Interview with Chef Richard Miller, Executive Chef W Retreat and Spa Bali, Indonesia

W Retreat and Spa, Bali, Aussie chef
Chef Richard Miller

The Yum List chats with Chef Richard Miller to discover his passions both in and out of the kitchen…

What do you do and how did you got into the industry? 
Director of Cuisine at W Retreat and Spa Bali. I started washing dishes back in 1985 for a small family owned French restaurant on Gold Coast in Queensland, I would also make garlic bread, prepare the escargots & salads. It was a fabulous start to the industry that taught me about hard work and discipline.
Share with us an interesting story from behind the scenes. 
10 years ago, I was working in Beijing as Chef de Cuisine for Aria Restaurant & Bar @ China World Hotel, I had finished late one night and was having a drink in the bar downstairs, a gentleman came into the bar around midnight and I overheard him asking the barman if he could get something to eat, the barman told him that the only food available was from the In-room dining menu and he replied that he did not like the options that were available as it did not suit his tastes. I approached and told him I was the Chef de Cuisine and asked what he felt like to eat, he replied that he would like to enjoy some freshly grilled fish without any wheat as he has gluten intolerance. He had just arrived and had not eaten on the plane. I told him that I would take care and went back to my kitchen and prepared a pan-fried halibut with olives, capers, roasted peppers, basil, artichokes and sauce vierge. He was very happy and appreciative. I later found out that he was the sports minister from Kuwait and was personal friends with the Hotel owners and had sent a thank you note. This experience taught me the true value of hospitality and personalized service.  
What’s the best part of your job?
Best: Creating eclectic menus and personalizing dining experiences that exceed the guest expectations. I also really enjoy working closely with my team and teaching the young chefs that the great cooking not only comes from technique but also comes from the heart, blending flavours and spices with layers of textures. It does not matter how many recipes you have, but it’s about understanding the flavours and how they balance together. 
Worst: Sacrificing my health and family time due to the demands of the industry. 
What’s your favourite Balinese food experience?  
Relaxing at Ibu Mitas with a bowl of Balinese fish soup at the famous Jimbaran Bay Seafood Market.
What’s your personal favourite meal/ drink at W? 
Steamed Foiegras Chawan Mushi with a glass of Kim Crawford Pinot Noir… simple and elegant, yet unforgettable and more-ish.
What’s your favoured food and wine/ liquor pairing? 
Freshly shucked smoky bay oysters from the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia with a glass of Louis Roederer Champagne.
The perfect day off would be… an early morning long run along the beach followed by a relaxing long lunch with the most important lady in my life. 
A typical day of an Exec chef is… 
7.30am: quick coffee and juice then off to work, greet the morning team, check log books from the night before, inspect kitchens and coolrooms, check delivery schedule for expected food suppliers.
8.30am: morning breakfast routine, greeting guests, VIP’s, check breakfast buffet displays. 
10.00am: approve and check purchasing requests; kitchen briefing to discuss the any last minute guest’s requests or banqueting events and staffing matters. 
12.00pm: catch up on administration/emails, check lunch service in restaurants, ensure the day’s food preparation. 
3.00pm: kitchen briefing with sous chefs and senior talent members, visit my on-site organic herb and spice garden, cut some fresh herbs for dinner service, check all kitchen food preparation and last minute administration work. 
6.00pm: ensure the team are ready for dinner service, interact with guests/VIP’s, tasting menus, special requests, working between kitchen and floor to ensure consistency and detail. 
10.00pm: finish last minute emails and prepare for the next day.  
What do you do for fun?
I like to venture out and see what’s new and happening, the quality and variety in Bali is endless. I also try to keep fit and exercise as much as time and work commitments will allow me. I have competed in marathons in the past and am hoping to run in at least one next year.

What’s something you’d like guests to know about the cuisine prepared at W? 
There is a tremendous amount of work that goes on behind the scenes and I work very closely with many of the suppliers, local farmers and artisan producers to ensure our ingredients and products are consistently delivered daily with the finest quality and freshness.
How do you select your ingredients and why? 
I am passionate about local produce and I like to visit the local producers/farmers to understand how our produce is grown and where it comes from. This helps me to create menus and talk to our guests about why I choose certain ingredients to work with, which brings greater appreciation and understanding.
What can guests look forward to in the upcoming months? 
Our menus continue to evolve and I am always making seasonal changes for our famous brunches in Starfish Bloo & Fire, ala-carte menus, weekly promotions, regular wine dinners. During the second half of this year I have plans to add the Chef’s garden dinner concept where I grow a variety of different herbs and spices and intend to add a communal table for specialty garden dinners and cocktail events.

What is your mantra?
It does not matter what I did yesterday but it’s what I do today that counts.

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