Rachmat Ridwan Hakim – Executive Chef at Hanging Gardens of Bali
Rachmat Ridwan Hakim – thanks to his mother, his talent was discovered. After graduation, Indonesian Chef Rachmat has gained experience abroad, and then returned to his homeland: Indonesia. Today he is Executive Chef at Hanging Gardens of Bali.
Rachmat Ridwan Hakim – Chef’s Portrait
After a fantastic career as a Chef in Indonesia and Canada, you now work as Executive Chef & Beverage at Hanging Gardens of Bali. When did it all start? Why did you become a Chef?
I am sure that this passion for cooking comes from my mom.
Well, it started since I was a little kid. When my mother opened a small restaurant, I accompanied her as she went to a market to buy the ingredients for the restaurant early in the morning, and I helped her prepare these ingredients. My mother taught me to be self-reliant so that I become independent and cooking food was an important issue.
I had no idea of becoming a professional chef until my mother saw my cooking talent. Then she suggested that I attend a cooking school. I am grateful to have gone that way, because this is my passion.
Which cooking school did you attend?
I studied at AKPAR NHI Bandung. It is considered one of the best hotel schools in Indonesia.
After graduating, you worked far away from your home country – in Canada. How did the time as a Chef influence you in Canada?
I was born and raised in Indonesia. But there are only two seasons a year. When I got the job in Canada, I saw this as an opportunity.
Cooking seasonal menus based on local produce and the organic garden that we have over there influenced me and it has influenced me to become more creative in the menu or to handle the ingredients and also to respect the ingredients. It opens the door for me to explore food/flavors from around the world. Toronto is very diverse in culture.
Indonesia is a big country with almost 17,000 islands. How would you best describe Indonesian cuisine?
Indonesia is rich in culture, including food culture, and “bumbu” (root spice paste) is the most important ingredient in any kitchen in Indonesia.
You have worked as a Chef in Jakarta and many years in Bali. How do the two places differ in terms of cuisine?
Well, Bali and Jakarta have different cultures.
Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia, where all people from all regions of Indonesia are. Jakarta is so rich in local culture. The culinary offer is so diverse, with influences from all over Indonesia, while Bali is more diverse internationally.
Which dish best describes the cuisine of Bali?
Ayam Betutu (marinated whole chicken wrapped in banana leaf and cooked for 6 hours) and Babi Guling (Balinese suckling pig).
Bali’s cuisine is very traditional and modern. What are some of the traditional Indonesian dishes created in a new style?
The dish itself is called “Lodeh” and is originally from the territory of the West Java. Essentially, it is stew with vegetables and coconut milk.
But here I add something new by adding tempeh (fermented soybean), which is made like falafel, and it looks different, but if you’ve tasted Indonesian food already, you’ll realize that the taste is still very original. It’s one of my vegetarian or vegan favorite dishes.
Working in Bali is what many foreign chefs are interested in. Is it difficult to find a job as a foreign chef in Bali?
I cannot say that it’s hard or easy. It is probably based much on luck.
What are the latest trends and developments in Bali’s food and cooking scene?
Now everyone is in local produce movement: local ingredient, local flavor, but with some touch of modern twist or technique.
How would you best describe your own culinary style?
My culinary style is contemporary, modern cuisine inspired by local flavor. I love to create local dishes and flavors, but packed in my own way.
Is there a signature dish?
Yes, of course. The dish itself is called 75 degrees lamb rack. The dish is inspired by a local dish called Sate Marangi from the area of Purwakarta in West Java, where it was originally beef or lamb skewer. The difference is that it is not served with peanut sauce, but marinated in sweet soy sauce with some spice.
So I came up with the idea to use this special marinade in my lamb rack and roast for one hour at 75 degrees. Served with Kemangi risotto (lemon basil risotto using glutinous rice), pickle shimeji mushroom and spice soy reduction.
If you have days off – what are your favorite local streed food dishes and restaurants?
I love going to a local place called “Sambal Mak Beng” in Sanur. They only sell a menu that is just fish. A portion consists of fried fish, fish soup, rice and sambal. The fish is super fresh from the sea and the soup is really refreshing, tasty and aromatic.
Which lesser-known spices do you use when cooking?
It is called Masoi or Mesui, it is a bark of the Mesui tree and has a similar taste with cinnamon, but this Mesoi is unique with a little creamy taste.
These trees grow only on Papua Island. Usually they use it to make herbal medicines, but for me it’s best to use them for rendang or braised lamb dish.
What are some of the lesser-known vegetables you use?
Terubuk, it is a sugarcane flower, has a spongy texture and is soft. It is good if we stir fried or braised.
Not all cooks will know about this ingredient, I am lucky myself that my mother always uses it when she has made Lodeh.
Can you share with us some of your special and unique cooking techniques?
No, because it will not be a secret technique anymore. (laughs) Just kidding, no, I have no special technique.
Thank you very much, Chef Rachmat!
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