Interview with Executive Chef Steven Grande

During our stay at Karma Kandara Uluwatu, Bali, we had the pleasure of getting acquainted with the food at the diMare restaurant and on one occasion, we meet up with the Chef. We spoke to him about being featured on the Chef in the Spotlight segment of Cumi & Ciki Blog and he very kindly agreed. Chef Steven Grande is a really funny guy with a dry sense of humor and had us in stitches by the end of the day. Born in the United States in Wooster, Ohio, Chef Steven’s culinary aptitude was influenced from an early age by fresh local agriculture and livestock.. About his humor.. He probably got it from his mum..? Anyway, Grande would go on to complete an associates’ degree in the culinary arts before setting out for real world experience. Here is our interview with him.

P20244761.What got you started – when did you learn you could cook?

I had never really considered becoming a professional chef in my younger days, although I have always enjoyed cooking and experimenting in the kitchen.  A friend of mine one day mentioned that he would go enroll in our local college culinary program and I thought that sounded like a good idea.. shortly afterwards, I enrolled in the program and the rest went from there.  By the way, my friend never went!

2.Tell us something about yourself that NO ONE knows?

I would, but then I’d have to.. well, you know.   How about I tell you something that very few people at this stage of my life know about?  My first cooking job.. McDonalds.  I was the Big-Mac bun toaster guy (before I hit the big-time and moved up to be the French-fryer guy) and I toasted so many buns that I remember having dreams about it where I was in a room made entirely of Big-Mac buns and had only 1 toaster.  Horrible, I know, but true.

Here is a short Video on how Chef Steven got started..

3. How do you de-stress?

Many ways.  The most blog-politically-correct would be to tell you that I de-stress by driving.. and driving FAST.  Not so much in Bali, as this would only enhance the stress with the insane amount of traffic here, but in the past I have driven around aimlessly for a few hours after a rough day.

4. Do you have any hobbies?

Sporting-wise, I am an avid tennis player.  Notice I did not say “good”… I said “avid”.  I also enjoy walking  – just for leisure- around city streets or wherever and taking in the sights.

5. What brought you to Bali?

An airplane.  However, the reason I got on the airplane was because I was recruited and thereafter accepted an offer from Karma Kandara Resort.   I was living in Burma (Myanmar), working as Executive Chef at The Strand Hotel in Yangon prior to my arrival in Bali

6. What is your favourite Indonesian dish?

I am still feeling my way around local cuisine, but so far – seafood sate lilit.  It’s a minced seafood sate on lemongrass skewers with intense flavors and grilled over coconut shells.

7. What is your proudest achievement?

I am always looking ahead and planning to achieve new things.  I don’t put much thought into what has been achieved in the past because as soon as it’s accomplished, it’s time to move to the next feat.   As far as a career-defining accomplishment, that is still in the works … I’m young, so there’s time for that.  Perhaps by the time you come back for a second interview sometime around year 2015!

P20244938. Who is your favourite Cook/Chef and why?

Professionally related – must be Chef Jonathan Wright, whom I worked under for 4+ years before departing the USA for Asia (he also happens to be the person that initiated talks that led to me coming to Asia).  The experiences, knowledge and structure that was learnt during my time with him is undoubtedly apparent in the way I operate my kitchens.  TV/ personality related – close call between Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsey.  Bourdain because he’s a great story teller and adventurist … Ramsey, probably because he reminds me of Jonathan (also from the UK) and as well a great source of entertainment.

9. What is your favourite travel destination for food?

Ohhhhh, that’s an easy one.  Mom’s house – or Dad’s for that matter – both great places for a meal!

10. If you could live one place in this world where would it be and why?

Funny enough, I DO live in one place in the world at the moment!  Joking aside, I really couldn’t tell you at this point – there are many factors to consider, and I’ve seen so many great places in my travels.  San Francisco is a great city to live in, although pricey, and Asia has so much to offer on so many levels that to chose a “permanent” destination would likely be personal factor based rather than professional ( to sum that up, meaning a significant relationship with a member of the female gender J)

P202449111. How do you source for your ingredients?

Through every possible outlet I can think of.  Especially travelling to foreign cities, I have had to be a bit creative in finding the best products.  Talking with other chefs and colleagues is always beneficial but I usually go a bit further until I find something I’m satisfied with.  I’m always on the lookout for suppliers and the best way is to establish a close relationship with local farmers.

12. Complete the sentence. When I am not eating at my own restaurant, I am eating …

at someone else’s restaurant, which is very likely to involve pizza production of some sort.  I also cook at home very often; eating out all the time is not something that suits me – I love comfort foods.

