This is a series of interviews of fabulous people who live, breathe and thrive in Jakarta. We will feature expats and Indonesians who call the Big Durian home in hopes to give all of you a glimpse of what life is all about in Jakarta. I would love to have different perspectives on our Fabulous Jakartan Friday (FJF) so if you would like to be featured, leave me a comment or shoot me an email and I would be so excited to hear all about YOUR Jakarta!
Fabulous Jakartan: Isaura, the Indonesian Gourmet Pastry Chef
Today we are meeting Isaura Theonardy. Isaura is Indonesian and has lived in France to complete her studies as a Pastry Chef. She is a fabulous girl who not only bakes delectable confections but has a very kind demeanor. Isaura gave me some baking classes not too long ago and I had a blast cooking with her. You can look at her Facebook Page to learn more about how Isaura makes Jakarta a sweeter place. .
So, here’s Isaura’s Fabulous Jakartan Friday Interview.
Tell me more, tell me more
1. First, tell us a little bit about you. What’s your background? Where did you grow up?
I’m Isaura Theonardy I’m 24 years old I was born in Jakarta, I lived and grew up in North Jakarta and Tangerang. From my father’s side I have the Sumatra malaka blood and from my mother’s is still pure Chinese, so I speak several languages and have several tastes of food, but I have been a vegetarian since I was 7.
My interest in art lead me to choose Europe for my studies. I thought I would be a bit better at an ecole du theater or sculpture in Beaux Arts. I was accepted at the Ecole d’architects in Lyon but my mother didn’t agree and my uncle whose sixth sense is never wrong told me to culinary school. At the time, the only enrollment that was still open was for Le cordon Bleu Paris. I basically didn’t have a background in culinary art, I didn’t even know what was good about Le cordon bleu until I finished my school.
Ever since I jumped into the culinary school everyone around me was very talented and they never failed. Some of them were professional so I challenged myself to open my eyes and learn whenever the Grand Chefs were teaching. I spent a lot of time at great degustations and I was able to taste every kind of patisserie, including those I had never seen before. I learned to follow their instructions and fortunately I haven’t failed since.
I built great memories with my culinary school friends, the environment in the culinary world helped and so I had a great time and I really love all of my friends. Every time we had a chance to have a party each of us made our own food, or we planned and made it together and our “kitchen gatherings” included people not only from our school but from the Grand Patissier classes at the Cordon Bleu and the Hotel they work at. We often had “Asian Nights” and perused Paris together trying to understand what the secret beneath all the culinary master pieces was.
After I finished my school I was put on the waiting list for a Pastry Internship at the greatest hotel pattiserrie in l’Hôtel Plaza Athénée for couple months. After that I worked at Le Meurice Hotel Paris. I learned a lot. I worked day and night for about 12 to 18 hours a day depending on the event. They taught me recipes and I even learned how to make 10 liters of cream in a casserole so big that I couldn’t even carry it since it was bigger than me. I once heard women were not suited for the kitchen, because we are too weak. To that I say, I have worked non-stop for even 23 hours in a day. Women are powerful and can do anything.
My favorite event in Paris was when we catered for Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris summer project movie. That’s where I got inspired to get into party catering. Now Is-Caketory is also catering with Tjobian Authentic Catering. It’s a vintage Javanese style with a taste of modern contemporary fusion.
2. You lived in Paris, France for a while. What was the hardest thing about coming back to Indonesian? Did you struggle fitting in when you came back to Indonesia? What do you miss the most about France?
The hardest thing about coming back to Jakarta was the difference in weather, the fashion, the lack of ingredients, and a metro system and the lack of Christmas Markets like those in Europe. I missed the decent patisserie, and didn’t like to be separated from all of my friends. Last but not the least the party scene. I did struggle a bit, and couldn’t do the paperwork to prove my status in Paris after I finished school so I could still live and work there. The truth is that Paris without money is like slavery. I got job proposals but I didn’t bother perusing them. For that reason I chose to live in my own country and make a living without working long hours like a “slave”.
3. I love your patisserie Is-Caketory! I’m in love with your macarons, your tartines and little cups. In fact everything you make is so delectable! How long have you been a professional baker for? What’s the best thing that has come from being a pastry chef?
Thank you! It all has come from practice. Since I moved back home the ingredients were not very easy to find so I struggle to achieve perfection. A very important thing about pastry is that the contents have to be perfectly precise. I can’t erase or substitute ingredients. I failed a lot until I cam up with my own style and technique and adjusted it to the Indonesian taste, weather and market. I won’t consider myself a pro-baker. I graduated with the Full-Pastry Diploma in 2010 and my Grand Chef professor told me that this was just the beginning; that you can only consider yourself a pro after working for 40 years.
Living in Jakarta
1. What three adjectives would describe Jakarta the best?
Mixed Colonialist, strong urbanism, chaotic
2. What’s your biggest Jakarta Love and Jakarta Hate?
I love Jakarta for the easiness to get everything I want. For example when I’m hungry at 2am I can just go on the road and I will be able to find nasi goreng tek tek freshly cooked from the wok, not a frozen heat up 24h fast food .
Hate is a strong word I rather said dislike, by the unstructured bureaucracy and government misleading.
3. How do you find the sweetness beneath the Prickly Surface of the Big Durian? What activities or things keep you happy and thriving in Jakarta?
