The Dharmawangsa Jakarta has appointed Felix Budisetiawan as its new Executive Chef since February 2015. Bringing 30 years of international experience in the hospitality industry, Chef Felix has mastered the world of commercial cookery, where he utilized his talents and skills within various hotel and restaurant chains throughout Asia and USA.
Chef Felix, who was born and raised in Bali, realized his passion in culinary when he started to help for the family business and carried on as a culinary school student in Nusa Dua, Bali, where he studied several managerial aspects of the culinary industry. His expertise expands to the gastronomic arts of traditional and modern Indonesian as well as French cooking style with the simple yet flavorsome and mouthwatering cuisines, with specialization in Indonesian cooking style.
Whats New Jakarta sat down with Chef Felix in the magnificent Majapahit Lounge to talk about what are his inspirations, Dharmawangsa, and his passion for Indonesian cooking.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My love of cooking grew from watching my mom cook, so I’ve started cooking from an early age. I would open up our fridge, and see what leftover ingredients we have. But at first, it didn’t pass my thought to be a professional chef; I liked to draw, so at first I aspired to be an architect. But somehow, I got accepted to a culinary school first. From that point on, I had my focus.
What was your biggest challenge when you joined Dharmawangsa?
Before I joined Dharmawangsa, Ialready know its reputation. If you look up dharmawangsa in major rating sites in the world, you will see it has the highest rating for Indonesian food, just about anywhere. I also knew of its legendary ‘nasi liwet’; its unbeatable taste. You go find the best Indonesian dish around, for example gudeg, go to the best in Yogyakarta, and somehow Dharmawangsa will have the exact same taste here, if not better! We already have that reputation here. My next challenge is to deliver popular street food around Jakarta, in a fine dining and premium experience. When our guests stay here, the idea is for them to not have to find and do their culinary tour around Jakarta. We bring the food to them, in the most authentic way possible, and even better.
To get to that, we go as far as researching for more than 6 months for one single menu; which includes trying every popular stall around Jakarta and even other cities in Indonesia. We try and study these places, not just 3 to 4 visits for one place, for some even as many as 7 times.
As you’ve mentioned, Sriwijaya is popular as a restaurant that delivers authentic Indonesian food with classical French techniques; can you tell us a little bit about this?
Let us use slow-cooked Indonesian meat dishes like rawon, as an example. The traditional way of cooking this dish is to cook it for hours, which results in the flavorful broth, as the case with rendang as well. But we know how this kind of cooking destroys the meat’s nutrients. To tackle this, we use sous vide method, which slow-cooks for hours yet retains the meat’s texture, nutrients and results in the most tender meat possible, and with a flavorful broth as well. You can even see the meat still has a pinkish color.
Where do you source your ingredients?
Our biggest challenge is also to find, and incorporate local premium produce, and present it as authentically Indonesian as possible, with a five star treatment it deserves. So far, we still do 50 to 50 imported to local ingredient ratio. Sea weed, clams, fish, we source from Sumbawa and Sumba, where the most unpolluted water of Indonesia is located. But for those that we still can’t find the best quality locally, such as meat and more exotic products such as high quality sea urchins, we source from the best producer around the world. We do dream that one day we can proudly say that we source all ingredients from Indonesia.
Who are your inspirations in your profession?
My mother is a big inspiration for me. For chefs, I look up to influential chefs like William Wongso, Chef Vindex (Tengker), as the ambassadors of Indonesian cuisine. But for me, I get my influence from my mother’s cooking, and also the western chefs that I have worked with in the past.
What do you do in your free time?
I have to cycle at least once a week! At least a few kilometers, nothing crazy. I also need to listen to music every day. I try to get myself updated, so I seek news and trends online. When I was still living in Bali, I also garden a lot. There’s always tomatoes, chilies, and all that sort of plants. In the future I would love to have my own garden, grow my own vegetables, or maybe even have my own little place where I sell food with ingredients from the garden.
Do you cook at home?
My wife does! I only cook on weekend mornings, because my children want me to. And they already pick up some interest too, and they sometimes cook with me. But because I live in Kelapa Gading, where there are so many great foods surrounding us, we also eat out. My family in particular loves noodle, so we always hunt for the best ‘mi’ around.
What are your dreams & goals as a chef?
I want to help bring Indonesian cuisine to an international level, in a respectable place. We know that rendang has secured a position, but we still have so many others to introduce to the world.