WITH BALI’S HIPPEST, FINE DINING BEACH CLUB MERE PUTTY IN HIS TALENTED HANDS, CO-OWNER CHEF JAMES EPHRAIM REVEALS HIS SECRET TO KEEPING THINGS HOT IN AND OUT OF THE KITCHEN.
Asia Dreams: You worked as the Chef de Cuisine for Chris Salans and his Mozaic Restaurant in Ubud for a couple of years before opening Mozaic Beach Club. How did the two of you come up with the idea to open something on the beach?
Ephraim: Chris and I were having a bite to eat at one of our favorite local warungs when, basically, he asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I told him that after Bali I was thinking about heading to Tokyo. He prodded and asked what I planned after that. When I told him about wanting to open my own restaurant, there was no hesitation. He said ‘let’s do something together’.
Asia Dreams: You love to travel. Are you happy that you decided to stay in Bali?
Ephraim: I have been away from the UK now for ten years cooking for restaurants in New Zealand, Thailand and Spain. I love the Bali lifestyle – it’s hard to leave. Bali is a culinary playground for me. Being here has introduced me to many new ingredients I wasn’t familiar with before. Mangosteen. Turmeric – the root, not the powder. And kluwek, a black seed that looks like a stone. Once opened, it tastes earthy like olives or mushrooms.
Asia Dreams: In addition to the à la carte fine dining menu at Mozaic Beach Club, you decided to create a poolside lounge offering what many people say features the best tapas menu on the island. What inspired this twist on the traditional Mozaic experience?
Ephraim: I don’t like sitting down to a large meal. For me, sharing ten different plates amongst friends is the most enjoyable experience. I wanted to find what was most fitting and fun for the beach club and tapas of course, sprang to mind. I traveled to Barcelona and ate my way through the city for ten days. I came back to Bali revitalized and full of energy, bringing with me many traditional and modern ideas for our tapas menu that I then tweaked using the Asian-based ingredients that we have here. I also wanted to create a relaxed, all day dining venue where guests can come and lounge in one of our dining gazebos or enjoy a bit of sun on one of the lounge beds.
Asia Dreams: Mozaic Beach Club has been open for less than six months, yet you already enjoy a loyal following. What’s your secret?
Ephraim: If you maintain quality, you’ll always have guests. That’s my mantra and I tell my staff the same thing day in and out. I am quality driven and everyone who works for me has to be as well. I enjoy giving guests something they’ve never eaten before. It’s the Mozaic philosophy. Each dish features a local ingredient, utilizing the abundance of regional flavors, spices and herbs.
Asia Dreams: Located on New Zealand’s North Island, in the country’s largest olive grove, you opened a now very successful restaurant from scratch. What’s your vision for Mozaic Beach Club?
Ephraim: We are currently designing a spectacular rooftop venue for special events like weddings and Sunday jam sessions. We are also in the midst of planning our cooking school. Our Chefs Table series will allow the public to experience first hand the magic of world-class chefs in action, cooking in front of an intimate group, with all ingredients on display as each one is introduced and talked about. I am an avid learner and love to exchange ideas. Inviting guest chefs to Mozaic will allow our patrons to learn secrets, recipes and techniques otherwise never revealed to the public. If you know the techniques, you start to create your own recipes, and that’s when the magic happens.