What’s Cooking? : A Kitchen Session with USDA Chefs

What’s Cooking? is the title of a wonderful event held recently at @america last April. What’s @america by the way? Oh, it’s actually a high-tech American cultural center that promotes USA education and youth interests yet serves as a venue for many social gatherings or hearings.

Fast forwarding to the event, the USDA (US Dept. of Agriculture) established a some sort of committee named as USDA Council of Chefs of Indonesia. Why? Thanks to the lucrative exports of American produce to Indonesia, the USDA decided to honor Indonesia by appointing Indonesian chefs to be trained in USA and to also promote the awareness of American agricultural products. The chefs will be carefully selected, well-trained, and familiar with US food products and with local/regional cuisine.

From left: Mr. Haryanto Makmoer, Mr. Muchtar Alamsyah, Mr. Don Q. Washington (USDA Public Affairs Officer), Ms. Ucu Sawitri, and Mr. Edwin Lau

The group consists of four chefs, clustered into four specialties and will undergo the training in USA after promoting the cause. The selection process has been completed and the four chefs are mostly the TV personality we often see daily.

The first one is Mr. Edwin Lau representing the Healthy Cuisine. Chef Edwin Lau is probably the one we see very often these days. Apart from a famous instant noodle commercial, he’s also hosting several shows such as the most famous one of his in Metro TV or any other of his shows about healthy food. Started his career from the prestigious Ritz Carlton Bali and continued it to Grand Hyatt Jakarta. Not just a celebrity chef, he’s also a restaurant consultant, nutrition & fitness coach, model, the already mentioned TV host, and also an author.

The second chef is Mr. Haryanto Makmoer as the USDA Council of Chefs for Baking. A seasoned cavalier in baking from his thorough participation local and internationally starting from Jakarta, Bangkok, Paris, Taipei, several cities in China, Manila, and Singapore. Aside from his showing in both electronic and print medias, he’s also an accomplished lecturer in several culinary schools and a baking consultant.

The third one is somebody who can be easily recognized from his physical stature and his frequent appearances in media as well. He’s Mr. Muchtar Alamsyah or known as Chef Tatang and represents the USDA Council of Chefs for Hot Kitchen. Experience spans for more than 22 years and recognized as an expert in kitchen operations starting from menu planning, staffing, purchasing, and administration. He’s a frequent guest in culinary shows and currently enjoys his status as celebrity chef. Needless to say, his expertise has been put into use local and global.

The fourth is the USDA Council of Chefs for Pastry and this one is represented by a female chef. Yes, it’s Ms. Ucu Sawitri. She’s probably the first who’s ever tasted the education at CIA. No, not that CIA but it’s the Culinary Institute of America in New York. Her background came from being a lecturer and currently also hosting and co-hosting several TV shows. She also opens cooking classes at her home from making pastry, bread, chocolate, and traditional snacks.

Enough introduction don’t you think? Yes, their future endeavor will be representing the USDA agenda in Indonesia and also undergoing the education in CIA New York. What about the food they served in What’s Cooking? Well, it was one show that brings everybody together and it was fun too. Seeing people with curious eyes looking at what they’re cooking, hearing about what they’re doing in front of us, conversing with everyone, baking, frying, and so on forth.

Drunken Potato

Their cooking mainly used American produces. Apple, pears, raisins, and potatoes all made into special recipes. Starting with Chef Edwin Lau who created this Drunken Potato. Basically he’s making marinated potato wedges with beef ragout made from cooked beef and bacon with sautéed Portobello, jalapeños, and raisins poured ultimately with cheddar cheese sauce and served with tortilla chips as well. Why name it Drunken Potato? It’s because Chef Edwin uses beer in the ragout ‘concoctions’. Now that’s the kind of savory food I’d really prefer for my leisure time over cool drinks and good movies!

Pear Pizza

Chef Haryanto Makmoer from the Baking division created this Pear Pizza using pears of course, apricots, and pistachios resulting in a very good taste of sweet pizza, almost feel like a pie actually but it did hit me with the strength and mildness at the same time! Now that’s the sweet version over cool drinks and good movies!

Chicken Roll

While Chef Tatang devised Chicken Roll. That sounds too simple but Chef Tatang prepared it with careful precisions since some of the process required skills. So to make it sound simpler, it’s actually roasted chicken filled with turkey bacon and covered with mixture of apple, raisins, and pistachios all rolled over like you see in Japanese restaurants when they’re making maki. The chicken roll then cut evenly and then to be served with mashed potato alongside diced dragon fruits and apricots. Well well, that’s indeed something new and worth to see.

Apple & Raisins Upside Down Slices

The last but not the least was the creation of Chef Ucu. It’s called Apple & Raisin Upside Down Slices. It’s the delicious mixture of the basics such as milk and cinnamon, eggs, Sunmaid raisins, red cherries, and Granny Smith’s apples and to be baked later. The result was an indulging treat for family. Feels almost like Thanksgiving. I just don’t know why I said that but that certainly expresses what I had felt about the dish!

So from this moment, I salute the chefs and wish them well in their endeavors for promoting both American products but also to combine them all with the local, proud taste of Indonesia. Let’s wait to hear more about their experiences abroad and in near future, the next generation of Council of Chefs! That might be you all right!

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