The name Ryan Clift barely needs introduction, with by an illustrious career that spans more than 30 years and his many accolades. After his successful Singapore restaurant, Tippling Club, his latest endeavour is a unique cave dining concept in Bali. He sat down with Exquisite Media during his trip to the island and shared more about what he’s up to.
by Runi Indrani
E: Can you tell us how you got to help create The cave by Chef Ryan Clift restaurant?
A: I met my wife about eight years ago in Singapore, and it turned out that she was living in Bali at the time, so I started to come to Bali every couple of weeks. I got to meet a lot of interesting people who I now do a lot of interesting things with here in Bali. One of these was a lady called Caroline Usher, a designer of many amazing restaurants in Southeast Asia and around the world. She was approached by the team of The edge Bali because they discovered a cave on the property that they didn’t know they had. Caroline said, “I think I’ve got the guy you need to meet”, and they came to meet me in Singapore at my restaurant, Tippling Club. We hit it off, they liked my food, and we concocted this crazy idea to put a restaurant 30 metres underground in a subterranean, living cave.
E: Tell us more about the restaurant.
A: To our knowledge, it’s only one of its kind in the world. We’re the only one with a fully functioning kitchen and bar and three-dimensional laser projections in between courses. My head chef here, Chef Chan Tay, has been with me for about six years. He knows how I work and my style, he’s one of the most hardworking young chefs I have met in many years, he’s very humble and grounded. He’s been responsible for putting the team together and found some of our really promising young talents. We have quite a large team considering there are only 20 seats. It’s about attention to detail and professional service. We’re just constantly evolving. Every couple of months, we change the menu and the wall projection. I think we’ve created the most unique destination-driven concept for gastronomy on the island of Bali, and I think it’s super cool.
E: The cave grabbed quite the attention with its unique dining concept. How would you describe the food to those who haven’t been there?
A: It stems from Tippling Club really. I have a style of food that is mine, it’s unique to me. I have my own way of doing things. I’m purely driven by produce, smell, taste, texture, and temperature. I draw inspiration from all over the world. The end result is tasty and visually stunning, using the best produce I can find. I just class my cooking as modern gastronomy. It’s an explosion of flavours, visually pleasing, but the core is really well grounded, so there is technique involved.
E: As an internationally known chef, what do you think is the biggest misconception about you?
A: I’ve got nothing to hide, I don’t keep my mouth shut if I don’t want to. I speak my mind when I feel like it, and if something annoys me, I’ll be very vocal about it. But I don’t think there’s any misconception about who I am, or what I am, because I say it out straight, simple as that. They call me the “bad boy chef of Singapore”, I don’t know why it is, but I’m a very good boy, you can ask my wife. Ask any of my staff, they’ll tell you that I’m a father figure to them, they have become part of my family. We’ve created something good, it’s the reason why I have staff at the Tippling Club who have been there from the start – 15 years. That speaks volumes on how I run my restaurant and my kitchen. We have created the same here, the opening team is still here, Chef Chan learned from me how to treat the staff with respect because that’s what I want from them. But yeah, I’m the bad boy chef, so what?
E: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to get into the F&B industry?
A: One hundred percent go for it. It’s hard, long hours, pays really poorly at the start, but you’ll make an amazing array of friends, you create an amazing social network, you can work in any country in the world, and every day is different, nothing is ever the same. You’re constantly using your brain and adapting, you learn how to solve problems in a split second. There’s no limit in cooking, it’s only your imagination that limits you. That’s why I still get up and do 18 hours a day, I think it’s one of the best jobs in the world.
The cave by Chef Ryan Clift
The edge Bali