Gran Melia Jakarta welcomes a new addition to their extensive culinary team, Chef Ingo Oldenburg as the hotel’s Executive Chef. Born and raised in East Germany when the wall was still intact has somewhat made an impression to this humble chef. His extensive travels around the world have proven his distinction to the world of global culinary. His work is influenced by the many cultures and heritage that he finds throughout his travels.
He began his tenure more than 20 years ago at the Fredericks Hotel in the UK, Mayfair Intercontinental London and Ritz-Carlton Wolfsburg before moving on to travel around the world with the first stop at Sheraton Jumeira Dubai and he also worked as the pre-opening team of St. Regis Shenzen in China before landing at Crowne Plaza Manila and finally at the prestigious Gran Melia Jakarta. We sat down one evening with this humble chef who apparently has made us appreciate Nusantara cuisine more than we ever think we could.
What drives you to be a chef in the first place?
It starts when I was quite young actually, my great great grandmother is a pastry chef, and I was amazed by her interaction with kids when she baked good chocolate cookies and it never ceased to amaze me the interaction between her and her ‘fans’ are so humble and sublime. Even at school, I joined cooking class when I was in the third or fourth grade, and from that point on I realized that it would be amazing to be a chef and so I applied at Hotel Stadt Berlin (now Park Inn Berlin) which was one of the best hotel in East Berlin back at the time.
You’ve worked in many great establishments all over the world, how did it all start for you?
I think the starting point was when I decided to move to England, not only to pursue my passion in the culinary world, but I realized that I need to become really good at my English, and moving to England is the best place to start, and that’s when I received offer from the many fine establishments in London. From then on things just started rolling for me, and I was never more grateful.
I Believe this is not the first post for you as a Chef in Jakarta, can you tell us about it?
A few years back I worked for another hotel in Thamrin and was heavily involved in their renovation and rebranding process and to also maintain the high-quality selection of cuisine that the brand always offers wherever they are. That was when I realized that I fell in love with this city, I just love everything about it, the people, and most importantly, the food.
You are known for working in major hotel chains and big events, what can we expect from you now that you’ve taken up Executive Chef position in one of our favourite hotel in the capital?
As a hotel chef, you don’t do speciality cuisine, and somehow it amuses me more because it pushes me to drive myself further both creatively and passionately. And it is always interesting to learn so much about the different cuisines all over the world so that you can cater to all different types of clients for hotels, and what’s more interesting is listening to all the feedback and trying to do better for your guests, that’s where your passion comes in, and to me that is just blissful.
And I believe that this is no problem for you?
Not at all, because I’ve worked in China, Egypt, and I also ran a Japanese restaurant, which is why my position now is all the more challenging and fun for me. But in terms of what kind of speciality that I want to be bringing to Gran Melia, the basic idea is that I don’t meddle with what’s already good and famous from the hotel, but I would like to push more Spanish and Mediterranean cuisine to the brand, because it has unique features and different flares. And let’s not forget that we have Chinese and Japanese restaurants as our outlets, and I am also looking forward to making things work better for those two outlets.
What cuisine amuse you the most?
I don’t have a specific favourite, but I love seafood, and I love Spanish food and how interesting their cuisine is. I love spicy food which is why I love Indonesian, Thai and Indian food, and more specifically the richness of Indonesian cuisine because I am continued to be amazed by its richness.
So it’s safe to say that you love working banquet because of the variety?
Well one thing about banquet that I just admire so much is the richness of diversity, both from team or the selection of food that you offer to your guests, It kind of pushes you to become better and better as days go by, and as a chef I never stopped learning from my fellow colleagues, because there is always something interesting to share with them, and always something unique for them to share with me. I value that the most. And being able to make people happy because of the food you cook, there is no better feeling than that. Designing the menu with what guests like is also a plus point for working for a hotel because, again, I have to stress, that I learnt a lot from that experience.
What’s your approach to Indonesian food here at Gran Melia?
The one thing beautiful about Indonesian food is that it is so rich in culture and heritage that you just don’t meddle with it. Although I try to experiment to combine classic Indonesian recipe with European ingredients along with Wine, I believe to not mess around with local cuisine like “Sop Buntut” or “Pepes Ikan”, you just don’t mess around with it [laughs]. I believe in offering different cuisine rather than messing around with the old-age recipe, and that’s what makes my job interesting.
So right now what’s your focus at the hotel?
We’re looking at some interesting wine pairing dinner in the coming months featuring many cuisines from all over the world, and I am also revamping new menus for our Cafe Gran Via and two of our restaurants and so much more interesting shaping up, and I am really looking forward to it.
If you were to serve some distinguished guests of the hotel your tasting menu, what would you be serving them?
Gosh, on the top of my head? there’s a lot of them, but what I would love to do is combining the rich Indonesian cuisine ingredients and heritage with a European touch, I think that would really be interesting for me. Ask me again tomorrow, ideas come to me late at night, and it always works like that for me [laughs].
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Photo: Gran Melia Jakarta