Learning About Life, Love And Balinese Food In The Heart Of Ubud

As soon as you step foot inside the wooden doors of the private home of Frances and Adi - also named Tresna Bali Cooking School, something happens to you - it’s like stepping into Holy Land. If I had to imagine what Paradise might look like in real life, I would imagine a lush green garden, a floating river with clear water, coconuts hanging from the trees, animals and all kinds of amazing new scents and smells from the flowers, trees, plants and herbs grown here…oh and an abundant energy of LOVE and harmony of course.

10 years ago, a new kind of home sharing rental platform emerged in San Francisco, they called themselves Airbedandbreakfast

What started as a way for a few friends to pay rent, has transformed into something bigger and more meaningful ever imagined…but why?

I'll tell you why...for so long, people thought Airbnb was about renting houses, but really, they’re about home, which is why Airbnb has grown into a community of hearts opening their doors to strangers all over the world.

I don’t know why I came to think about Airbnb and the word ‘home’ in this sense, I originally sat down to tell you about a recent experience I've had, learning to cook authentic Balinese dishes in Ubud.

I’ve gotten to know three new and dear friends of mine, Frances, Adi and their daughter Santi, who are the hearts and souls behind Tresna Bali Cooking School and I want to share my experience of meeting them and joining their home cooking experience in their private home in Ubud.





When starting Learn With Locals, I swore that I wanted to create something different - something other than cooking classes and surf lessons, waterfall tours and mountain treks (in Bali and anywhere else for that matter.)

I remember sitting in Singapore, having just recently started my business in Bali and was going to visit my brother in Korea. I opened my Instagram where someone called @TresnaBaliCookingSchool had tagged me in a post. I was curious and visited their profile - a cooking school - I thought to myself ah it's another one of those typical cooking schools where you're picked up in a mini van, going from hotel to hotel to pick up tourists, foreigners, like yourself and when you arrive you basically just have to watch someone cooking the local foods.

But why are they tagging me? I wonder how they even found me, I’ve just started my business and I have no followers literally, why @learnwithlocals, why me?

However, curious as I am, I scroll down their feed and I see not only one, but two familiar faces. One is a Becky from WeAreTravelGirls.com and another one is this girl...there's something about her and I look at her Instagram @cookingforluv - Chef, Teacher, Food Stylist in Venice Beach? Airbnb Experience Host - I KNOW…I remember this girl, Stephanie I met her last year in November in LA, in front of Adam Levine - literally.  We were both attending the Airbnb Festival Downtown LA, where Maroon 5 was playing.

Stephanie was there because she was friends with a guy who worked for Airbnb in LA and she was an Airbnb Experience host offering Food Styling Experiences for their beta version of their Trips platform and I met her through a friend of mine, Zandra who had just recently joined Stephanie's Experience where they went to the local farmers market in Venice and learned how to take pictures of the food.

I clearly remember Zandra coming back to the festival showing me all of her new cool food snaps, how she had learned to create depth of field with her iPhone camera and how she felt so confident about taking and styling amazing food pics. She was so excited and she just wouldn’t stop talking about Stephanie and this Experience and now this girl had joined Tresna Bali Cooking School's Experience, I thought, this is not a coincidence, it's a sign, so I sent them a message.

Frances was the person behind the account and she also happened to be a former student of The Institute Of Code, where we had both attended a coding course, not at the same time, but we knew the same people. What a small world.

Frances invited me to Ubud to experience her and her husband Adi's place and see their private home where they hold all of their cooking experiences.


As soon as you step foot inside the wooden doors of Tresna Bali Cooking School, something happens to you - it’s like stepping into holy land. If I had to imagine what Paradise might look like in real life, I would imagine a lush green garden, a tranquil river with crystal clear water, coconuts hanging from the trees, butterflies, beautiful flowers and colorful fish - and all kinds of animals and amazing new scents and smells from the flowers, trees, plants and herbs grown here - oh and an abundant energy of LOVE and harmony of course

Not only is there an abundance of food and peaceful energy inside those wooden doors, but there is also a rare kind of tranquility, perhaps its’ the hide away location from the busy streets of Ubud, the scooters and the noise, or perhaps it's the warm chit-chat and casual jokes between Frances, Adi and their daughter Santi and the staff. No matter what, it’s quiet here, apart from Frances’ contagious warm laughter, there is nothing here to distract you there than being in zen with nature, yourself and your surroundings.

I don’t really know what it is...what makes this place so special, of course, the food prepared here and the private family recipes are very unique, so is the green organic garden built from the ground up with love and careful attention to details.


