The most noticeable thing upon meeting Norberto Valdez Palacios is his easy-going approach and his infectious, positive, can-do attitude, bringing more fun to W Bali – Seminyak’s culinary scene. He came across his passion for culinary by accident and has never looked back.
by Runi Indrani
E: Tell us the story of how you first got into the culinary industry? Has it always been your passion?
A: During my second year in university, studying law, I needed to earn extra money for books and transportation, so I found a job in a local hotel kitchen, where I first discovered my passion for food. I finished the second year of my studies in law, but the following year I decided to move to a culinary school and the rest is history.
E: Your career has taken you to many countries around the world. What is the biggest obstacle you’ve come across and how did you overcome it?
A: I consider myself a very lucky person in terms of my career and I have not faced any major obstacles. However, I did face many different challenges. Communication is key in the kitchen and one of the most difficult challenges I experienced was in Macao, mainly because of the language barrier, but I managed to find a way to overcome this and create a good team culture in the kitchen.
E: Throughout your career, what has been the most memorable moment for you?
A: I have many memorable moments. I think the time I worked in Dubai was great in terms of achieving social recognition and awards; we got all the possible awards at that time, and awards always help to consolidate the morale of the teams to continue creating great food.
E: How would you describe the culinary offerings W Bali – Seminyak has to offer?
A: I will say that the offers are super diverse in different ways, from the ocean to land offerings at Starfish Bloo and FIRE, as well as the special events in Woobar where we can create and present different options. The lobby lounge also has unique offerings, such as our T-Party options, among others.
E: Starfish Bloo and FIRE are two of the leading dining destinations in Bali. With you on board, have you made a lot of changes to the existing concepts, or simply made a tweak or two?
A: The concept at FIRE is very strong, it just needed a bit of focus on the details, and so far, we are doing great. We are very open to inviting chefs for collaborations and having a weekly special weekend product to keep our menu lively and fun. In regards to Starfish Bloo, we are working on a new concept, and come November, we will have a new menu with a new narrative and a different approach to Balinese cuisine.
E: What can we expect from W Bali – Seminyak in terms of culinary in the near future?
A: Since I joined W Bali in April, we’ve already invited and collaborated with four local chefs, which received a great, positive response from our guests. I also invited one of the best Asian pastry chefs to Bali on a successful three-day event. I still have a lot of great international chef colleagues who are keen to come to W Bali. As a chef, one of my strongest beliefs is teamwork and friendship, so you can expect to see more collaborations with prolific chefs, where we’ll serve up exquisite food.
E: What do you think of Bali’s culinary scene so far?
A: Before coming to W Bali, I already knew that Bali had an interesting food culture. I’ve just started to explore and discover it, and so far, it has been fantastic. I am very happy to be here.
E: What advice would you give someone who would like to get into the culinary industry?
A: At this particular moment, I feel that it is much easier to become a chef nowadays, and there is also a big demand for chefs in the hotel industry. For me personally, I always like to work with young chefs who are curious to learn and hone their skills. My advice to aspiring chefs is to put your heart, soul, and passion into everything you do, but to also set your mind on your goals, study hard and always listen.
W Bali – Seminyak