Chef lives his dream as he serves true tastes of Bali
Four tomatoes, five red chilli peppers, four hot chilli peppers, three cloves of garlic, three shallots, one teaspoon of salt and one teaspoon of palm sugar.
It is the red chilli tomato paste recipe that inspired Nyoman Gede Wardana's culinary career and one that is now synonymous with almost every dish he serves up as the executive chef at Wyndham Dreamland Resort Bali.
"If you can guess my age, you can have a cocktail on me,” Chef Nyoman quips while sitting in the resort's Dreamland Cafe, engrossed in conversation but always keepinga watchful eye over the kitchen beyond.
"Thirty-eight,” I fire back as a look of surprise crosses the cheery chef's face and hebursts into laughter. He motions for oneof his staff members to prepare my cocktail.
It was a lucky guess but I can't help but think it's a slight bit of redemption for all the chilli that has left my tongue burning in recent days.
It's hard to believe Chef Nyoman has achieved as much as he has in just 38 years.
"Cooking is my hobby,” he says.
"I am following my grandma, she is the famous chef in the village.
"I was seven years old, my grandma would take me to help people in the village have their ceremonies and weddings.
"My grandma taught me how to make the sambal and red chilli tomato paste. I still use all of her recipes.”
Chef Nyoman has come a long way from helping his grandmother in the kitchen.
As a teenager, he attended university to specialise in cooking.
From there, he landed his first job as a dishwasher at an Italian restaurant in Bali. Dish washing led to food prep and within a year he was cooking up a storm.
Soon enough, Chef Nyoman found himself waving goodbye to Bali and taking up an opportunity to work in Doha in the Middle East.
It was there he really honed his skills, learning from Lebanese, English and American chefs and perfecting his Asian fusion style of cooking.
When he eventually returned to Bali, Chef Nyoman spent several years working at different establishments, before settling at Wyndham Dreamland - a place he could make his own.
"I stayed here for a week to get inspiration for the concept of the restaurants,” he says.
"From there I had the idea to open Dreamland Cafe. Everyone knows Dreamland Beach for the surfing.”
While he says the Dreamland Cafe appeals to Western diners, the Rayunan Restaurant, which is nestled below the resort surrounded by tropical rainforest, is a nod to his cultural roots.
"Downstairs we did Rayunan because locally it means 'for eating',” he says.
The unique space showcases an array oflocal delicacies including the classic Javanese oxtail soup and beef rendang ala padang, dishes Chef Nyoman says guestslove to eat but love even more to learnhow to cook.
That is why he has launched special cooking lessons at the resort, as a way to pass on his passion for food, like his grandmother did for him.
Without Chef Nyoman, Dreamland Resort would not quite be the same.
Like nasi goreng paired with a good sauvignon blanc, the two complement each other.
Chef Nyoman's incredible food aside, the resort really does live up to its "dreamland” title.
Nestled in nature in Pecatu - one of the most popular areas on Bali's Bukit peninsula - the relatively new resort is a private oasis free from the hustle and bustle experienced in some parts of the tourist destination.
While the accommodation is extremely luxe and modern - think spotless, sparkling white flooring, frame-less frosted glass and thick drapes - the resort's common areas are at one with their surroundings.
From the sunset bar overlooking Dreamland Beach to the three infinity-style pools wrapping around the Dreamland Cafe,there is something spectacular at everyturn.
But it is below the resort where the true gem is hidden - the wellness centre.
This cool, cavernous space is a place where anyone would feel relaxed just by stepping inside.
The centrepiece is a huge gazebo-style structure with a yoga deck surrounded by a pond.
There is also a stunning, circular atrium area where natural light pours in from above and lush vines and greenery creep along its concrete archways.
While there is plenty to keep you occupied at the resort, if you are looking for adventure, it is the perfect launching pad to experience all that Bali has to offer.
Surfing and partying
If heading home with a holiday tan that will make your friends jealous is your goal, then soaking up sea and salt during surfing lessons at Jimbaran Bay should be on your activity list.
The sheltered bay is perfect for beginners, and there is no judgment when you get wiped out by a wave.
The activity can be organised through Wyndham Dreamland Resort and includes board and swim shirt hire, as well as the lessons themselves.
Jimbaran Bay is also perfect for those who prefer to watch from the sidelines.
It is a beautiful spot to kick back, relax and enjoy a fresh coconut milk.
If falling continuously and swallowing copious amounts of seawater is not your style, then another great spot to catch some rays, while also sipping on cocktails, is at the exclusive Omnia Dayclub.
The swanky open-air oceanfront club, perched atop the limestone cliffs 100m above the Indian Ocean, has multiple swimming pools, three bars and a DJ.
A key feature of the club is a huge walkway and adjoining bar which extends out beyond the edge of the cliff and hangs over the ocean.
Hang-gliders can often be spotted cruising past from this vantage point.
You can reserve a daybed at the club, or go all out and splash some cash on a cabana or bungalow.
You haven't experienced Bali until you have witnessed a cheeky monkey steal an unsuspecting tourist's phone, wallet or sunglasses.
The perfect place to observe such hilarities is at the famed Uluwatu Temple - which is just a 15-minute drive from Dreamland Resort.
The ancient Balinese Hindu sea temple and surrounding monkey forest, where modest clothing is a must, is also home to the Kecak and Fire Dance performance.
After winding your way through the monkey forest and past the cliff-side temple, settle in to the outdoor amphitheatre just before sunset to experience the Kecak performance, which captivates the senses.
The colourful and extremely dramatic performance begins with a choir of 50 men dressed in black, red and white wraps flooding the stage dancing and chanting.
These men form a large circle and a fire is set in its centre.
The 'cak cak' noise the men chant throughout the show is said to resemble the noise of monkeys.
As the sun sets and the fire glows brighter, more dancers enter the circle and re-enact a historic tale of kidnap.
It is the famed tale of Ramayana, which follows Prince Rama's quest to rescue his beloved wife Sita after she is kidnapped by enemy Ravana. Prince Rama is helped by an army of monkeys.