I love any kind of stinky veggies or fruit; they have their own secret beneath it like durian, petai, jengkol and even the stinky Japanese bean and also the stinky Taiwanese tofu.
The best thing that keeps me happy is the premier movie from XXI CINEMA, nowhere in the world you could find a service like in a hotel with a great lazy sofa for only around $.10.
4. For a first time visitor coming to Jakarta, what would you recommend they try out that is uniquely Jakartan? A specific food, activity, or place?
For a first time visitor you should stay around Senopati because it’s close to art galleries, cafes and restaurants. You don’t want to try Indonesian food right away, it will upset your stomach. At night you could take the busway towards Stasiun Kota and visit café Batavia and the museums. From there, visit Monas and walk around it. Continue your visit going to a 24H restaurant in China Town around the Hayam Wuruk area. They have several porridge restaurants behind Sun City. Sun City is a good place to visit and the Pork Satay in Pecenongan is worth trying.
The next day you could try Padang food at Sari Bundo in Jl. Juanda. There is tons of good food in Jakarta but remember to fly directly to Bali afterwards if you don’t want to get too much stress ha ha ha.
5. If you were to move somewhere else and not be able to come back to Jakarta, what Indonesian thing would you stock up on?
Sayur asem and nasi goreng tek tek. I don’t know if you understand, it’s hard for me to explain, the fried rice just wouldn’t be the same without the gerobak and the hot jumping rice in the wok.
Traveling in Indonesia
1. If you could only visit one place in Indonesia while in Jakarta what would it be?.
2. What is the best advise to anyone traveling in Indonesia?
Don’t compare your country with Indonesia, just go crazy and buy the train ticket, jump on it and go everywhere it takse you. Even to the more wild jungle. You will see we are a very complicated but beautiful country.
3. Bali or Lombok?
4. Yogyakarta or Jungle Trekking in Sulawesi or Krakatau?
Diving in Manado Sulawesi is the best.
A Foodie in Jakarta
1. What’s your favorite Indonesian restaurant in Jakarta?
I don’t eat much food outside if I don’t find it interesting to eat. My brother has a vegetarian restaurant and they cook all my Indonesian food. But if I have to choose, Sari Bundo is still the best place
2. What about your favorite “Western” restaurant?
I don’t really enjoy western in Indonesia, they usually only have pasta. I think Lyon at the Mandarin Hotel is good since they have some spécialité régional.
3. What is the one Indonesian dish that everyone should try?
4. Could you share a short and sweet recipe for an authentic Indonesian dish so I can pretend I learned to cook Indonesian…
Lets try gado-gado
The most important thing is the peanut sauce,
200gr normal peanuts
1 asam jawa ( tamarind)
half palm sugar
-Wash the tamarind and blend it with hot water.
-Fry all the peanuts in a wok without oil until well cooked and they look like grilled peanuts
-Use the traditional stone ulekkan (mortar) to smash all the peanus bit by bit.
-Adding the tamarind water, add the salt, and fresh small red chilly until smooth like a sauce but not to watery.
2 small chayote
-Fry the tempe and tofu in low heat after lightly salting them. Be patient and wait, it will be more delicious than if it’s deep-fried.
-Use your finger to cut the kangkung to pick the good side of the veggies, but if its to complicated cut it with knife, pilled the chayote than slice it and cut it into small stick shape, boiled all the veggies and the bean sprout.
– Finally, fry the shrimp chips with hot oil in the wok and take it out quickly..
-Mix all the veggies in a plate and put the sauce on the top and the chips.
5. Could you also share an easy French pastry recipe that is easy to make with ingredients found in Indonesia.
Tarte aux pommes
200 gr all purpose flour
100 gr dairy butter
100 gr sugar
-Preheat the oven 160 celcius
-Mix all the ingredients except egg all together with a cookie paddle
– Add egg
– Lightly dust a rollpin and your work surface with flour
-Roll the dough to 1cm thickness, turn the dough around and roll again until all the surface is even
– Butter the pie mold, take the dough with the rolling pin, and roll it over the mold surface, molding it and cut the excess.
-Blind bake for 15 minutes and check if its baked with a toothpick
3 big apples (not Red Delicious)
3 Tablespoons of Sugar
-Cut out the core
-Cut brunoise style (small dices) but lieave one apple for decoration
-In a pan brown the butter add the sugar and the cut apples until they are fully cooked and dissolved but not marmalade (you want to bite the apple after)
-Put the apple in the pie crust
-Cut the remaining apple in thin slices
-Decorate it in a flower shape.
-Add the remaining water from the cooked apples on top.
-Spread a bit of sugar
-Bake for 40 minutes
6. Where do you buy most of the ingredients you use to bake?
In supplier Sukanda Jaya or classic fine food, they also sell it in ranch market, kemchicks, Hero Alam Sutra, and grand lucky in SCBD
7. If someone who loves baking moves to Jakarta, what do you recommend they bring with them from abroad?
For American utensils such as Wilton, they are available in Jakarta. Toko Ani has good baking supplies. For the more traditional French supplies they are rarely found here. Bring a good Madeline shape mold, a good steel heavy casserole, a tartlet mold. Recently DEMARLE, a French silicon bake ware brand became available in Jakarta. Don’t forget to attend the bakery and pastry exhibition in Kemayroran that is held once a year usually in November
Thank you very much for joining us in Stumble Abroad today, just one more request:
Describe what life in Jakarta is like in one sentence.