What It’s Like Being: An Executive Chef

The fast pace of culinary scene in Indonesia has brought a lot of great chefs. Meet Devan Tanuwidjadja, an Executive Chef of J.Sparrow’s Bar&Grill. Previously, Chef Devan worked in a five-star hotel InterContinental Jakarta MidPlaza, and currently the chef simultaneously hones and explores his skill in serving wonderful seafood and meat-based dishes. So what it’s like being a chef? Let’s find out.

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So what’s your story? How did you start becoming a chef?

“Well, initially I was a third-semester student majoring in Psychology at Universitas Atmajaya University and during my studying years, I worked as a part-timer in a restaurant. I applied working in their HR department based on the then educational background, and I learned a lot for a year and honestly felt bored. I asked the Chef there to train me as a cook. While I was working there, one of the guests advised me to work at the hotel. She told me that I had a good skill at cooking. My first career as a hotel chef started the mid-year of 2009 at Hotel Mulia. A year later, the hotel brought the chef from Lyon-based three-star Michelin restaurant Paul Bocuse’s  Auberge du Pont de Collonges. And I was chosen as one of the cook assistants for the chef. For a month, I helped them to create new menu and learned of what was exactly French cuisine and the authentic ones. Surprisingly, he told me that I was gifted and he told me to pursue a career in French. So I took French language course for a year and moved to Four Seasons hotel and became a Demi-Chef for Chef Vindex. But I still wanted to pursue my career in French cuisine and had the strong feeling about working in France. After I worked at the Four Seasons for three years, I got transferred to their Houston branch in 2012. I got the opportunity to work overseas career, I learned more about Italian cuisine. Coming back from the US, I got accepted working in InterContinental Jakarta.”

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What a journey! So, is it safe to say that you specialize in French and Italian cuisine?

“My specialty is French and Italian cuisine. But I also learned about South East Asia cuisine, like Thai, Malay food and others. I also learned a lot about Indonesian, Javanese, Balinese and other regions. And when I work at InterContinental, I learned about Spanish food.”

Share us the hardest thing about being a chef?

“The hardest thing is how to overcome my ego towards my work. I was in my 20s when I started doing this job and it took a lot of my time a lot. It’s difficult to manage time between your career and social life, plus there’s of course the part where you didn’t good enough job and your boss is disappointed at you. Or the envious feeling when you watch others work better than you. It’s about losing yourself first before you win in the kitchen. I’d say it was tough though cause you worked so hard yet got appreciated so little.”

How did you manage to juggle it all?

“Honestly, I couldn’t manage my time. Almost everyday I worked for 14 hours a day. So there is no time to have fun again.”

“Everyday is only about me and the kitchen. Working 6 days per week 14 hours per day was really crazy. I practically spent my youth in the kicthen. But I was deeply happy and proud about it. Whatever people say, if you do it your job with passion, time was never wasted.”

A lot of ups and downs but you still work professionally. Any tips for those aspiring chefs out there?

“Don’t follow your mood. Whether you’re in a bad mood, or got bored, never let that rule you. Feeling bored is a natural thing. And of course you’d sometimes feel down or feel like you’re not good enough, or the complaints from the guests. The art is to work as a team. And to manage your time to simply be there, if you’re at work then be fully at work, vice versa when you’re at home. Traveling is another side that I like exploring, I also love photography. I love exploring the local street food, especially in our country. Backpacking is my kind of traveling style.”

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What is the memorable moment from your whole career? Either bad or good ones.

“The most memorable one is of course when we built J.Sparrow’s. The process was really fun. We created the menu together – the team and I. I won’t forget our opening day in September 2016.”

Please decribe your job as an Executive Chef  in J.Sparrow’s.

“I am building people here. Building the next generation of culinary team. I am so excited with my team here in J.Sparrow’s. I’m trying my best to develop my team right now, and training them to be a better cook than I am.”

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Writer: Adhinda Latifa
Photographer: Moody Wijaya
Videographer: Iqbal Syafei

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