Food glorious food! The best thing about food is that it is both a necessity and an indulgence. Even better, it can be both at the same time. As Voltaire famously said ‘nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity’.
Many of us have very strong feelings about food. Why is food so emotional? Scents of food stir up childhood memories, cooking for and feeding someone is one of the sweetest gestures in the world, even watching someone eat can be a delight. Food and love are undeniably connected, and fine dining is here to stay.
No wonder food is omnipresent. On the TV every second commercial is for food and now every second program is on food. Indonesian cuisine has been influenced by multiple foreign influences over the millennia with its location along ancient trading routes between the Far East and the Middle East. ‘Despite the influences of Indian, Chinese and Arabian’ says Chef Pernama, ‘the indigenous food has evolved into distinct regional cuisines based on local produce and spices. Look at Balinese cuisine which is characterized by kencur or lesser galangal.’
I recently caught up with three incredible chefs in an effort to understand the trendy food scene in Jakarta from their very individual perspectives. Chef Maxi Andhika, Chef Gilles Marx and Chef Pernama were my guides on the food scene in Jakarta. In the process I have a whole new appreciation for food and its 3 P’s production, preparation and presentation.
Although each of the celebrity chefs has a different niche, they have a common strategy for marketing – WOMM, or word of mouth marketing. They provide an excellent dining experience to their patrons and they not only come back for more, but also bring their friends and contacts. The chefs viewed traditional advertising media is viewed as expensive and ineffective. On the other extreme are giant billboards with credit card linked promotions on food outlets, which attract diners only through the lure of cheap food, and is no comparison to a fine dining experience.
Chef Max brings fine dining home through his exclusive private dining services. Max brings French inspired cuisine with a twist to the crème de la crème of Indonesian society. ‘Indonesia is at the crossroads for discovering fresh food and this is where education and awareness is required, and Chefs play a major role in shaping taste buds and approach to food. Freshness is key, to a great dish’ said Max. Buying fresh ingredients means knowing where your food comes from and what’s in it.
Chef Gilles Marx is French culinary master presents authentic classic and contemporary French cuisine at his elegant fine dining restaurant, Amuz. Only the artwork on the walls is Indonesian. Meticulously chosen ingredients to provide the richest flavors in a gracefully stylish space create a wonderful experience for the diners. ‘The growing economy means that people are entertaining more. The people in Jakarta love French food and love to discover and try new things’ says Gilles. He notices the trend of a new concept restaurant which he explained ‘is a bistro with a large bar, which provides a quick bite to the busy executive during the day like a club at night’.
Chef Permana Sigidprawiro’s passion is authentic Indonesian food as a fine dining experience. He manages various restaurants such as Bistro Baron, which serves French cuisine and Indonesian cuisine at Waroeng Kita, Bunga Rampai and Kembang Goela. His dream is to set up a chain of authentic Indonesian restaurants across the world which offer a total experience, ‘great dining at affordable prices in a wonderful ambiance with great service’ explains Pernama. He is of the view that fine dining should not be defined by high prices but by affordable good quality authentic cuisine.
The economic growth and affluence over the last decade has been a boon to the food and hospitality sector, especially in Jakarta. The variety and choice of food from cuisines around the world, now available in Jakarta is simply mind boggling. Popular reality TV shows focused on food further create greater awareness on all aspects of food from around the world. As Chef Gilles says ‘food business is booming and word of mouth is the best advertisement.’