For a 26-year-old chef, perhaps only Putri Mumpuni who has seen a lot of actions introducing Indonesian cuisine around the globe through food diplomatic missions. Recently, Putri shared us her adventures and the relentless pursuit of knowledge, now within the world of pastry.
How was it in the beginning for you, Putri?
It was all started with the decision to enroll myself at a trade school so I could be focusing on hospitality in general. There I knew it right away that I wanted to learn more about cookery. Before graduation, I applied for internship at Hyatt Yogyakarta and worked there for about six months.
That time, higher education was a luxury that my parents cannot afford for me since they also wanted my younger siblings to finish primary schools. After getting myself through several odd jobs, I finally landed a job at Grand Aston Yogyakarta right in the hot kitchen and after some time, I managed also to enroll myself at a local university. Working and studying in-between.
Since I wanted so much also to learn about pastry, I was told to spend the extra hours learning about pastry before the working hours. Of course it was unpaid, but in just about a month, I was finally accepted as one of the crews in the pastry department.
While working with Aston, I was also hired by this French family who lives in Yogyakarta as a private chef. My task was to shop and prepare the meals for them for several times a week so they could spend time dining together as a family.
What was the turning point of your career as an aspiring chef back then?
One time I managed to win gold and bronze medals at Salon Culinaire competition in Jakarta for different categories. Until I met Pak William Wongso for the first time and he motivated me to learn more about Indonesian food, something that I wasn’t very familiar with at that time.
The turning point was actually after I decided to focus competing against other chefs in this television show – Top Chef. I had to abandon my study as well as my job with Aston since I was still in the competition for months. In the end, I was eliminated from the Top 9 but I decided to contact Pak William and he offered me a position at his company.
What was the single most challenging task you ever had so far in your career?
My first ever task from Pak William Wongso was to host an Indonesian gala dinner in the Czech Republic for around 80 to 100 embassy guests and foreign dignitaries. I had to do that all by myself!
He asked me, “Putri, can you handle it?” and I said yes with confidence. We did a lot of preparations and I spent around two weeks there. I had to train the local kitchen staffs to cook Indonesian food with minimum communications, since not many can speak English. Google Translate helped me a lot, much to my surprise!
Finally the one-night Gala Dinner went well. We were also preparing Indonesian a la carte menu at the restaurant for the whole two days afterwards.
Share us also your other endeavors with William Wongso’s team across the world?
Usually we received invitations from Indonesian embassies all over the world to organize Indonesian gala dinners or appreciation dinners. So we brought local ingredients, train the local crews, and host the dinners. So far we have been to Japan, South Korea, The Philippines, Germany, France, Singapore, Malaysia, and United States.
However, food diplomacy can go much further than that. Before going to a certain country, we usually get in touch with the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Tourism, or BEKRAF (Indonesian Agency for Creative Economy) so they could coordinate with local institutions to create programs such as workshops, cooking classes, consultancies, or private dinners.
Can you tell us about your work here with BEAU and your future plans?
My move here was fully motivated again by my curiosity with pastry. It’s like when I first tasted how good the real taste of rustic baguette was when in Paris, I really wanted to know how to to make it. The opportunity came and I was very happy to witness firsthand how good Talita is with pastry and her wonderful efforts she has done for BEAU.
Currently I’m being entrusted with the whole operations in the kitchen and together we have been developing the menu since last year. She has taught me a lot and shared many ideas with me so I can improve from time to time.
My future plan? Well, one day I want to manage an Indonesian restaurant abroad, or even perhaps my own restaurant!
Images by: Edwin Pangestu