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Haryo Pramoe: Serving Indonesian food on golden platter

Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Feature | Sun, November 16 2014, 1:50 PM

At work: Chef Haryo Pramoe at work in his kitchen “laboratory”. (JP/Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak)

At work: Chef Haryo Pramoe at work in his kitchen “laboratory”. (JP/Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak)

In his own words, this Indonesian culinary expert is an artist.

Haryo Pramoe is not only preserving traditional tastes with five-star presentation, the celebrity chef is also promoting local cuisine in an artistic way.

The chef starts work each day with a hearty “Assalamualaikum” (Peace be with you) in his kitchen laboratory in the Space restaurant in Jakarta’s Kemang district.

He also runs the Indonesian Food Channel on YouTube, featuring shows presented by locals in their own dialect.

“Through the channel we want to introduce Indonesia as a whole. Not only the food, but also the story behind it, the language and the culture of where the food comes from,” Haryo says.

With the same spirit, he co-founded the Indonesian Chefs Association, an organization of 1,800 people nationwide who share the same concerns.

“We encourage the use of local produce instead of imported canned vegetables and preserved foods. In this country we can find freshly plucked produce available anytime,” said the 39-year-old father of one.

Working with the arts and design community in nearby Bandung, West Java, Haryo plans to promote Indonesian specialty foods by selling T-shirts and other collectible merchandise for limited sale overseas.

“The challenge is how to make the illustration of the food emblazoned on the merchandise,” he said.

Born in Jakarta on March 8, 1975, to the family of an accountant at state oil and gas company Pertamina, Haryo was always a free thinker.

He was the drummer of a heavy-metal cover band named Parau (Croak) during his school days, but abandoned his dreams of becoming a musician when he couldn’t write his own songs.

“I was just being honest with myself. I’m not good at math but I love to cook,” he said, explaining why he chose to study at Jakarta’s Trisakti Institute of Tourism rather than taking his father’s path.

His cooking skill brought him to the Netherlands, where he made a new dish called “Lautan Cinta” (Love Ocean), mixing seafood salad with pempek (fish cakes), the signature dish of Palembang, South Sumatra, and an ice cream made of lemongrass, garlic and rose petals.

When Haryo moved to the US he broke the best-selling ribs record at the Hotel Hyatt in Colorado.

Upon his return to Indonesia, he soon gained popularity, as his reputation preceded him. The camera loved him: Haryo became the host of several television cooking programs in Indonesia and even co-hosted a program in Malaysia.

His experience overseas had triggered his nationalist pride, especially after he found out that his soft-spoken grandfather Sumanang, who always gave him chocolate bars, was a government minister in the 1950s and the founder of the nation’s Antara news agency.

“I asked my father one day why he couldn’t send me to study overseas like other kids and he said that he would never have his hand in the government’s money. I now share the responsibility to contribute progress to the country,” he said.

Haryo is working with government officials to promote Indonesian cuisine and plans to organize the Indonesian Food Festival next year.

“We’re currently curating the food from each region,” he said.

Haryo said that he has no interest in writing a cookbook. “I don’t write. I’d rather upload cooking videos, because in this visual culture people prefer learning how-tos from YouTube.

“I hope the young generation of this country knows how to cook Indonesian food, at least three dishes, because the fastest way of learning a culture is through its cuisine.”

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