Humble, talented, and experienced. Let us meet Mrs Landawati Setionegoro, the Indonesian cuisine head chef from the exquisite, rijsttafel-specialty restaurant – Oasis.
Perhaps it’s a working chemistry between pure talent, immense interest in cooking, and growing up in a food loving family that would breed the offspring of culinary prodigies like we see nowadays. Some of them made it through with one or two prerequisites with extra effort, good networking, and luck; but I am almost certain that people would deem it as an anomaly if any of this came from a generation before us now.
Ibu Landa, as I usually call her, was bestowed with all of these so-called ‘conditions’ and grew mature with her exploration on local cuisines. Her sixth sense, alongside good research and experience, is the thing that made her know how to fine-tune any dish in an instant.
Perhaps her biggest strength and weakness is her down-to-earth personality which makes her relatively unknown to common foodies of now. Nevertheless, I have been quite fortunate to be able to sample her creations for several times and without any hesitation I dare to say that her finesse in Indonesian cuisine is far surpassing many people that I know.
While being an able cook in her household, Ibu Landa also started her canteen business for the employees in an office building in Central Jakarta and began to attract the attention from the owner. Unbeknownst to her that time, the building’s owner also owns Oasis – the historical fine-dining restaurant on Jalan Raden Saleh.
Oftentimes, the owner’s organization held wayang shows and Ibu Landa was entrusted to cater the meals for the guests. Usually she would explore the cuisines from specific cities in Central and East Java in accord with the origin of the puppet master. Of course the choices that she made were either unknown or nostalgic for the guests, but unanimously they’re keen with the meals and among them were the VIPs from the government and business partners. “Sometimes I found it hard to believe that people came not to see the puppet show but to taste my dishes”, said Ibu Landa laughing.
Until one day in 2011, she’s asked to helm the newly renovated Oasis’ Indonesian kitchen and it was of course, a big offer for her. “I was surprised at first and didn’t really know how to command a real kitchen. As time went by, I overcame the challenges and now Oasis kitchen is more than ready to showcase different Indonesian cuisines monthly and even providing cooking classes for our customers”, Ibu Landa proudly admitted.
Detouring out of topic but still about food, we always ask the chefs whom we encounter about the specific dish that they love. Apparently, despite her Betawi and East Javanese origin, Ibu Landa is an avid fan of noodles and specifically it came from the South Sumatra province.
“My husband, a true Palembangese, once introduced me to mie celor and I fell in love instantly”, confessed Ibu Landa. “Unlike the Jambi version with beef, I enjoyed more the Palembang version with prawns. But my secret concoction is to mix the soup with the sweet, sour, and spicy sauce for pempek”, she said while sipping the rich soup from the pride of South Sumatrans.
Featured in THE FOODIE MAGAZINE October 2014 edition
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Photography by Dennie Benedict