Travelling for food? Nomadic Chef Diego Muñoz has the ultimate destination for you
Some travel for love, some travel for escapism, and others like Chef Diego Muñoz, travel for food. After leaving the celebrated Astrid y Gaston restaurant in Peru, the nomadic Chef Muñoz has been on the road since — keeping busy with a series of restaurants namely Cantina Peruana in Lisbone, Restaurant PMY in Copenhagen, and even the Belmond Andean Explorer — a luxury sleeper train that operates in Peru. (A revolving job post that most of us would be hungry for.) And now he has set his sights on Asia — with the highly anticipated Ulu Cliffhouse, a beach club in Bali that has just opened its doors.
On his recent stopover in Singapore, we chatted to the free-wheeling chef (who was clad in a sunny Hawaiian shirt no less) about his exciting journey, the swanky Ulu Cliffhouse, and also where everyone should travel for food.
Why Bali for your first Asian venture?
Before the project was proposed, I was already a fan of Bali since 2006. I love surfing, and the produce is fantastic. Bali's beautiful and there's great people to work with.
What can we expect from Ulu Cliffhouse?
A really fun place to be. The food comes from all different inputs — you have a little bit of Peruvian, a little bit of Israelian, a little bit of Japanese, Italian and a little bit of everything else. So I try to make it a fun journey with all these different places. The menu is very tasty and pretty diverse as we are also adapting to what we have on the island. On top of that, we have a really interesting wine and cocktail program that goes with the food as well.
How has travelling affected your style of cooking?
Travelling opens your eyes to so many things. Not only to what you see, but also what's inside of you. It makes you aware of what you know, and how to put that into practice — just by walking in the streets and seeing how people eat or enjoy their food. You touch different produce, you care for different customers, you cook with different cultures — it just makes you aware of so many things.
If you had to recommend a single destination where everyone should travel for food, where would it be?
Peru. It's where I come from, but I still think it's super exciting to go there. I am, in fact, still discovering Peru. I was away for pretty much 16 years, studying and living in Australia for so long, that when I came back to my country in 2012 as a professional chef, I found out there's still so much for me to learn there. We cook with alot of chilli in Peru. We have a huge variety that not many people are aware of. Not only along the coastlines, but up in the mountains, and in the Amazons as well.
But I think every destination is a good place, as long as you're ready for it. It doesn't matter where you go. I can't wait to hit the road in Singapore to try new things. I was eating chilli crab last night (laughs), and I would love to try the chicken rice here as well.
Last impressionable meal you had?
The other day, I was in Bingin Beach in Uluwatu, having fresh fish on the barbecue. It was an amazing experience.
Being a nomadic chef is all about adapting to the circumstances, if you could only have three ingredients to cook a good meal, what would you choose?
I would choose fresh cod, salt and chilli. Maybe served raw, cured with a little bit of salt and chilli. It's all about the simplicity of the produce.