N THE 2½ years since former Sydneysider Kath Townsend took on the executive chef role at luxury Ubud resort Maya, she has witnessed a momentum that shows no signs of slowing.
''This season has been insane … and my first one was a record for Bali, despite the global financial crisis in Australia,'' Townsend says. ''The high season used to start at the end of June; now it starts at the beginning, even in Ubud, and we're supposed to be the village, boutique area.''
Townsend has worked in Vietnam, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, and spent several years as Bill Granger's right-hand woman at Bills in Darlinghurst.
She says there has been an influx of Australian chefs in Bali. It can feel as if there are more award-winning foreign chefs and restaurateurs there now than there are surfers, at least in the busiest areas of Seminyak, Legian and Ubud.
Townsend reels off a few names: Stephen Moore, a former Rockpool guy at Cocoon Beach Club in Kuta; and in Ubud, Nicolas Lazzaroni, a chef who made a name for himself in Byron Bay and ''takes his food very seriously at Bridges''.
''The general managers here really like Aussie chefs,'' Townsend says. ''They think we have a 'give it a go' attitude. I've been employable in Asia because they tell me I'm not like some European chefs; I don't have the 'this is my kitchen, stay out' attitude. We get on with it.''
There are many theories about the flourishing dining scene. One highlights the ''new'' money coming in from Jakarta, China, Russia and India. There is also the fact that Italians and the French have always loved Bali and, as economic woes dog Europe, the island's value for money, great weather and exoticism make it a perfect alternative.
Australian interest is also part of the picture: the number of Australian tourists choosing Bali for their holidays rose about 27 per cent (on the previous year) and was nudging 350,000 in the first half of last year.
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