COCOON’S CULINARY WUNDERKINDS
WHAT DO YOU GET WHEN YOU COMBINE THE INTERNATIONAL TALENTS OF TWO VERY DIFFERENT CHEFS?
Meet Nick Philip, Cocoon’s resident Executive Chef and an Australian from the Gold Coast whose background is in fresh, haute-Mediterranean cuisine. In comes Luis Varela Mata, a Japanese-loving Spaniard from Barcelona not afraid to push culinary boundaries. Together, they have a little too much self-confessed fun in the kitchen and combine efforts to create one of the most exciting new summer menus in Bali.
Faced with rave reviews and the desire to promote Cocoon’s luscious summer vibe, the dynamic duo recently launched a creative summer dinner option for fans dying to see what all the fuss is about. Coccon’s new degustation menu, lovingly paired with the perfect wine for each spectacular course, proves that two heads are better than one. The chefs step out of the kitchen for a few minutes to talk to Asia Dreams about their collaboration.
ASIA DREAMS: What happened when Luis first stepped foot in Cocoon’s kitchen?
CHEF NICK: Luis came over to help us create a new tasting menu that we’re now using for the Long Lunch and evening degustation experiences. He started showing off his skills, cooking traditional tapas tweaked by his education in molecular gastronomy, helping me to plate in the kitchen, all the normal things chefs do. One of the first dishes we created together has become one of Cocoon’s most popular signature dishes. I had this idea to do a tartare trio with Atlantic salmon, swimmer crab and yellow fin tuna, and Luis was inspired by his background in Japanese cuisine to give the dish a little zing with yuzu gel made from small, Asian citrus and of course, the wasabi bubbles that everyone loves. Served on gluten-free senbei rice crackers, each bite is crisp and savory.
ASIA DREAMS: How would you describe the style of cuisine you have created together?
CHEF NICK: My background is very much modern Australian cuisine working on the Gold Coast, in Sydney and the Whitsunday Islands. I have always been interested in Mediterranean cuisine influenced by French and Asian flavors. Luis brings his Mediterranean background straight from Spain with experience cooking in Japanese restaurants as well. Our backgrounds complement each other. Ours is not a set cuisine, it’s very international and changes depending on how we feel, what kind of mood we want to present at Cocoon and of course by what is in season.
ASIA DREAMS: What’s your favorite dish on the new menu?
CHEF NICK: I love the 8-hour organic pork belly! The cooking technique we use is actually quite healthy, making sure most of the fat is rendered down, so it’s lean with crispy skin. We serve it with prawns, one of my favorite combinations, and the beetroot foam that Luis created. I use the Balinese spice basa gede; it’s in the curry family and is a fragrant, traditional spice that forms a nice crust on the pork belly.
CHEF LUIS: I’m a lover of foie gras and can even eat it for breakfast, so for me I love the seared foie gras. We serve it with carrots prepared three different ways, peppered brioche and a lavender marmalade that we make from real lavender blossoms. To make sure we have a local ingredient, we use basil honey from local Balinese basil called kemangi. We like to pay a little respect to Bali in every dish we make and strive to create a new age in international dining.