Made Putra: The Man with a PLAN
From humble beginnings to multi-award winning chef with a well-placed investment strategy, Chef Made Putra proves the virtue of hard work and meticulous planning.
EXECUTIVE CHEF Made Putra, a 25-year veteran of The Laguna, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Nusa Dua, Bali, is a man of many aspirations. Being a self-made man who always plans ahead, the chef’s childhood dreams ranged from being a doctor, an architect, an electrician, a farmer, and even a tour guide, and at some points growing up, he put in a great deal of effort into each of these disciplines before figuring out his true calling was in the kitchen, as a brilliant chef specializing in bringing the best of Balinese food and infusing a unique twist into it.
Made Putra was born in a modest family in the outskirts of Denpasar, and that imprinted a very strong memory of his own mother’s cooking – a memory that would someday help the aspiring little boy find his true path.
“I was always hungry. We never had enough to eat. But mom is an excellent cook and everything she made for us was delicious. I remember scrounging up mushrooms in the woods that mom would turn into pepes.. We also made our own cooking oil from coconut, and I remember scraping the brown bits of reduction – the sweet fragrance of it I could never forget. Mom’s sambal kunyit was also the best. One time I had my sister ship the sambal to Germany, where I was working at the time, because I badly craved it.”
Chef Made Putra’s inquisitive mind allowed him to excel at multiple disciplines in vocational school, including at electricity. “This was one of my earlier dreams. I love working with my hands and dabbling with electrical components. I was really good at it too. But then my father told me that I would never see the world, even as a professional electrician.”
And so he began looking at other subjects that he was good at – agriculture. “Once I’ve decided to do something, I want to go all the way. And the only problem with farming was that in order to make it big, I would have to go somewhere like Borneo, where there’s plenty of land to work on, unlike Bali.”
In between his studies, Made Putra took up English lessons. His instructor at the time was in tourism, and, seeing the potential within the knowledge-thirsty young man, encouraged him to go into the industry. “At the time, the first place to start if I were to take tourism was becoming a tour guide. I knew my English wasn’t perfect and I wasn’t exactly the most eloquent person, so the plan didn’t seem to fit quite nicely. But I still yearned to experience a piece of traveling, so the next logical choice for me was hospitality, particularly in F&B.”
Trying his hand at F&B and close to the kitchen, memories of his dear mother’s cooking came back to him. He realized that this fondest memory has kept him going so far, and so he decided to start a career as a chef.
“In 1987, at 22 years old, I joined a Japanese company as a cook in Batam until 1989. Coming back to Bali I joined Bali Dynasty (back then it was Shangri-La) for a while, and afterwards joined the pre-opening team at Hilton. After a year, the group offered the opportunity to work abroad at Hilton Dusseldorf, Germany and I took it without hesitation.”
Zero experience abroad and not speaking a word of German didn’t stop Chef Made Putra from smashing his time in Germany, gaining valuable culinary experience and expanding his skills as a chef. And he was only just beginning.
“After Germany, I was supposed to work at Geneva, but there were difficulties regarding work permit. I tried working in Toronto, but met with the same problem. So I decided to go back to Bali, where I joined the opening team of Grand Mirage, where I met my beautiful wife. In 1995 I joined The Laguna Bali, and so here I am.”
At The Laguna Bali, Chef Made Putra is currently in charge of three restaurant venues, in-room dining, banquets, and meetings and events that can sometimes host up to 600 guests. “In line with our core value as a Luxury Collection property, we promote everything indigenous here. For example, we give beef rendang a modern twist, making it easily acceptable for international guests – more color, less spicy, extra tender, etc.”
His broad experience has been recognized by many and he has received prestigious accolades including King of Kitchen, South East Asia and Chef of the Year by Hospitality Asia Platinum Award (HAPA) 2008-2010 Regional Series in Malaysia. He was also the president of the elite chef association in Bali, Bali Culinary Professionals (BCP) since June 2008, serving as Indonesia’s representative to discerning food competitions. He has also participated actively in the Salon Culinary Awards since 1994 both as a participant as well as team leader.
Looking back, the chef is grateful of his varied working experiences and the mental discipline that he developed that had helped him to become a successful chef for 30 years and counting.
Chef Made Putra owes a lot of his success to his difficult upbringing, with his mom’s simple, honest cooking as one of the silver lining. Today, he thoroughly enjoys his wife’s cooking. “It sounds cliché, but its true. She picks up her own ingredients and makes her own seasonings and sauces. I love her cooking – honest, good, and not too flavourful.”
When not in the kitchen, Chef Made Putra enjoys cycling and leads the Cycling Club of the resort. In addition, he likes to travel the country with his wife for some quality family time whenever he has the chance.
“Caring for a plant is like caring for a girlfriend. You have to take care of it intimately and daily. If you’re not nice to it, the plant won’t yield anything nice for you.”
THE LAGUNA BALI
Kawasan Pariwisata Nusa Dua, Lot N2
T: +62 361 771327