No Rest for The Weary

One of the most senior Pastry Chefs in Indonesia has no sign of stopping any time soon, nor slowing down.

In the era of hotel boom in the 90’s, almost all of the Pastry Chef positions were held by expatriates. Of course, it’s only a matter of time before the locals gain the knowledge to replace them. Chef Tusyadi, Pastry Chef of Balai Sidang Jakarta Convention Center (BSJCC), also the Vice President of Indonesia Pastry Alliance (IPA), is among the first generation of Indonesians to reach the position of Pastry Chef in prestigious hotel.
Chef Tusyadi appears much younger than his actual age, we even surprised when he mentioned the number (feel free to guess). After the photo session, he escorted us to his room where he didn’t hesitate to make us some cups of tea even though we refuse at first. “I can’t do that, it’s my duty (making tea for guests),” he insisted. We finally sat down to hear his story about his background, career, and his decision not to have any holidays over “The last one year”.

How do you find love for pastry?

It began in high school. I came from a rural area in Bogor. Actually it’s Bogor Baru, but back then it was pretty much a rural area.

Don’t you belong in the same generation as Chef Rahmat (The President of Indonesia Pastry Alliance)?
Actually I’m older. Basically I love baking because my mother used to get orders and calls for events, from making cakes, bika ambon, anything. It’s just we didn’t have much information access to tourism industry back then.
In Bogor, I have a friend whose father is an Executive Chef in Bandung. At the time, the term “chefs” is not familiar to many; people only know them as cooks. After graduated from high school, I decided to have a Tourism Diploma 1 (Associate Degree) in Bandung, and then I worked in Savoy Homann Hotel, Bandung in 1992.

Were you directly involved in pastry?
I was a helper, so there were rotations, but I felt comfortable in pastry, perhaps it’s the nature calls. I always turned on whenever I see people bake, I even begged my chef, “please don’t move me away, let me in pastry section.” After that, I went to Hilton Hotel, Jakarta, then to Jakarta Convention Center (JCC).
At the time, the hotel industry is at the peak, meanwhile I’m not an easily satisfied person, so I moved to Shangrila Hotel, then to Crowne Plaza’s Holiday Inn. Every time I moved, I got promoted to higher positions. I also worked in Empire Grill, Imperium Tower in 1996. One of the hippest place in Jakarta back then. Finally I became a Pastry Chef in Sheraton Hotel, Timika. My rule is, wherever I apply and got accepted, I’ll take it as long as I was promoted.

Wait, you said you started as helper in 1992, but you became a Pastry Chef in 1997. That escalated quickly.
From the beginning, I set target to myself. I have to reach the position of Pastry Chef within 5 years, and the funny thing is, I really managed to get it. After working in Timika, I also transferred to Abu Dabhi’s Sheraton Hotel, back to Timika, and worked for an inflight catering company near Bandara Soekarno Hatta, the workload was crazy there.

Crazy, in what sense?

We used to produce 14.000 boxes in a day, it’s quite a number. After that, I moved to Aryaduta Hotel, Jakarta, Nikko Hotel, also in Jakarta, then I finally opened my own business in Cibubur, it was a restaurant called The Ranch. Finally I returned to JCC and settle down for 5,5 years. This is the longest job I ever had in my career.

Do you have to move often to get promotion?
I’d say someone should stay in a company for no longer than 2 years, anything more than that, the ideas start running dry. Perhaps because you’re in comfort zone, your thinking ability starts to decline. Meanwhile in new places, we are encouraged to create more ideas. It’s not like I’m against those who prefer to stay in a place from beginning to retirement, but after all, we have our own opinions.

What are you looking for?
I’m not satisfied with my knowledge, there’s always something to learn. My job in BSJCC allows me to explore things in different places. If I work in hotel, it’s impossible to have this kind of freedom. Even though we share the same speed, in here I can focus to one thing only, the banquet. In hotel, there’s so much to think about, one hotel might have up to 7 F&B outlets, each with its own program. If I were to handle thing, let say, a wedding for 14.000 people, that would be our only focus, nothing else matters.

According to you, where will the pastry trend go?

For cakes, I think we’re back to basic, although I’m sure you have modern decoration. Actually now we became very minimalist, only use glazing and some nets. Taste-wise, classic cakes only feature one flavor, let say for Black Forest, you’re only limited to chocolate flavor. Now we combine the flavor and aroma, starting with the use of spices such as rosemary, thyme, etc.

Please explain your activities in IPA.
For 2017, we focus on education because we’re enforcing the knowledge transfer to juniors, especially in SMK so they’ll have stronger basic. We proposed the training program to education authorities, but I understand that it might take times; meanwhile we’re targeting the SMK students. As practitioners and professionals, we have deeper understanding about the market’s trend. Now I can say that SMK students are on the same page with the college students.

What about your life outside your job, outside kitchen?
Previously I always went to gym, but I’m no longer have the time to do that because since last year I don’t have any holidays. I use my holidays to do other activities, such as teaching night classes.

You’re so restless; don’t you feel tired without holiday?

I love doing this. Everything that is based on love is easy. Of course, my family often complained because of this. I have no other activities aside from this (culinary world). In morning, I have get out from the house at most 6.30, I’ll return at 8.30, if I have a class to teach, I’m home at 10.30. The other members of IPA are also as busy as me, that’s why why we often have hard time to meet up.

When you dine out, are you looking for pastry products?

I always look for one, not for consumption, but just to have a taste. I’m curious with the idea. Lately I got recommendation from a friend about a place in Alam Sutera which offers different style of cake and bread, I bought all of the product variants, take a bite and some photos from all of them. I admire all the young players; their ideas are unique and brave. Everyone can copy any products, but there’s not many who can come up with new ideas. Ideas are expensive.

What’s your personal future plan?

I’m still dreaming of starting up my own business, it’s just the time is scarce. You know, as employee, we often forget plans and ideas because of busy activities. It’s always “later, later”, and now 5,5 years have gone. I even still have pending requests for teaching classes because of the time limitation.