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  • Writer's pictureSasha Huang

Capella Ubud's Chef Nicola Russo On Culinary Inspirations Behind Api Jiwa & Mads Lange

INTERVIEW


Capella Ubud, the acclaimed luxury haven, has found its culinary maestro in the form of Pisa-born Italian Chef Nicola Russo. As the chef behind the delectable offerings at the hotel's two esteemed dining destinations, Api Jiwa and Mads Lange, Russo effortlessly weaves together gastronomic wonders that leave guests in awe. At Api Jiwa, a contemporary European dining experience unfolds within a tented space that frames mesmerising vistas of the rainforest and valley.


Meanwhile, Mads Lange ignites the senses with its theatrical Asian barbecue, drawing inspiration from the rich heritage of Japanese Robatayaki and infusing each bite with an invigorating "fire to the soul" essence. With a wealth of expertise amassed from his tenure at numerous Michelin-starred restaurants and renowned hotels, Russo brings the epitome of culinary excellence to Capella Ubud. Immersed in the art of cooking, he finds inspiration in the island's vibrant tapestry of fresh produce and the blossoming beauty of Bali's natural surroundings.



With the two phenomenal dining restaurants, you can taste his passion and respect in every dish. Here, Executive Chef Nicola Russo shares his transformational experience at Capella Ubud.



1. How did you discover your passion for cooking?


I am originally from Pisa, the historical city of Tuscany. My culinary career began early on, inspired by my grandmother and her love and respect for the art of cooking. After graduating from the culinary institute IPSCAT G. Matteotti at 18, I sought opportunities to further develop my creativity. During my apprenticeship, I worked for several Michelin-starred restaurants and luxury hotels in Europe, the Middle East, Australia and Asia.


In my last post before moving to Bali, I took my first chef de cuisine role at Michelin-starred restaurant Tosca, where I elevated my cuisine to its current state and received several accolades such as the prestigious 1 Michelin star award Hong Kong and Macau guide in 2019. After travelling and working around the world, discovering so many cultures and cuisines, I decided to return to one of my favourite places: Bali.


Since January 2021, I’ve been the figurehead of Food & Beverages at Capella Ubud. I aim to continue showcasing the best quality and creativity to the palates of Bali’s discerning gourmands.


When I am outside my kitchen, I like practising sports. I am an avid marathon runner and used to be a triathlete, who came in overall third position at Bali International Triathlon in 2016.

2. What is your cooking philosophy?


Excellent produce is always the starting point of my inspiration, and I am truly fortunate to have easy access to it here in Bali. With the different quality ingredients, we seek to create a harmonious interplay of tastes and textures while also ensuring each ingredient's unique character shines on It is own.


Mads Lange, combines casual modern dining and European/ Asian flavours. Inspired by the history of Mads Lange, highlights authentic flavours and spices.

At Api Jiwa, I created a 10 courses degustation menu that brings the guests on a culinary journey around Asia. Each dish has something about my travels, visiting unique countries such as Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and more.


Each course has a story to tell, and we create a connection with our guests sitting at the counter in front of the open kitchen with a lot of entertainment and spectacular dishes.


3. What do you love the most about Bali?


At Capella Ubud, we believe in produce-driven cuisine that captures each premium local seasonal ingredient at its finest. As I build my menu around fresh ingredients, this concept is fundamental and vital in bringing nature's finest from the source to the dining table.


Capella Hotels are well known for its quality dining experiences, fine food created with premium ingredients and sophisticated techniques.




"Each course has a story to tell, and we create a connection with our guests sitting at the counter in front of the open kitchen with a lot of entertainment and spectacular dishes."





4. How has your role as the Executive Chef of Capella Ubud been different from your others?


At Capella Ubud, we invest in sustainable practices such as recycling, reducing single-use plastic, growing vegetables and herbs in our terraced garden and, most important, reducing food wastage!


By simply reducing food waste, we can contribute to the environment by decreasing this gap between the amount of food kitchen produce and how much the actual guest eats. In addition, the costs of reducing food waste are low. In fact, you will be saving money, so the potential benefits are significant.



5. What do you hope the guests will take away from dining at Capella Ubud?


Building on Api Jiwa's reputation, as one of the top fine dining restaurants in Ubud and on the island is also something I look forward to achieving. By injecting my own personality and contemporary approach to Asian cuisine, I hope to present a unique dining experience that showcases an interplay of my culinary experiences around the world and the very best seasonal ingredients.


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All imagery is provided by Capella Ubud.



Address: Jl. Raya Dalem, Banjar Triwangsa, Desa Keliki, Kecamatan Tegallalang, Ubud, Gianyar, Bali 80561, Indonesia | Website: capellahotels.com/en/capella-ubud/dining | Phone: +62 361 209 1888 | Email: restaurant.ubud@capellahotels.com | Instagram: @capellaubud | Facebook: @CapellaUbud



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