Conquering Boundaries

There’s an old saying: ‘dream big, or go home’. Well, Mimin Mintarsih actually did it quite differently; by putting ‘and’ instead of ‘or’. Thousand miles across the globe and lines of prestigious achievements later, the new Head Pastry Chef of The Westin Resort Nusa Dua, Bali returns to her beloved country as a great leading female behind some of the greatest international kitchens abroad.

In a world that (currently) dominated by male, it is not a simple task to work in a hotel restaurant’s kitchen, let alone leading it, but Mimin Mintarsih able to break the said boundaries; moreover, the West Javanese natives managed to did it outside of her home country. This amazing, petit lady of pastry shows us that no mountains are too high if we strive to give our best and prove the doubters wrong. We sat down with Chef Mimin in between her bustling activity as the recently-appointed Head Pastry Chef of The Westin Resort Nusa Dua, Bali to dig deeper into her amazing stories of gender-breaking achievement (and tasting some of her delicate pastry creations as well).

So can you tell us about who inspired you to do this career?

Before I entered the hotel (culinary) world, I took a Diploma in Telkom University in Bandung and one of my lecturer Mr. Charli, inspired me to be a chef. He previously worked in Cruise Line around the world; Switzerland, Europe, America, and at that time I thought it was interesting, so I started thinking of becoming a cook. I began my career as cook helper in various restaurants in Jakarta, but because the workplace (as cook) is so hot, I moved to pastry division, and then beginning to fell in love with pastry-making on 2001, the same year that I started going abroad to Abu Dhabi.

What is your specialty in pastry-creating?

Actually, as a pastry chef, we should be able to know how to make every kinds of pastry, but for me personally, I love everything about chocolate. When I make something from chocolate, it makes me happy, and (scientifically speaking) chocolate can make people happy. It is also good for your health; especially if you have a 70-80% chocolate as ingredients; it could acts as a medicine to prevent disease like heart attack. I have many creations involving chocolate, and the best one is the praline, which I learned to make during my time working in Miami. We have a ‘magnifico’ buffet program where we have to make different kinds of praline every week, amongst other dishes, and that makes me becoming more and more creative.

What do you enjoy the most from being a pastry chef?

I love travelling. Since I left my country in 2001, I went to Abu Dhabi and worked at Rotana hotel as second-commie (cook assistant), which is a really good opportunity. The first time I landed at Abu Dhabi, I felt really happy that I bite one of my fingers to make sure it was not a dream! I came from a poor family in rural Sukabumi, so I never thought that one day; I would be able to travel to more than 50 countries. I also like the fact that when I work, I meet so many interesting people from different countries that brings their different characteristics. Other people pay money to travel, but I get paid to do the same, so it is the most enjoyable things for being a pastry chef to me.

You were working in Dubai previously. What was your greatest achievement there? And what was the hardest challenge you have overcome while abroad?

During my 6-years stint in Dubai, I worked on some big hotels like Royal Mirage, catering high-profile clients. On my time at Capital Club Dubai, I was entrusted with the position as Head Pastry Chef,and this happens after I took a lesser position than what I previously had at Cruise Line, which was Assistant Pastry Chef, just a year before. Then on 2012, while still working in Dubai, I managed to open my own bakery in my hometown, Sukabumi, I considered this as one of my greatest achievements until now.

The biggest challenge in Dubai is its diversity. You have Indian, Sri Lankan, Europe, so when I got the Head Pastry Chef position, as a woman, sometime it’s not easy to handle male staffs from different nationalities. Especially if you are working in Middle East, where the paradigm for women is just to stay at home and take care of their babies. Only recently they are becoming more open and employ more female workers.

Could you give us tips of using dairy products (cream, cheese or milk) in making a good pastry? And in the wake of healthy awareness, how would you anticipate the said trend?

In pastry, one kind of ingredients we make a lot is mousse, so here’s a tips to make a good one; you don’t over-beat the whipping cream so it comes out with the good texture. For healthy one, instead of full-fat milk, we can substitute with almond milk, for example. We don’t keep the milk away from the chiller, so it’s always available fresh and ready to use. If they don’t eat gluten, we can make with just whipping cream and chocolate

Does it affect the taste significantly if you substitute the ingredients with healthier substance?

Of course; when you use a lot of fat, the taste will be much, much better. But nowadays, people around the world are getting used to eat food made from healthy ingredients, with as less chemical possible.

What is your favorite kitchen gadget?

Spatula. Especially in pastry, spatula is essential. You can’t do a lot of things without it. I actually still have my spatula from 2001 right now. It’s a little bit damaged, but I brought it everywhere I work in.

According to you, what is the most important skill someone should have to become a professional pastry chef ?

You have to love what you do first. If you didn’t feel forced by anyone, you can work 14-15 hours a day and not feeling tired, because you do the things that you love, and also passion. I believe if I didn’t have passion, I wouldn’t be able to survive for 17 years in this scene. Everything else can be learned, either from official academy or anyone, but passion is the most important, because from there, you can use your skill to actually make money for a living.

What’s your favorite flavor combination?

Chocolate and banana! When you blend chocolate milk and caramel banana together, it creates a very delicate flavor, especially in making a pastry creation.

Could you share with us three of your favorite Indonesian traditional desserts?

a) Martabak Manis (Terang Bulan)

Ever since I was born, my father makes a living for our family by selling martabak. One day, during my holiday break from Cruise Line, a doctor advised me to buy my dad a place to sell his martabak, so he doesn’t have to go around in a wheel cart
anymore in his old age. So I did, and now we have two Martabak stores back home, operated by my siblings. I plan to bring our family’s martabak along to sell in Bali as well.

b) Sarang Semut

This is the first type of cake that I can actually make. My mom also taught me to do so. This cake is so flexible; it can be combined with a lot of flavors.

c) Cendol

When I was in primary school, my mom bought me es cendol all the time. So, when I just arrived here (at The Westin Resort Nusa Dua, Bali), there happens to be an internal competition for the resort’s chefs, and one of the winners made a Cendol Pannacotta creation. That’s what I would like to embrace; Indonesian traditional goodness with modern, international presentation.

What’s your next project for Westin Nusa Dua? Anything we should anticipate?

First time I came, the hotel asked me to change the pastry menu in the lobby, so we did, and the guest likes it. For next projects, I have to re-made the menus of culinary facilities the resort as well; Velada, Ikan, Prego, the breakfast, the banquette, it’s going to need a lot of adjustment because I am just recently appointed here. I have a lot of deadlines to finish, I think need to slow down a little! (Laugh)

Kawasan Pariwisata, BTDC, Jl. Nusa Dua, Bali 80363 

Phone: +62 361 771 906,