History of Indonesian Culinary Associations

Almost every major F&B exhibition involves competition held by culinary associations. We believe, they all have common objective: to develop Indonesian culinary. Then why we have so many culinary associations in Indonesia? We met Chef Rahmat Kusnedi, President of IPA (Indonesia Pastry Alliance) to discuss many things behind the association’s screen that is not widely known for public, about the their objectives, the separation issue, even though they’re all came from the same source.

How do you see the role of culinary associations in Indonesia?

It’s an interesting topic. It’s best to see association as medium to gain knowledge, not as (political) party. Knowledge in culinary is not limited to the cooking techniques, but also on how well we act in organization or managing the kitchen. In association, you’ll find many knowledgeable people so you can learn from them. In addition, association can also close the gap among chef generations. Unfortunately, what happened is, I see many people in associations are lusting for power. It’s better to understand where these associations came form.

Okay, so how do we came up with so many culinary associations in Indonesia?

The oldest one in Indonesia is Toque Blanche, aka association of tall hat, as chefs used to always wear tall white hat. I joined it in 2000, when Winston Hanes was still the President, before he was replaced by Cholid Effendi, Adam Rachmat, Vindex Tengker, and the current President, Stefu Santoso.

Wait, did you mean ACP (Association of Culinary Professional)?

Yes, Toque Blanche was the embryo of ACP. It was found by expatriate chefs, one of our local one was Mrs. Suryatini Ganie. If you ask me why we need it, it’s because working in kitchen is very hectic and full of pressure. We need some refreshment by meeting colleagues.

Other than that, the main objective of association is to develop the culinary world. I think, their vision and mission worked very well in Indonesia. The proof? We have developed European culinary here. On the other hand, we used to be so obedient to expatriate chefs. As a result, our local chefs forgot how to cook rendang, semur, sayur asem. In that matter, we’re going backward.

I see associations as something similar to CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), we should develop our national culinary together and bring it abroad. One of the most successful countries in doing so, is Thailand. We should be able to do similar things, not just only campaigning for Rendang and Fried Rice. One of the most ironic things for me is, the fact that or national cooking book was written by Chef Gordon Fairley, an expatriate chef.

How come we have so many culinary associations?

It’s similar to 1998’s Reformation. When the New Order fell down, suddenly everyone is building his own party. It also happened in culinary associations. When we’re off from expatriate chefs in around 2003, everyone wants to be the leader, and we have disintegration. Finally we have IJUMPI (Ikatan Juru Masak Profesional Indonesia), ICA (Indonesian Chef Association), etc.

However, when you lead a party with arrogance and short temper, any associations will have a hard time to grow. Since the beginning, expatriate chefs had drawn a clear line that association is a non-profit organization. If you get fund from sponsors, you should use it to feed the association, not to share it for the committees.

If I were a leader of an association and I got something from it, it’s wrong. We used to have that kind of case, and then we fixed it when Vindex Tengker was elected as the ACP’s President, to me, that was ACP’s golden era. Vindex was President for 3 periods, his leadership was very strong because he could embrace both local chefs and expatriates. Even when we held Salon Culinaire, it was the first time we invited international chefs as judges. I adore Chef Vindex’s leadership, we’re definitely chose the right person as President.

Would you mind explaining a bit about the association source of funding?

If association holds an event, they will look for sponsors. The supports can be tools, equipments, ingredients, or cash. The cash will be used for prizes for winners, to buy medals, accommodate the judges, etc. If you’re left with some cash, it should be saved to fund the next event. However, what happened is, the cash was shared to the committees. Of course, the chairman got the biggest share. And then, when the cash run out, what will you do? You’ll have difficulties if you want to make the next event.

And then there were cases where members of associations request accommodation from suppliers to attend the association’s National Deliberative Council. If they don’t get it, they threaten to break the sponsorship; you can see it as intimidation. It should never happen. As a result, some suppliers complained about it.

Therefore, if you know IPA members who dare to do so, please tell me. I wouldn’t hesitate to fire them, or I will tell the owner of the organization they working for about this, because it will affect the company’s image.

Specifically for IPA, what’s your objective?

Our objectives are clear, our short term objective is to accommodate all pastry chefs in Indonesia to exchange information and develop Indonesian’s culinary scene. For long term, we will focus on education and training. Just look at our programs, most of them focus on SMK. You can see now that SMK students are becoming more skillful because of our trainings for both their students and teachers, they even managed to beat STP students.

Do you have any specific parameters for your objectives?

We have numerous activities, from training, to competition. For senior competition, we aim to be in World Pastry Cup’ top 10, and for the junior, we strive to be in the Worldskills Top 10. But mind you, we need to work together as a team, you cant just rely on me as the President.

That was from association’s perspective. Now from member’s perspective, what’s the benefit if I were to join associations like IPA?

First, you will have the “flag”. Whether you’re a racer or great pastry chef, if you don’t have any flags, people won’t notice. The flag allows you to perform in competitions. Second, of course, networking. Now, I have 4 hotels that are looking for Pastry Chefs and asked for my recommendation. I will obviously recommend someone I know and truly talented. I don’t want to say just any names, because it will ruin my credibility. So, how can I recommend someone if I just met him today? Of course, I will prioritize the member of my association.