13. What was your biggest catastrophe in the kitchen?

I’ve been lucky enough to not have anything majorly catastrophic thus far in my career.  I think I would have to go waaaay back to Mother’s Day, 1989 I believe, when I was 11 years old.  I prepared a surprise breakfast- in- bed for my parents and after all the hard work was done I sat back and poured myself a tall glass of the Kool-Aid which I had also given my parents.  Unfortunately, I forgot to add the sugar – don’t know if you’ve ever tried Kool-Aid without the sugar but it is not pleasant; something along the lines of raw tamarind marinated in lime juice ….. poor mom and dad drank it all so as to not make me feel bad.  They divorced shortly after that so I believe it might have been my fault.

P202452214. Do you have any advice for budding cooks/aspiring chefs?

Absolutely!  First off, for young aspiring chefs with big dreams, you do not need to go spend big bucks on culinary schooling in order to be successful  – the smaller, far less expensive schools will do just fine, and leave you without massive debt upon completion.  Be humble, attentive and hard-working – it’s not much different from other professions in those terms.  Learn as much as you can and be aggressive in expanding your role – I acquired many skills very quickly from doing other peoples jobs along the way that they didn’t want to do and once I had that in my bag, I was looking around to see what else I could do.  Also, do your best to take criticism constructively –  not easy sometimes but the more you can do this, the better off you will be.  And last of all – read read read, especially in the early stages of your career.  Reconstructing dishes out of cookery books is a great way to learn and try new things – just don’t put another chef’s exact dish on your menu!

15. What is your favourite recipe and why..

A great recipe to make at home – especially during warmer parts of the year – is a traditional style Spanish Gazpacho.  It is really best to make it the day before and allow to chill overnight to let the flavors combine and mellow out a bit, but makes a wonderfully soothing soup to start a meal or to have on its own as a light meal.  (Recipe attached .. enjoy!)


Yield:  about 8 portions
Prep time:  30 minutes


40 gram- white bread, crust removed, cut into pieces
1300 gram- ripe plum tomato, peeled and seeds squeezed out
300 gram- yellow onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves- garlic, chopped
150 gram- green bell pepper, chopped, no seeds
300 gram- cucumber, peeled and chopped
500 ml- olive oil
50 ml- red wine vinegar
to taste- salt, sugar, white pepper
as desired- fresh crab meat or chilled prawns


1.    Combine all ingredients in blender except for olive oil and blend very well until smooth – about 7 minutes
2.    Add olive oil and blend for 10 seconds only
3.    Pass through fine strainer
4.    Adjust seasoning if needed then chill for several hours or preferably overnight then serve
5.    Garnish with fresh crab meat or cooked chilled prawns, sliced chive and high quality olive oil.  Smoked sea salt makes a great addition as well.

16. What do you think of the food industry in Bali/Indonesia?

Sorry – too early in my time here to tell.  I will say though that there is definitely excitement and movement in the industry here in Bali.  Nearly all of the top resorts/ hotels have properties on the island and most of them have great chefs who are helping to drive the industry as well as enhance the quality of products available.

Chef Steven Grande’s C.V.:
With more than 10 years experience in the culinary restaurant and hospitality industry, Steven Grande has arrived to Karma Kandara assuming the role of Executive Chef.

Born in the United States in Wooster, Ohio, Steven’s culinary aptitude was influenced from an early age with fresh local agriculture and livestock. Grande would go on to complete as associates’ degree in the culinary arts before setting out for real world experience.
In pursuit of gathering the knowledge and skill necessary to excel in his craft, Steven worked the next years in some of the finest establishments in the United States including Zebra in Charlotte, North Carolina; Pigalls in Cincinnati, Ohio; The Conrad Hotel in Indianapolis, Indiana and the Lark Creek Inn, San Francisco, California

In 2007, Chef Steven took the position of Sous Chef at The Setai Hotel, South Beach, Miami, Florida.

This position, under the guidance of world renowned Executive Chef Jonathan Wright – under whom Grande worked with nearly 4 years – enabled Steven to fine tune his culinary skills and develop the basis for his own style of cooking that continues to escalate with each stop along his journey.
Steven is now looking forward creating new and exciting menus for Kandara, starting with the brilliant beachfront restaurant, Nammos, serving up Mediterranean inspired cuisine and di Mare, overlooking the Indian Ocean with awe inspiring views and eclectic fare.


Karma Kandara
Jalan Villa Kandara Banjar Wijaya Kusuma Ungasan, Bali, 80362 Indonesia
T: +62 361 848 2200
F: +62 361 848 2244
E: [email protected] / [email protected]


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