It’s not easy to build a successful business, let alone maintaining its quality, and moreover make it grow so prosperously. But Eelke Plasmeijer and his partner-in-cook Ray Ardiansyah, manage to overcome the apparent odds and achieved the impossible. The gentlemen behind growing Locavore empire (which has since sprawled into Locavore-To-Go, Night Rooster and Nusantara) seems like an unlikely match, but when they meet together, we can see that genuine chemistry oozing from both of them and makes us somehow understand what made them to be such a formidable team. Passion sat down and talk with the dynamic duo in a conversation that graciously evolves into a deeply warm relational topic. Here goes.
As the mastermind of an award-winning restaurant, how hard it is to maintain the quality of your dishes and establishment in general? Please share from both point of view.
Ray: For the dishes, we are super lucky to have a solid team in the kitchen, and also where we are right no (the interview room), is an area called Loca Lab, which is our R & D kitchen. Normally in the weekdays we and our team usually tinker around with dishes and ideas here. When they come up right, they can be placed as the menu in Locavore. Plus, our bunch of young team now consist of people from around the archipelago; Makassar, Manado, even Pulau Anambas. We also have Balinese guys as well, so it’s a good mix of references. We work six days a week and everyone takes turn to have one day off.
Eelke: Yeah, we are so lucky to have people who are actually care. I mean, we works with a lot of people over the years, and a lot of them doesn’t give a damn. But most of people who are working with us are those who care and willing to put the hour. When we first opened Locavore we have just 9 people, including me and Ray, and all those people are still with us until now. I called this our core team. The combination of that people who are here to stay and those who are only with us for two or three years make for a really good mix, they keep each other focused and are so solid. So, to answer your question, this condition makes it easier for us to maintain our quality nowadays.
Ray: I know Eelke from ten years ago so I know him very well, I never take anything personal. I think that’s how it goes.
So what is the main concept of Nusantara that differs it from Locavore and what can we expect from this establishment in near future?
Eelke: Nusantara is an authentic Indonesian restaurant, where we serve dishes from all over Indonesian archipelago. We serve dishes that even most of Indonesian people don’t already know. The menu are made for sharing, so we don’t want people to eat a whole bowl of rendang, or anything alone, here, you sit with your family, or the food sit at the table, and you eat it when you’re hungry, and you can have different combination of each dishes. Lately it has been super good, a lot of people visiting Ubud, but the plan is to find a location in Jakarta. We want to bring Nusantara to the Capital city in near future.
Mr Eelke, what would be your most favorite Indonesian dish, and why?
My wife was born in Jakarta but raised in Bogor, so she’s a bit Sunda. So if we go to Bogor, sometime we arrive kinda late and her mom always cook Sayur Asem with ayam goreng and sambal terasi, and that’s what you want. Like, it’s a bit cold, rainy day in Bogor, you arrived like at eleven or twelve at night, and you are greeted with a nice big bowl of warm sayur asem with rice and fried chicken. I really like Sundanese food, a bit Padang food as well, there’s a lot of Indonesian dishes I enjoyed, especially the one which cooked with traditional technique.
Sayur asem, nice pick! Do you serve that here in Nusantara?
We had it in our first menu, but we changed it all the time so I don’t think it’s still there now. We tried to do one or two new dishes every Monday, so it goes by kinda fast.
Mr Ray, according to you, why nasi goreng could become so famous worldwide, and why? What makes it more accessible than other Indonesian food according to you?
I think fried rice in general is really easy to like. Either in Chinese, Indian cuisine, especially Indonesian. If somebody from oversea come to visit Indonesia, the first thing that they pick would most likely be nasi goreng, particularly nasi goreng ayam (chicken fried rice), because they might think it is the safest choice for them (not too spicy, balanced composition, easy to find), and then they tell all their friends back home. So I think that’s the main reason why nasi goreng become so accessible for foreign tourist.
We would like to know your best traits, so feel free to compliments each other
Eelke: People often ask of course, why you get along, and I always say that because of Ray is super-consistent. That’s what I liked about him professionally. I’m not like this, I might come one morning remembering something and then forgetting to do it along the way, but Ray never did that. He gets angry, but normally when I’m not there (laugh). As a person, not much not to like about him. I don’t think there’s any reason for any people in the world not to like him. He is super-easy to like, he doesn’t give you many reason not to like him, which is kinda unique in a person I think.
Ray: I was applying job before I meet Eelke, and from the first day I worked with him, I was already impressed by him, in everything. Then we started to hang together, go to stadium, drink beer, and then comes the cooking part. Eelke is the type of workmate that always push you in a good way. Before Eelke I was actually planning to apply for another chef, and if I go with that plan, I will be a different me. I think if I go with somebody else, I will only be a normal cook. Eelke always promote me, even when I’m still a sous chef, he always said it is ‘Ray and me’. That wouldn’t happen with anybody else. I have another chef friend as well, and when we hang out they never talk about their sous chef, but Eelke never take any credit for himself.