Reviving Ambiente of Aryaduta Jakarta as one of the oldest Italian restaurants in Jakarta is no easy task. As its executive chef, Mr Matteo Meacci shared us his thoughts about the highly competitive F&B industry and his profound love for food from his Italian roots.
Can you highlight your experiences so far working in Indonesia?
Spending most of my time in Europe, I have always been attracted to Asia and I wanted to see Indonesia especially. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to work here, first with Ocha & Bella for two years and then moved out to Singapore for a few months only to return here again.
Later I was working as an executive chef at De Luca, and then at a hotel in Jakarta and a resort in Lombok. Finally I found my way again to Jakarta and working for Aryaduta as the executive chef for Ambiente. The restaurant will be the first milestone of other new openings that I will personally oversee at other establishments owned by the group.
What is your source of inspiration for cooking?
Every Italian chef anywhere in the world, they all started from their homes. They learn recipes from their mothers and grandmothers. They all started by helping in the kitchen and became interested with the whole process. Maybe not everybody, but at least 90% cooks from Italy started out like this. Mine came from my grandmother mostly.
That’s the cultural idea that we bring everywhere in the world – something that I experienced when I was a kid, something that my grandma influenced me, and something that I would like to share for everyone.
What can the crowd expect from the new Ambiente?
We want to make our version of home style food – very Italian, classic, and also casual. So basically, it’s about doing the simple things in good way. Our concept is to create dishes perfect for sharing – like cold cuts and cheese on a board for example. Even the mains will be suitable for sharing as well.
This is something that will bring people together. At restaurant or at home, when you have hearty food for everyone, that makes it interesting. People will enjoy not just the food; but the conversation, the act of passing the food around, and the togetherness. That’s what we would like to introduce here.
What sort influence would you like to have here in Ambiente based on your upbringing?
I came from Lucca, a small town in Tuscany – near Pisa and Florence. It’s a very beautiful town on the mountainous part of the region but still close to the sea. We are used to cook seafood, meat, and even games like wild boar or deer. When I return home during holidays, I would definitely eat cold cuts and steaks – T-bones grilled rare with only salt, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil. In Italy, we have a lot of cold cuts variety and here we only have few. That’s why I’d like us to have a homemade version of bresaola or salami here in Ambiente.
I understand also that it’s a tough period for restaurant businesses especially when dealing with imported products. That’s why we need to make do with what we have and use more local ingredients. Here, we cure the meat like in Italy and try to reach the authentic taste. Of course it’s been challenging because of the weather and the humidity. But so far the first results have been good and we’d like to continue doing so.
Living in Indonesia for quite some time now, surely you already have favorite Indonesian dishes.
Yes, it is something that many ‘bule’ really like from Indonesian food – sate ayam! It has peanut sauce, not too spicy, and there’s this charcoal taste thanks to the grilled meat. Other than that, I also like rendang and mie goreng. Those three are my most favorite here!
What would be your future plans as a chef?
I was really impressed when one time I went to Japan for a week. It has great food, great people, and a strong culture. Although there are many expats there, I think Japan is still a relatively closed country. However, I would love to have an opportunity one day to work there.
My ultimate dream is to retire when I reach 50 and open my own small restaurant, trattoria-style in New Zealand! The country is like a big farm. It has great produce, meat, water, and weather. I imagine opening up my restaurant there, serving the best ingredients and seasonal menu for the guests. It would be wonderful!
Images by: Dwi N. Hadi
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