You know something is really good when one of world’s biggest hotel companies, such as The Ritz-Carlton, decided to put locally inspired dessert as its signature cake.

Local Dessert Take Over

If you’ve been around hotels in Jakarta since the good old 80’s and 90’s, you might have noticed that almost all 5 star hotels have their own signature cake, such as Black Forrest, Millefeuille, or American Chocolate Cake. However, back then creating a locally inspired concept cake is never on the local pastry chefs’ wildest dream. When we heard The Ritz-Carlton Jakarta, Mega Kuningan is having Cendol Cake as its signature, we decided to

have an interview session with the Pastry Chef who’s responsible for the product, Chef Hendri Dharmawan. We’d like to find out, whether now is the best time for Indonesian-inspired desserts to take the center stage, or we need to wait further.

Please tell us a bit about this Cendol Cake.

Cendol Cake has been around in Asia Restaurant for around 6 months. In the beginning, our owner really love drinking es cendol, however due to the concept change, it was not possible for us to serve es cendol. We were looking for a way to serve this traditional Indonesian dessert without ice, finally we came up with this Cendol Cake, and our owner and guests happen to love it. Our owner even recommended Cendol Cake to be our signature cake here, replacing our previous signatures such as Orange Valrhona or Hazelnut Royaltine.

Why did suddenly, every chef turns to local Indonesian food? What sort of phenomenon is it?

Because it’s currently trending now. Previously we had molecular gastronomy trend everywhere, which, in my opinion, is not worth it. I know the concept required more effort and it’s more unique, artsy, but actually it didn’t last long. Sometimes it would be interesting to try ball-shaped soup, rawon, or soto, but in order to return with the steep price, most people are reluctant.

We held many wedding parties at The Ritz-Carlton Jakarta, of course we ask for feedbacks from customers on what sort of food they really want. Actually, they don’t want bells and whistles, they want the current available menu, they will return whenever the quality is special.

Before The Ritz-Carlton Jakarta, please tell us a bit about your career.

I worked for Grand Hyatt Bali, I worked in cruise, in France. From my experience, in France, people love their food as it is, originally, they don’t really catch up to current trend, more conservative I guess. If now we have frozen Crème Brulee or served out of its traditional ramekin, in France, Crème Brulee is served in ramekin, always.

A bit boring, isn’t it?

True. What I’ve seen, the modern fine dining restaurants are the ones in Australia, Italy, or Spain. They took French technique and combine it with modern approaches. Meanwhile, in France, they don’t really care about presentation, even most of the restaurants are small, perhaps around 30 seats.

Let say for croissant, the shape should be crescent. France had many influence from other countries, perhaps they improve the taste or quality, but they will maintain their original concept. If you see straight croissant with some colors in it in Instagram, chances are, it was not from France.

You adopted traditional Indonesian concept into modern dish, what’s the biggest challenge?

The biggest one would be telling whether the customer like it or not. I made Rujak Cake before, but it wasn’t too popular. I also made Cendol Ice Cream, people love it but the production process is a bit complicated, so we always try to make something new.

Do you use actual cendol in Cendol Cake?

No. Actually, I use the elements in es cendol, like the flavor of coconut, brown sugar, cendol seed, so when you eat the cake, it will taste like you’re drinking real es cendol. What I took from the es cendol concept are the ingredients and the flavor.

Are we gonna see more similar modern traditional products in Asia Restaurant?

Our direction is more to exposing trending food. Business tends to go up and down nowadays, so we see the trend in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, of course, then we try to make the products and see the customer’s feedback. Do you remember the cheese cake trend that created long queue? Now the outlet is very slow. We served similar cheese cake, and only 30% of the guests have it. Then we have banana nugget which was also short lived. However, we created Duck Burger, and customers love it, therefore we have a day in a week that serve the Duck Burger.

We never stop trying to find out what the people love. The customer’s expectation when they dine in hotel is to be able to get all these trending foods. It would be even better if every corner in Asia is actually the best food in the city.

How do you see the pastry trend lately? Tend to go back to traditional?

Yes, at the moment. Indonesian cuisine is very rich. From childhood, we’ve been familiar with wide range of foods that we’re getting used to, but in Indonesia there also expatriates who settle down and starting family, perhaps they don’t know that we have our local pancake made of coconut called wingko.

According to my observation, sooner or latter the trend would be healthy food, it’s a challenge for me, personally. Back then, who would eat sushi or sashimi? Now, sushi restaurants are in every mall, not to mention dimsum stalls that are also present in every street corner.

Our customers are getting more educated, as a result, the demand for healthy food will grow. If we only knew aspartame as sugar substitute, people then realized that it’s also not good for health, and they are gradually turning to stevia. Customers started to demand sugar free, gluten free, lactose products, etc.

For pastry products, the adaptation is not that difficult, the challenge comes from bread, because it requires trials and errors. It would be easy if it’s only one product, but the trials and errors are needed for lot of products, from bread,puff pastry, croissant, etc. If gluten free is limited to using instant flourwhich was processed using chemicals, I’d prefer to use natural products such as corn flour, coconut powder, or any other that can be applied. I happen to behaving a project involving these this healthy concept, I believe it will be trending in the future.


Jl. DR. Ide Anak Agung Gde Agung Kav.E.1.1 no.1, Mega Kuningan Jakarta, 12950, 

Phone: +6221 2551 8888,