The scene was set – or more precisely, the table was set. The sun set over the Indian Ocean and a soft breeze played through the air as we settled down at our private dining pavilion built right on the water. A team of staff fluttered about us, setting down steaming dishes of Indonesian favourites: nasi goreng, chicken satay, gado gado and spring rolls. After the table was set, the staff retreated to their quarters, leaving us to enjoy the food, the views and each other’s company in private.
This is not some cheesy marketing spiel – this was our team actually dining at Tirta Nila in Bali. As you can see, dining in your own private villa can be the ultimate luxury – but how does it all work? Here’s everything you need to know about chef services in private villas.
Is a Chef Included?
Each villa is unique and not all of them will include a chef. If having a personal chef is important for your stay, you can browse our villas which include a chef or talk to our villa specialists who will help you find a villa which ticks all the boxes. Our team has inspected all villas listed on our site and have also stayed in many of them, giving them firsthand experience of the services offered.
The next question is: what does it mean if a villa includes a chef? If a chef is included in the rates, you don’t need to pay for the chef services – you only pay for the food and drinks you consume. If a villa doesn’t include a chef, one can usually be hired at an extra fee. In this case, you would pay a fixed fee for the chef services, usually per mealtime or per day, as well as paying for the food and drinks.
Villas With a Private Chef – What to Expect
Having a private chef included in your villa stay means that you can enjoy as many meals as you like in the villa. Many chefs will have experience working in luxury resorts and fine dining restaurants. Needless to say, it’s an amazing treat to have such a master working just for you! Some villas even offer cooking classes with the chef. One of the best examples is The Longhouse in Bali, where even regular mealtimes are elevated into culinary discovery. When our team dined at the villa, the chef prepared gado gado (Indonesian salad served with rich peanut sauce) right at our table, introducing us to the ingredients and the whole cooking process.
While dining in the privacy of your villa can be the ultimate luxury, it’s important to remember that a villa is not a restaurant. It is recommended that meals are enjoyed family style rather than everyone ordering their own a la carte dishes. Meals will also require prior notice to give staff sufficient time to prepare and shop for ingredients. It’s usually recommended that guests order their meals at least one day in advance.
Most villas focus on the local cuisine (be that Thai, Indonesian or Sri Lankan) and Western classics. Some villas even have their own signature dish. For Waimarie in Koh Samui, this is Pla Tort Kamin (grilled fish marinated in turmeric). Seaside villas like Kadju House and Sielen Diva in Sri Lanka often specialise in locally sourced seafood purchased directly from local fishermen.
The Grocery System
Many villas which include a chef (meaning you don’t need to pay extra for the chef services) operate off a grocery system. This means that you only pay for the groceries used to prepare the meals. Guests are asked to provide petty cash on arrival. The staff will then purchase the ingredients based on the meals you order and present you with the receipts. At Villa Noa, groceries are charged at cost – and their seafood barbecues are to die for. The staff purchases seafood directly from the famous fish market in Jimbaran and then grills the catch of the day in the villa’s beautiful garden.
Villas like Tirta Nila add a surcharge (usually around 20%) on top of the grocery bill – this is used to cover the cost of transport and other expenses. (As mentioned above – the food at Tirta Nila is delicious and the oceanfront dining pavilion is beyond stunning.) Villas which work off a grocery system will usually have a suggestion menu available to give guests an idea of what’s possible but don’t worry – the chefs will also accommodate special requests and dietary requirements wherever possible.
Some villas, on the other hand, offer a priced menu the same way you would find in a restaurant. Some of our favourite villas which use a priced menu include Villa Samaki in Ubud (down to earth Indonesian food) and Impiana Cemagi in Seseh (lavish spread of local dishes to celebrate a special birthday). Villa Adasa in Seminyak offers a priced menu with also covers five-course dinners and special seafood barbecues.
There are also a few villas which offer full-board meals, though these villas are a clear minority. Some villas in Sri Lanka (including Meda Gedara and Lansiya) offer full-board packages where all meals are paid for upfront. Any meals you don’t have at the villa will be refunded later. A handful of villas go all out and offer all-inclusive bliss, with full-board gourmet meals included in the rates, most notably the extravagant Ani Villas in Thailand, Sri Lanka and the Dominican Republic.
Dining in a Villa Resort
If you’re staying in a villa resort, such as Villa Kubu or The Santai, meals are often prepared in a main kitchen and then served in your villa, room service style. If you prefer, you can also enjoy your meals in the resort’s restaurant. We loved the Balinese grilled snapper served with ying yang wild rice we had in Villa Kubu’s Oasis Restaurant! In most villa resorts, the staff can also organise special barbecues and romantic dinners in the privacy of your villa.
Besides relaxed family style meals, many villas can also cater to more special dining experiences – we loved the beautiful garden setup while having lunch at Casa Mateo in Seminyak and the epic pizza-and-karaoke party we threw at Baan Paa Talee in Phuket. Many villas can arrange special barbecues and romantic meals and to add to the ambiance, our concierge team can help organise Balinese dancers and gamelan music to accompany your dinner.
Though special occasions can certainly be catered to, there are some limits. It’s important to consider how many people will be attending the dinner and describe your plans when booking the villa. All villas require prior notice for parties and events.
If you’re planning an intimate dinner party for only the people staying in the villa, villas with a chef can cater to this and no additional fees should apply. If, on the other hand, you’re planning to host a party for outside guests, the villa might require an event fee and (if you’re in Bali) a banjar fee which is paid to the local village community. There are also limits to just how much a single chef can do. If the number of party guests will be more than double the number of in-house guests, most villas will require you to organise outside catering.
Though destinations like Bali, Phuket and Koh Samui are brimming with delectable restaurants, nothing beats the luxury of having a private chef at your beck and call. A relaxed family meal by the pool or a lavish barbecue in the garden – what could be better? For insider tips on the best villas with the best chefs (our team has dined at most!), talk to our villa specialists.