For all my life, I have never heard of an Indonesian chef who successfully opened his own restaurant abroad for several decades now and flourishes still! That chef is none other than Yono Purnomo and his fine-dining restaurant in Albany, New York engraved with his own first name, Yono’s.
Although probably only a handful of us Indonesian have ever been to his restaurant, his own reputation is unarguably the thing that precedes him for so many years. Chef Yono occasionally travels back to Indonesia to contribute his vast experience for seminars or culinary events, but in truth, he actually already gave so much to promote Indonesian cuisine from as far as the 1970s abroad.
The young and spirited Yono Purnomo, having graduated from tourism school in Bandung in 1971, embarked on a career journey with the Dutch’s famous cruise ship, SS Rotterdam. After several years of working there, seven trips around the globe, and meeting up with luminaries traveling on board like Jerry Lewis, Omar Sharif and Dizzy Gillespie, a fateful romantic meeting with his future wife Donna aboard the ship brought him back ashore.
After some time working with the country’s high profile restaurants, he finally found the real opportunity to start his own venture in Albany, New York.
Yono’s, his flagship restaurant that he runs with his wife and family features a majestic blend of contemporary Western cuisine with Indonesian influence in the menu. For that, the restaurant has been garnering critical acclaim, accolades, and even the chef himself appears on television shows and participates in preparing dinners on important occasions, such as for James Beard Foundation and many fundraising events.
Aside from his many achievements, the chef strives to always introduce his Indonesian heritage through cooking demonstrations, classes, lectures, and also through the community and fellow chefs. The chef is described as someone who would share his knowledge without any hesitation and William Wongso himself said that he’d take some of his time to visit Chef Yono’s restaurant whenever he’s in the States and that the two of them would converse about how to promote Indonesian cuisine for the world.
Among the refined dishes at Yono’s, the chef features the heart and soul of his own country from lumpia (spring roll), bakmi goreng (fried noodles), nasi goreng (fried rice), gado-gado (mixed vegetables with peanut sauce), and even kolak pisang (banana in palm sugar and coconut milk soup). These dishes alone would make anybody staying in the US for so long healed from their homesickness and Chef Yono Purnomo is to be credited for bringing the Indonesian dishes up to the gourmet level.
For Chef Yono and his wife, it appears that nothing would make them happier than seeing Dominick, their eldest son, becomes so connected with his parents’ way of running the business and even started his own brasserie on the same establishment with his father’s restaurant. The brasserie that he runs, dp An American Brasserie, features dishes for lunch, dinner, and late night menus fit for sharing, has an American touch to it with its burgers, and provides the staples of typical French brasserie also.
It seems there’s no stopping for Chef Yono Purnomo and his family to influence the community with their hard work and talent. In the chef’s case however, his contribution to promote Indonesian cuisine continues still and energetic as ever, as described heartwarmingly from his wide and honest smile.
25 Chapel Street, Albany, New York
dp AN AMERICAN BRASSERIE
25 Chapel Street, Albany, New York
Photos by: Douglas C. Liebig, Randall Parry, and Yono Purnomo’s personal collection