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Felix Budisetiawan: Elevating Indonesian Cuisine

Award-winning chef Felix Budisetiawan talks about his lifelong culinary passion for Indonesian food, his latest culinary endeavours with Garuda Indonesia and managing his responsibilities as the executive chef at one of Jakarta’s leading luxury hotels.

Interview by Esha Nareswari

Even though he looks tired after leading a busy hotel kitchen for the whole day, Felix, who is Executive Chef of The Dharmawangsa, Jakarta, is still enthusiastic in talking about his latest culinary project.

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“I am preparing to serve Indonesia’s finest cuisine for Garuda Indonesia’s First Class and Business Class passengers,” he says proudly.

Felix’s eyes light up when he recalls the moment when Garuda Indonesia offered him the opportunity to join the airline’s roster of Star Chefs, and serve his signature dishes on Garuda Indonesia’s Jakarta to Amsterdam routes from April to June 2016.

“My dream is to create Indonesian food cooked with modern techniques and presented with sophistication,” he says, adding that he was honoured and proud to be working with the airline on a range of dishes that showcase progressive Indonesian cuisine with western-influenced technique.“The combination of local culinary traditions with the sophistication and elegance of French cooking methods will elevate the dishes to a different level,” Felix adds.

The signature dishes for the special programme include coriander-cured salmon, six-hour braised ‘kalio-style’ beef short ribs with celeriac gratin and baby root vegetables, pindang seafood soup with barramundi, prawns and mussels, and a traditional tamarind drink for dessert.

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“The dishes represent Indonesian favourites. Kalio is from Padang, now world famous on the Indonesian culinary map. Pindang is from South Sumatra, while tamarind is a Javanese staple,” he explains.

Originally keen to pursue an architecture degree, Chef Felix ultimately decided to follow his heart and apply to culinary school. Before long he had carved out an impressive career working in the kitchens of many five-star hotels.

Now with three decades of experience under his belt, Chef Felix remains influenced by Western cooking techniques, but he says Indonesian food is still his main expertise.

“I choose to focus on Indonesian cuisine because I fell in love with the flavours of my country from an early age thanks to my mom’s irresistible cooking. She taught me all about taste, and I quickly made a hobby out of cooking for friends and family during weekends,” he reminisces.

The weekend cook-out tradition continues in his family as the Bali-born-and-raised chef is keen on passing the torch to his three children. “I always try to find time to take my children on road trips to Bali. We always stop various towns to taste their local dishes,” says Felix, who also enjoys cycling and gardening in his free time.

What’s the secret to his adept talents as a chef? Felix says by simply cooking with fresh ingredients and honest creativity, you can do wonders in the kitchen.

Even after a long and successful career thus far, Chef Felix’s lofty goal of elevating Indonesian cuisine is fuelled by an earnestly humble, yet noble culinary ambition: “I want to bring joy to people when they taste my food,” he concludes.