Chef Tay Chan Yong The Cave Bali

Tay Chan Yong, Head Chef, The Cave @ The Edge

Tay Chan Yong

In this interview, Tay Chan Yong, head chef of The Cave @ The Edge by Ryan Clift, shares how he got into the profession and some heart-stopping anecdotes from the kitchen.

What do you do?
I am a chef – currently the head chef of The Cave restaurant in Bali, Indonesia.

How did you get into the industry?
The urge of wanting to see people happy, enjoying and laughing while eating the food I cook is actually what drove me into F&B. My parents were always busy when I was a kid, and I always ate alone at the dining table. It was so quiet and dull; therefore, I really wanted to see people happily enjoying meals, especially the ones I cook.

What’s the best/ worst part of your job?
The best part of the job is that you get to serve the food right in a 25,000-year-old cave, interacting with all kinds of guests and sharing my interests in good food. It is like making new friends every day. There isn’t a worst part, but I do have to sacrifice a lot of family time. The job requires great responsibility, after all. Seeing the cave come to life is definitely worth it.

The worst part is actually also the best part of the job. At least that is what I think because it is precisely those bad moments that you can laugh back at with friends when you get older. Once, when I was still a commis, we were all ready to serve a 50 pax event, but the main course tray fell on the floor, and we couldn’t serve it. The event was just 15 minutes away, and we screwed up. So we had to quickly come up with an alternative – 5 chefs, all working together and getting the new dish up as best as we could. It was a success in the end. Looking back at that moment, it was one of the worst scenarios, but it was also the proudest of all.

Share with us a story from behind the scenes.
It was back when four of us had to prepare for a 200 pax 5-course event. We worked consistently for 16 hours a day for three days to get the job done. The satisfaction of seeing the guests happy with the result is indescribable. I will not glorify overworking or an unhealthy workload. Still, the sense of success and pride is something you can’t gain from other places. It’s not just work but also passion for the work we do.

What food memory from your childhood or travels stands out?
It is definitely mommy’s cooking. Just like many people would think the same, mommy’s cooking may not be the best in presentation but definitely in the taste. This is because what we eat isn’t just food but also memories, love and family bonds. That’s how we all miss mom’s cooking or family meal because what we seek isn’t just food but comfort at the same time.

Chef Tay Chan Yong’s favourite food and beverage pairing?
I do not have a particular favourite in pairing. It all depends on what I am eating and how I feel at that moment. If I have a heavy and rich meal, I would like to have something more refreshing to end the meal, like a whisky sour. If I am particularly happy at that time and want to feel full and content, I would go for something rich and creamy like a Grasshopper.

What’s one of the craziest things you’ve seen behind the scenes?
Craziest would easily define a lot of us in the kitchen. One night I was working in a kitchen, a crazy full night and full of orders. The atmosphere in the kitchen was quite intense. You could feel people were on the verge of exploding or going on a rampage. Then there was one staff member who cut himself. It was bleeding nonstop. Service went on, and the next thing the guy did definitely startled me. He pressed his cut finger on the stove, which was roasting hot, immediately sealing off the cut, and he just went on cooking. And here I thought those scenes only existed in movies or TV.

The perfect day off would be…
… sipping on a cup of freshly brewed coffee or tea, having a hearty breakfast, heading out to the beach and catching some sun. The most important thing is that there are no calls or messages from work. Well, you know what they say? No news is good news, meaning the guys are smashing it even without me being there.

A day in the life of a Tay Chan Yong is…
going into the kitchen feeling proud and happy because you see your chefs push themselves, nitpicking themself in trying to serve the best to the guest. Then you move on to the service, seeing all the plates that went out perfectly. It just makes you happy and proud, proud of all your chefs and the job.

What does Tay Chan Yong do for fun?
If I am not cooking or working, you will see me doing outdoor sports like cycling, running, diving and rock climbing. That’s what I like – keeping myself constantly active. If I am not doing those things, I will do the total opposite, gardening, finding some inner peace from the greens and nature.

What’s something you’d like guests to know about The Cave?
I would like guests to know that The Cave team is very proud of the dishes they serve. Right now, we are in the midst of changing the menu, and it will only get better. So stay tuned.

How has the pandemic changed you, your perspective, or the way you operate?
The pandemic definitely reformed everyone in every industry. We used to be so bold and crazy at work, but when the pandemic came, everything slowed down, giving people time to reflect and make changes. Now we listen to people more and understand that we are so vulnerable in the world; hence we are doing whatever we can to help others. I personally learned to be more compassionate.

What’s something you’d like people to know about being a chef as a profession?
Everyone can cook. But if you decide to become a professional chef, be prepared to sacrifice a lot of holidays, and your personal time with friends and family. If you want to stand at the game’s peak, you will and should dedicate so much to it that you would have less time for yourself and the people around you. On the other hand, you will never run out of food, and you will never die from hunger.

What’s your view on the restaurant scene in Bali?
The food and beverage scene in Bali has always been evolving. You constantly see new restaurants coming out and new concepts. It is flourishing and even though the pandemic hit Bali hard, being in this place where you have 80% of international tourists and guests, be prepared to be overwhelmed with what you can get here. It is in the package with good food, scenery, people and a good vibe.

What practices do you currently implement or hope to implement to work towards social responsibility and sustainability in the future?
Nurturing the younger chefs to be more critical thinkers. I feel that as a senior with many years of experience in the industry, I have the responsibility to train the young chefs to think and question everything we do. Whether it is practical, efficient, better or friendlier. I don’t want to see more young cooks feel that they are just robots cooking the dishes but not questioning the food they cook.

What’s in store for you in the upcoming months?
We will change the menu in September. We are exploring more local supplies, local flavours and what the locals can offer us. It’s our way of giving back to the community by supporting it. Not only that, there will be some new light shows going on in the cave. So we aren’t just eating but a theatrical experience as well.

Read more interviews similar to this one with Tay Chan Yong here, and stay up to date with our latest gourmet travel finds here and here.

One Comment

  1. “The urge of wanting to see people happy, enjoying and laughing while eating the food I cook is actually what drove me into F&B.” That’s the best kind of motivation there can ever be!!!

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