High Fidelity

This chef and restaurateur behind four of Indonesia’s leading restaurants hardly need an introduction. Renowned for his devotion in pushing the boundary and defining the new Indonesian gastronomy, Mandif Warokka agrees to answer some of our burning questions about his current obsession, love for audiophile, and how a good dessert should be created.

We heard that there will be some changes in your restaurants. 

I am currently obsessed with the possibility of achieving Zen’s philosophy through food. Frankly speaking, I think we are done with unnecessary ruffles. I feel that it is time to seek purity, clarity, and simplicity in a dish. Therefore, Teatro Gastroteque will become more refined and sophisticated, French cuisine with Japanese philosophy, if I may. While BLANCO par Mandif will serve an evolving Indonesian dish, natural and harmonious with just three or four ingredients in each dish but done very well. The focus is essentially on the flavour. Everything else is ornamental.
However, Modicum, will have a different approach. It will be a dedicated grill room serving premium and interesting cuts. Only Moringa will stay the same, a casual meeting place serving good food. 

We marvel on the way you arrange your schedule. Can you tell us about what Chef Mandif Warokka does in a day?
My day usually starts at Teatro, then off to Ubud for BLANCO, and ended at Modicum where I can unwind and relax with my music collection. Currently, I am also a consultant for several restaurant projects in Jakarta, Bandung, and Surabaya, which makes flying also a big part of my schedule. 

Yes, we heard that you are an audiophile. How do you enjoy your music?

I appreciate analogue more and more these days, precisely because of its rich texture and musical depth. There are so many details that we can hear from a vinyl recording. I particularly enjoy jazz made by artists from specific countries like Italy or France. Their vocal talents are so rich and they are able to translate their culture into their music. I appreciate the fact that there are imperfections in their music that makes it somehow perfect, do you know what I mean?

We know what you mean. Speaking of culture, how does your own culture affect your career as a chef?
I grew up in Manado and often helped my mother to cook in the kitchen. Our family love good Indonesian food and I was raised by a father who loves varieties in his dinner table and a mother who seasoned her cookings exceptionally well. We have lived in several places like Ujung Pandang and Biak, hence, our kitchen is rich with Indonesian recipes and since we lived in Manado where everyone were basudara or part of the family, we often have friends, neighbours, and family members come over to our house and eat.
I think those experience eventually become my flavour database. I consider myself lucky to be able to tasted good food since I was young, and later in life, it prompted me to become a chef because I simply love to eat. There’s no way somebody can become a good chef if he or she doesn’t like to eat and experience food. Only later when I decided to become a professional chef, that I refined my palette and learned about the technical aspects that makes a good dish.

How do you define a good dessert?
For me, a good dessert has to have strong basic ingredient. Say, the mango. That mango has to be the best mango, picked during its best season. The chef’s duty is to make its flavour memorable by improving its texture by using different techniques and supporting ingredients. In the end, the mango has to be the star. I am an ingredients driven chef and that’s how I design my menu. Do not use too many techniques and confuse the patron. It’s not about showing off your skill as a chef. Instead, show it by improving the quality of the ingredients and enhance its flavour.

How important is a dessert to the total dining experience?
Very important. It is the last and the lasting impression you can give to your restaurant patron. Play with their emotion through taste and texture. Usually, once I got the necessary ingredients, I immediately imagine how to translate those ingredients into different dishes and texture. Be it a contrasting or a refined, elegant texture. 

Is there a room for dessert in Indonesia’s gastronomic market?
I believe dessert has the biggest opportunity because it is an untapped market. Indonesian loves their sweets. It is a risk, but it can be done as long as it is supported by a strong concept, product creativity, and smart branding. As long as the dessert or the pastry is created based on a wholesome strong concept, I believe it can be a success. We need more chefs who are innovators with creative vision and daring entrepreneurship spirits.