Will Goldfarb, the man behind Ubud’s revered dessert and cocktail bar, Room4Dessert, didn’t always want to be a chef. In fact, Will originally aspired to be a lawyer, describing his decision to follow a culinary career as a “twenty year detour”.
With the foundations for his future in the culinary industry set at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, Will went on to complete stages at some of the world’s most highly regarded restaurants, including the famed elBulli in Spain. But it was back in his native city of New York that Chef Goldfarb really made a name for himself, co-founding the original, and much-praised, Room4Dessert in 2006.
By the time Will – urged by his wife – made the decision to move to Bali in 2009, he had gained international recognition for his forward-thinking pastry creations, and had picked up a string of international accolades, including a nomination for the James Beard Award for “Best Pastry Chef in America”.
In his new home, Bali’s cultural and culinary capital of Ubud, Will adapted the original Room4Dessert concept to incorporate exotic Indonesian ingredients treated in classic French ways.
Will shares some thoughts on his pastry career thus far, his favourite Balinese ingredients, and some of his most memorable dining experiences.
What first sparked your interest in the culinary industry, and in pastry specifically?
I was always interested in restaurants. From high school, I worked in every job – as a busboy, caddy, parking attendant, valet, bartender, host, waiter. I was a terrible waiter. As you work at better and better restaurants, you have to learn more and more about food.
I actually started in savoury cooking but then I found pastry to be more challenging and less obvious. It was much less suited to my skill set and more of a challenge, so I wanted to do it.
You have come from New York to Bali. How does the restaurant scene compare?
It would be impossible to compare, but the scene in Bali is developing very, very fast and the quality is getting better. The number of restaurants in Ubud in the last three years has gone through the roof and you really see some great cooking there, with passionate chefs who are really close to the ingredients.
Since you landed in Bali you must have discovered a lot of new ingredients to work with. Any stand outs?
Well, all of the staples for pastry are local here – coconut, sugar, spices, tropical fruits, salt, coffee, tea, citrus. That’s really great and pretty uncommon for pastry. We don’t import anything at Room4Dessert actually, except for cream and butter. Most of our products are from the island.
I like nutmeg fruit a lot, kluwek (the black nut used for rawon soup), palm sugar. We use mangosteen peel to make our bitters, a lot of aloe vera, herbs, jamu (traditional Indonesian herbal elixirs), soy beans, pineapple rind, and smoked mushrooms from Pelawan in Java.
You have dined all over the world. What have been your most memorable food experiences?
My favourite meal of all time was at Bistro de la Marine in Cagnes Sur Mer about three years ago. I went there with my daughter on a road trip through Europe and stayed next to the restaurant for week. I had been waiting to try Jacques Maximin’s food for almost twenty years. My daughter and I went back every day and his wife and daughter would serve us the most amazing treats – I think we had the sole fingers every day.
What’s next for you in terms of Room4Dessert & your role at Potato Head Family’s Director of Culinary?
Right now we’re focused on our new menu which we have just launched at Room4Dessert. At Potato Head, we’ve just opened Attarine in Jakarta and our authentic Indonesian restaurant Kaum in Bali which are both fantastic. Hopefully 2017 lets us take Room4Dessert on the road across Asia and to some of PTT Family’s incredible properties.
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