Established as a bastion of ‘hipsterhood’, led by the stalwart and still standing Deus Ex Machina and embellished, embraced and enhanced by the influx of gluten intolerant, vegan loving, instagram body conscious folks, Canggu’s Hipsterville has been a hub for tourism for nearly a decade.
And, as with every new wave, there is always an undercurrent of forward thinkers who swim against the tide. Will Meyrick is one of those, never drawn to create a presence in Canggu and feels no need to be niche, he spent time building and establishing a strong following in Seminyak and Ubud. However with Canggu reaching its tipping point and now an established destination, the time is right to move at least to the perimeter and provide a beautiful experience, the genuine warmth of a Balinese homestay farm, that offers guests and day visitors the opportunity to learn more about the culture that many just touch the surface of.
NOW Bali caught up with the famed Street Food Chef just as he was about to depart on one of his adventures for his YouTube channel show to ask him about his new location, Canggu Cooking Retreat, being used to the elegance of the Sarong Group’s style, what delights lie in store for the visitor.
“Basically I wanted to provide something that I feel is being lost, we can’t change the way that tourism has impacted Bali, and many aspects have been of immense benefit, and we cannot go back to the past. I mean we are not going to be putting a flask of Jasmine Tea and a jam waffle outside your bedroom door, but we are going to be taking care of you in that traditional style, with the care and the attention to detail that was always so delightful in Bali. As I discussed with my team, we want to showcase the genuine aspects of hospitality that made Bali ideal in the first place, and this is something you don’t train people in, it is something they possess, understand and share.”
The residential aspect, which we have to say is absolutely beautiful, is also quite a new concept.
“Not exactly new, again, going back to the basics of hospitality, Canggu Cooking Retreat has a family quality to it, you can book the entire place out for an extended family holiday, we have great rooms for couples, kids and teens who want their own space, or you can take a room in the guest wing or main house and meet other guests or chose to take personal time out. There is potential for everyone at the Villa to find their own space for happiness, seclusion or socialisation.”
The draw has to be the cooking classes, the chance to cook with the expert chefs from the Sarong Group, even you we believe.
“I just really love what I do, I love an audience, I love working as part of a team, and I love sharing the secrets, maybe not all of them, of the dishes we create that come from years of practice and research into the spices and ingredients that create the very special cuisine of Indonesia. For me, and for the groups’ other chefs it is an opportunity to share and enjoy the preparation, and like you said the location is spectacular. I did not have much trouble convincing our team to come out of the kitchen for our cooking classes.”
Can you describe a perfect way to spend the day at Canggu Cooking Retreat
“If I was here on holiday, of course, I’d start with a trip to the local market. At Canggu Cooking Retreat we provide the guide, you can go on the pushbikes it’s not far and the roads are not super scary around here. Go to town on the vegetables, again we will guide you, but get in there, try bargaining, the market stall holders always love a good banter, don’t be shy and whatever you do keep smiling. Load up on the fern tips and beans and grab a handful of fiery red chilies for the sambals. With the juice of a lime, some dried fish paste and garlic in the mortar you can mash up a very tasty sambal in moments. Even though I am a professional chef I am still a passionate cook, and there is a difference, so cooking on holiday is what I love to do. On return from the markets I think a cooling lemongrass tea made from the stems picked from the garden served with some market snacks would be a good idea, and a wander around the produce garden to see what I could add to the ingredients. Now I’m ready for the class, and as I’m not the chef now, just the visitor, I think, while we prepare the meal, a glass of chilled white wine to increase my sense of relaxation is in order.
Over the lunch we have all prepared I would love to find out more about the other guests, my fellow cooks, adventurers and vacationers. Everyone has stories to tell and sharing them over good food and fine wine is the best way to feel, it doesn’t matter if you are strangers, the cooking of food together creates the bonds that allow for the conversations to flow.
I mean now I am in my element, just as I hope our guests would be, relaxed and inspired by what they have achieved, created and tasted. So just to add that final flourish to a perfect day I would get everyone together and have the Canggu Cooking Retreat staff drive us all to Tanah Lot where we can marvel at the majesty of the island, the toil of the famers to create the lush rice fields, the devotion of the builders to fashion a temple on the rocks and the beauty of the sunset that are the real attractions of this island I am so fortunate to call home.
That sounds like the perfect day to us too!
As a chef and lover of beautiful cuisine, Will Meyrick has always been intoxicated by the spices, flavours and textures of South East Asian food. Will enjoys travelling throughout the region, finding and meeting real people in the ‘warungs’, who produce food that really expresses the heart of their cultures. These experiences have been the influence of his 5 highly successful restaurants in Bali: Sarong, Mama San, Hujan LocaleTiger Palm and Som Chai. He recently opened Canggu Cooking Retreat, where he has brought the rural elegance of an urban farm to Bali for an authentic and enriching culinary experience.