The Yak sits down with Executive Chef Alberto “Pancio” Panciera from the kitchens of Batu belig’s newest Spanish ‘restaurante’ Chachara
LET’S cut to the basics of name, birthplace and errr… shoe size.
My full name is Alberto Panciera, but even my mother calls me by the nickname Pancio. The name came from a friend back home in my birthplace of Trissino, a small town in the Vicenza province, Italy. Oh, and shoe size? You’ll have to steal my shoes to find that one out…
First time to Bali was when? And who with?
I arrived in Bali for the first time in June 2017 with some very heavy bags full of wishes, curiuosity and a big desire to start a new culinary adventure in a country I didn’t yet know.
Irreplaceable memory of that first visit?
From China to Canggu. It almost sounds the same, and there is definitely a similar amount of motorbikes on the road. I was a little shocked by the heat and humidity, but I was really happy to see so much green around and a life that looks much more quiet and relaxed. Nothing at all like the crazy rhythm of Shanghai.
What were you up to in life in general at that time?
I was in Shanghai and must admit, despite Shanghai being notorious for its party scene, I was working really hard. It definitely put me in the mind space I needed to be in to take on the challenge of running a kitchen here in Bali.
Cities you’ve lived-in and why?
I’ve lived and worked in many places in Europe, throughout Italy and Greece. I moved to London at 19 because it was the place to be, not only for the arts, live music and parties but the food and beverage scene was in its peak. London was being recognised as a leading city for gourmet cuisine by the Michelin guide, and I found myself in Michelin star Locanda Locatelli.
My favourite city in Italy by far is Verona. Here, in contrast to the pace of the big cit,y I was spending my days off visiting wineries, for research of course. A spur of the moment decision to go to Australia led me to spend an amazing year in Melbourne working, refining my English and enjoying the emerging food scene there. Last but probably the most important city to mention career wise is Shanghai. I call it “the crazy city of surprises”.
When, who and what made you decide to expand your horizons to include Bali on your CV?
Here’s the story: One sunny day in May I went to work as usual, I was working at El Willy in Shanghai at this stage. Koen, the executive chef came to me and said; “Hey, would you like to go to Bali and be the executive chef in the new restaurant?”. He said it as though he was asking me how I like my eggs. (Omelet :)) I made the decision then and worried about it later. Koen and Willy offered me an amazing opportunity and I definitely felt ready to take it on.
I’m sure I heard somewhere that men cannot multi-task. Please breakdown for us what it is you are currently creating and / or involved with?
It’s probably true. Fortunately I have a great team behind me. My focus at the moment is to have everything that comes out of the kitchen made in-house. Not only does it ensure the quality is as high as it can be but it also means we will have uniqueness both in product and flavour. It also adds a rustic element which is a big part of Mediterranean cuisine. We smoke our own salmon and have started to cure our own meats. We make pasta and bread by hand. We make our own canned tuna. I like to think that we are a food factory and we just share our products made with passion with friends (customers). Just the same way a family works. On the other hand we try as much as possible to work with fresh food. When I need to I go to market to buy the fish myself. Innovation is also key, and we are constantly working on new dishes and ideas. It makes me very proud, and sometimes very tired too 🙂
Challenges of sourcing ingredients in Bali? Name your top pet peeves.
The imported products are definitely the hardest to source. Citrus fruits are an essential part of Mediterranean food and finding these of consistently good quality is a challenge. Rice – on the island of rice, finding a kilo of Arborio or Carnaroli is like searching for gold. If you find it, you’ll see the price is pretty close to gold prices too. Cheese! This is next on the list for in house production, watch this space. And then other items like good quality anchovies and caper berries.
What do you like about the products that you can get here?
I like the freshness of certain local products, for example; fish, coconut oil and some vegetables. I also love that I can find a lot of organic products. Although it does take some time for find the highest quality produce. Sometimes a visit to the local markets is a must to check out what is new and inspiration for new dishes will often come here.
Name your favourite herb.
For me a classic that I cannot live without is definitely rosemary. Back in my hometown we have a courtyard with many herbs growing; Rosemary, Sage, Mint, Absinthe, Thyme and they are all older than me. Rosemary is the king of the herbs, the plant always grew higher than all the others.
Whose dish do you love to recreate and what is it?
Honestly I don’t often recreate dishes as it never comes out how you intended it to. What I sometimes do is take a part of a recipe and transform it into something sexy. The suckling pig for example, it’s a recipe I learned to cook before we designed the menu for Chachara, but the final dish is something a lot sexier than where it started, I won’t give too much away but it does of course include my favourite herb rosemary! I would say it’s now my signature dish.
Where will you be eating on your day off?
One thing about living here in Bali as you know is we are so spoilt with choice of venues and great chefs. Sometimes I like to eat fine dining, sometimes I really like to explore the local ways. And, sometimes as a good Italian I feel the need for a good plate of pasta or a pizza. My perfect day off would involve some lounge music, a gin and tonic or a glass of red and some great food. Ku De Ta, Cuca and Sarong are all doing amazing things and I really like to support other venues.
Shirtmaker, shoemaker, watchmaker. Name your chosen ones in that order…
By the Sea, Sebago, Junghans.
Thanks for your time, we’ll be checking back with you to see what other plans are in the pipeline for you and Chachara.