
A: It was hard to find a mentor who shared the values that I put into my cooking. I believe the best mindset a chef can have is one of purity and integrity while doing the job for the love of food and people. Chefs should be honest about the food they are preparing, and nothing is more important than that, to me.
E: What is the key to your leadership role as the Executive Japanese Chef of KO Restaurant?
A: My team members are already very skilled, but to maximise the communication in the kitchen, I’m doing my best to speak in Indonesian with them. I’m still learning the language, but I think it’s the best I can do to respect to culture and customs of the workplace here.
E: Any culinary projects in the making at KO Restaurant you can share with us?
A: Right now, we are setting up a new concept at KO. We always want to optimise the experience from the entrance to dining. We’re looking to back our dishes with local stories attached to them, as told through the taste, smell, preparation and presentation of each meal.
E: What advice would you give to up-and-coming chefs who want to work for the kind of lineup you have cooked for?
A: I’d like to say to young chefs; treat every dish like you are cooking it for your mother. Additionally, trust yourself, be honest and find your love for a particular food that you have a passion for preparing. Everything about becoming a chef is exponential, but as long as your heart is in the right place, you won’t disappoint yourself.
Exquisite Taste Volume 41
InterContinental Bali Resort
Jalan Raya Uluwatu, Jimbaran
Bali 80361, Indonesia
T: (+62) 361701888