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What Chef Eats: Vallian Gunawan

What Chef Eats: Vallian Gunawan

Danti Tarigan
03 June 2023


Chef Vallian Gunawan of SKOOL Bali shared about his love for open-fire cooking, his favorite place to eat in town, and more.


Meet Chef Vallian Gunawan, the visionary Head Chef of Skool Kitchen, a revolutionary concept brought to life by Eight Degrees. With a remarkable journey that began in Singapore, Chef Vallian has earned his stripes working at esteemed Michelin-starred establishments such as Saint Pierre, L’Atelier De Joel Robuchon, and Odette Restaurant.

Throughout his career, Chef Vallian’s dedication and passion for the culinary arts have been evident. Armed with a diploma in Restaurant and Culinary Operations from the prestigious Republic Polytechnic of Singapore, he has meticulously crafted his skills in both classic and contemporary cuisine.

Now at the helm of SKOOL Kitchen, Chef Vallian’s creative vision takes center stage. Embracing the beauty of nature’s elements, he harnesses the power of natural wood and charcoal embers to infuse his dishes with a unique smoky essence. The result is a menu that seamlessly blends the primal instinct of fire-cooked cuisine with the finesse and innovation of modern gastronomy.

With us, he shares how a childhood memory draws him to open-fire cooking, where he usually goes for satisfying grubs, and more.

Hi! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your day-to-day activities?

I’m Vallian, but I usually go by Val. I’m the executive chef of SKOOL Kitchen here in Canggu, Bali. My day-to-day consists of working across the departments from the kitchen all the way to the back-end office, sorting out daily operation requirements for the restaurant. That includes food tasting, quality control runs, calculating & tallying costs, speaking with purveyors, and the whole range to ensure our products are at their best possible quality.

To you, what would make a perfect meal?
Sharing a simple meal with great company and simply having a good time for me is what makes a perfect meal.

What are your favorite foods?
It’s gonna be barbecued whole fish done right!

What is your favorite midnight snack?
I’d be happy to binge on some gummy bears.

What is your most recent dining destination that left a good impression?
I had a memorable meal recently at Riung Rasa in Jimbaran, a very simple home-style family meal but definitely not pulling the punches in terms of flavor.

Do you have any go-to venues for hanging out or special occasions?
I like the food, drinks & vibes at Bar Vera for a date night; if I’m hanging out with friends, I’d bring them to Segno for some potent cocktails made by Ken.

What dish would you choose if you could make one certain Indonesian dish loved/acknowledged by the Western market?
It’s gonna be Itik Lado Mudo (Young duck cooked with green chilies, traditionally from West Sumatra).

What are your favorite local dishes, and where do you go to eat them?
I live in Bali, so Babi Guling (Suckling Pig) is definitely a favorite. I usually get my fix from Babi Guling Sari Nadi in Denpasar.

Where are your top three dining places that are always on your favorite list?

I would go to Le Bon Funk whenever I’m in Singapore. Their foie gras toast is bang on! The next one is Barō Bakery here in Bali for their baked goods, especially their snake fruit tart. Last one will be Kam’s Roast Goose in Hong Kong

In the past few years, we have seen a lot of unique food trends; which food trend do you like the most and why?
I think nowadays, people are paying more attention to the quality of what they’re eating. They are less attracted to gimmicky smoke and mirrors, so open-fire cooking has suddenly become popular again and is showing up everywhere. Regardless of whether it is a trend, I think it’s definitely the best way to cook when it’s I correctly. 

Is there any food you can eat every day without getting bored?
No, I live to eat.

Did you develop new recipes or discover a new type of food you have enjoyed in the recent year?
It’s more like returning to what I experienced as a kid living in Indonesia in the 90. I used to cook with my dad over open-fire stoves and grills in our backyard, which is very enjoyable to me. [The memory] is what drove me to do what I do at SKOOL nowadays.

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