We’re preparing Adi’s special spice paste that he learned from his grandfather - passed on to younger members of the family for generations - and we’re learning about the many different kinds of spices and herbs used in traditional Balinese home cooking and I am blown away by how little I actually know about everything when it comes to foods, scents and plants. 

We’re standing in the middle of the green oasis of a garden, a lush, green organic garden planted by Adi, with strict supervision from Frances I am sure. I keep asking Frances: 'So did you do this yourself, you and Adi - did you build this yourself, was this tree here when you came, how did you decide to build this here or there and how did you know how to plant a garden?' So many questions…


I feel like a 5-year-old kid, asking: Why is the sky blue? Even though my Dad is a farmer, I probably grew up knowing absolutely nothing about gardening or plants. I guess I was into other stuff growing up, but now I wish I had paid more attention when my Dad would take me to the garden and explain me things - mostly about plants and bees. Sorry Dad for never listening!

I feel clueless when I keep asking Frances as to how they built this entire house and garden from the ground up? She points to the land next door, untended and wild, unspoiled nature, she says: 'This is pretty much what this looked like 9 years ago when we bought the land.' 

Frances and Adi, only just started cultivating the ground and building their home in Ubud, they used to live in Adi's family home in Kerobokan, but they have moved to this land and lovechild project of theirs little by little and the place is still in progress as we speak.

'Once we have more money, we're gonna build a pool here', Frances points to the large chunk of green in the middle of the garden, and Santi nods, she is smiling - her eyes sparkle - she totally agrees that her Dad has to move his plants elsewhere. Frances and Santi smile at each other in secret - which makes me smile too - we look at each other and all laugh, as we’re having some kind of secret conspiracy against Adi. I love it.

I love being around this family and I feel grateful for being a guest in their home. Theres this warmth, it’s like I’m standing right in the middle of a Holy Place - and I am actually - as both Frances and Adi are Holy people in their local village. 

I never wanna leave.

Even though we are chopping and cooking and smashing and pounding away, there's space to take a coffee and relax, to ask questions and to understand why and how to properly squeeze the milk out of a fresh coconut or why we need to blend this spice mix before adding another type of spice and why the sky is blue, etc etc. Of course I won’t be able to remember everything, but I'm not concerned with that, I know I'm in good hands and that I will get all the information sent to me afterwards, so I chose to just focus on learning and experiencing - I feel so alive.


As we sit down to eat, Frances tells me the story of how she met Adi. I am captivated, I hardly eat, too busy to take in everything, I want to know EVERYTHING! This is better than the best Netflix show I’ve ever watched - this is The REAL thing, tell me more...

I’m not going to go reveal anything to you, you’ll have to come hear the story yourself but it is nothing less that extraordinary and Frances and Adi are nothing less than extraordinary people which make this Learning Experience super extraordinary! (sorry for my lack of English language vocabulary.

Frances, Adi and Santi will welcome you into their home with open arms, with a calmness and hospitality so sincere that you almost regret not coming sooner, ‘cooking school’ or whatever name used, everything that you will see, smell, experience and learn here is built with Love - on a rock solid foundation of LOVE between two, eventually three people, a love for Balinese food, cooking, culture and sharing their passion for Bali and Balinese home cooking.

I can’t tell you what kind of experience is right for you, but I can tell you this:

If you want to have a truly unique, hands-on and personal Balinese cooking experience, where you actually learn to understand where the ingredients used are coming from and how they complement each other in taste and texture and about the different types of crops cultivated in an organic garden, you should visit Tresna Bali Cooking School.


If you also want to see the inside of a private, architectural home built from the ground up by two people who met in Bali 18 years ago - who have an amazing, inspiring story to share and learn why they are opening their homes and hearts to strangers - you should visit Frances and Adi.

But be careful - you might never wanna leave - if not for the food, then for the superb company, tranquility and space to be yourself to relax, learn and to belong.


'Belonging' is exactly what makes this place, this experience and this food so unique because you feel like you can belong here. You can be yourself and learn at your own pace and it doesn’t matter where you’re from, what language you speak, what you look like or what you do or don’t do - it does not matter because you’re you and that’s all that really matters.

For so long, people thought cooking classes were about cooking, but really, they’re about 'home' and 'belonging' - about living and experiencing deeper - loving what you do - laughing more - and of course learning to cook Adi’s family recipes in the heart of Ubud - taking home a little piece of Paradise.

Thank you Frances, Adi and Santi for having me. 

Ulla xx

Follow Tresna Bali cooking School on Facebook and Instagram @tresnabalicookingschool and if you’re interested in meeting Frances, Adi and Santi and learn to cook their amazing food, please join their Authentic Homecooking Experience.