Meet bubbly and bouncy chef, Sandra Djohan, as she takes us for a stroll down memory lane with her immense love for food, travel, and photography.
Behind the façade of Epilogue – a homey French restaurant with its joglo façade, lies a story of immense life experience from its chef and owner, Sandra Djohan. Despite the Javanese influence seen from the architecture and its classic tiles often found in colonial houses in the restaurant, you will also see traces of French mementos from trinkets and personal photos taken personally by the owner.
“Photography is my other hobby aside from traveling and cooking, and these used to be what I cling dearly during my rebellious adolescent years abroad”, confessed Sandra. During her initial years in the USA of being ‘disciplined’ in an academy, she developed her experience working in the school’s kitchen and also in her pastimes for traveling around America as much as possible.
Her thirst for adventure continued to strengthen as she reached her college years in London. “There was one time when I skipped the whole semester just to assist my lecturer for his photography project in South Africa. Without hesitation, I accepted the job right away!” said Sandra. She admits that wherever she goes, not only that she savors her day in taking photographs or merely enjoys the travel, but she mingles with the locals as well to learn how they cook their food.
How could she travel a lot back then as a college student? Sandra admits that she used to cook and sell Mexican lunchboxes to her friends while also doing the laundry and dishwashing as well for extra cash. “I topped up my allowances with these incomes so that I could travel around Europe. During which, I enjoyed my stay with the locals weekly in different places and learn a lot about them”, said the chef who excels in at least five languages.
Sandra’s many months in South Africa finally took its toll as her father Robby Djohan, the brilliant CEO of prominent companies in Indonesia, suddenly decided to visit Europe and also to attend her graduation ceremony in England. “You can’t imagine what it was like when my father found out that I was skipped uni!” shouted Sandra still horrified imagining how furious her father was back then.
Back home, she survived her years working and traveling locally until she would be given another opportunity to go abroad by her parents to take care of her younger sibling who was about to enter college in Australia. There, Sandra became more and more attached to cooking and finally after so many years of convincing her father, she displayed her real talent with it – still studying wherever she can, opened up restaurants, and just recently, published her own cook book called “From My Kitchen To Yours”.
“The book is basically about everyday recipes that you can follow easily”, announced Sandra during her book launching event on a separate occasion. Currently she’s also preparing for another book based on her inspiration drawn from the travels.
“One of the most exciting things I still do on my weekends is the Sunday Drunk!” says Sandra explaining this particular inspiration she got when back in France. During Sunday Drunk, usually she teams up with other 20 or 30 chefs and they cook all day at a friend’s house or anybody who got a good kitchen. “We take turns cooking, eating, and sharing the secrets about our recipes. Some of them even came from Michelin-starred restaurants and they don’t mind sharing the techniques with everyone!” admitted Sandra.
Here, she tried also to reenact that moment almost every Sunday with her closest friends and family members. “One rule of thumb is that you cannot take a shower to start your day and just go straight to the kitchen to cook and eat together!” she said merrily laughing. For her, sharing the ideas and recipes on this kind of occasion will educate and inspire everyone to cook better.
When asked about her future plans, she said, “I used to live by the moment when I was younger, but now I’d love to study more to become a better chef and one day I will open up my own cooking school and have my skillful chef friends as the tutors there!”
For that she just acquired herself a good place to start on an undisclosed area in Jakarta. Upon her return next year from her study which she will start around November this year, we might see great things coming up from our effervescent chef, Sandra Djohan.
Featured in THE FOODIE MAGAZINE May 2014 edition
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Photos by: Dennie Benedict, Rian Farisa, and Sandra Djohan’s personal collections