In the middle of his juggling day, Chef Nino was kindly spent some of his time to sit with us for a casual interview. The humble chef shared with us his inspiring journey in being a chef and how he leads his team to be the best.
Q: You’ve been working as an Executive Chef in Ibis Bandung Trans Studio Hotel for some time. What’s behind the story until you finally landed your position in this hotel?
After graduating, I had 3 years working at Aston Braga and 2 years in America. When I was in America, Indonesia’s political conditions were unstable. I wasn’t able to renowned my visa as well. As a result of these political conditions, the US government also issued a memo about 30 countries that were not eligible to work in America, one of them was Indonesia. I then faced two hard choices, being an illegal worker or going home. I chose to go home.
After returning to Indonesia, I saw several vacancies, one of which was at Ibis Trans Studio. I saw the portfolio, Accor has almost 400 properties in the world and they are developing their first hotel in Bandung, so I chose to work here. I joined from pre-opening in 2012 until now. I was SPV when I first joined until I became Executive Chef in 2016.
Q: Do you consider an Executive Chef is a hard job? And what inspires you to stay in the industry?
I could say this is not an easy job, but I put my passion for what I’m doing right now. So, I can say it’s all worth it after all. Besides, I love to eat and exploring the flavor. My late Mother was my true inspiration to join the culinary industry as a chef. She was my ultimate “Executive Chef” and the best chef in my entire life. I learned to explore many kinds of flavors through the dishes she made. She used to collaborate two distinctive flavors of the different regions into a very sumptuous dish. It so happened that I’m not coming from a rich family. So, the way my mother entertained her family was with her cooking. I learned a lot from her about cooking then. I also used to ask her beforehand if I was about to come up with a new recipe or menu.
Q: When did you start your career professionally?
I started working at Hilton Malaysia as a training employee whose position was actually like a mat, tortured. All heavy work must be done by employee training. However, at that time I was able to excel and showed a good performance. The senior staffs said that they liked working with me because I had a lot of energy. After the training was finished, I decided to continue my education and then worked in Jakarta. Tried running a cafe with my brother. Unfortunately, we still lack business knowledge and the cafe ended up bankrupt. After that, I worked in England, at Hilton again, as a commis for quite some time. Then, went back to Indonesia to continue my study before joining Ibis Bandung Trans Studio Hotel.
Q: What is/are the challenging part about working in Ibis Bandung Trans Studio Hotel?
My background is fine dining, whose menu is unique and can be expensive for only one plate. Yet, in Bandung, fine dining is still not appreciated. I can say that my challenge is to be able to make fine dining more acceptable in this city throughIbis Bandung Trans Studio Hotel. Although, it might take a long time. So, when the GM of this hotel was still a foreigner, he challenged me to make something different. So, I made Chocolate Pasta inspired by a Mexican restaurant when I was in the US. The GM liked it, by the way. But, when it was put on the menu, it didn’t sell. It is unfortunate, but I am optimistic that the people of Bandung can be like those in Jakarta and Bali who are willing to try new flavors, including fine dining.
Q: Do you have the most memorable thing while working with Ibis Bandung Trans Studio Hotel?
When we handled PON, Papernas, and the Asian Games. For PON, we must be able to serve large amounts of food with nutrients that have been determined by the needs of athletes. For Papernas, the needs of each athlete are different. For example, disabled athletes have different allergies. As for the Asian Games, in addition to regulated nutrition, the country’s culture is also different. For the Asian Games, we cater to China, Syria, and Timor Leste. Chinese athletes didn’t want the menus determined by the IOC. So, they asked for a luxury menu and willing to pay for themselves. Then Syria, some of the must-items were vegetables, olive oil, garlic, and bread. As for Timor Leste, fortunately, they eat what has been provided by us. Even though it was troublesome, I and the team always work hard to serve the best. It all paid off with Ibis Bandung Trans Studio got the best accommodation award at those events.
Q: What do you think the most important thing on being a chef?
Trust. For me, we need to work based on trust. For my team, I always try to analyze what is the strongest point they have. Based on that, I can put them in the right position and helped them improve fastly. It doesn’t have to be like Hell’s Kitchen, because I believe good food comes from the heart. Thankfully, I have a great team which without them, I am nothing in the kitchen.
Q: Lastly, is there any cuisine you want to learn more deeply?
I used to learn Japanese cuisine and it was hard. But, it is also my number two most favorite cuisine in the world after Indonesian. That’s why I want to learn more about Japanese cuisines. I think I need to learn the language first.
Q: Thank you, Chef. We really appreciate that you spend your time in the middle of your hectic schedule. Good luck for you always!
My pleasure! Thank you and see you.