A Culinary Dialogue Between Indonesia and Germany
As the old saying goes, the easiest way to win hearts and minds is through the stomach. Food is an integral part of every culture, and a shared meal means a shared experience and consequently shared memories.
“To have a nice meal together is certainly one of the best ways to bring together people with different biographies and origins,” says Anna Maria Strauß, head of cultural programs at Goethe-Institut Indonesia, which is organizing the project “Wanderlust Küche” that puts food into the spotlight.
“For us, the topic of food is interesting, as it also represents the work we’re doing,” she continues. “New relationships begin to develop when people cook and eat together and discover things they have in common.”
Goethe-Institut Indonesia’s multi-layered project aims to bring the food cultures of Germany and Indonesia together, culminating in an exclusive dinner at a pop-up restaurant on the institute’s premises in Menteng, Jakarta. For this occasion, Helge Hagemann of Hamburg-based Werteköche: Chefs with Values and Petty Elliott, acclaimed Indonesian chef and food writer, will join forces to present the best of both cuisines in couple of fusion dishes that will be presented to a selected group of invited guests.
“I was always enthusiastic about cooking and, most of all, food but I only started my education as professional chef in my early twenties. Luckily, I never regretted this decision and I’m very grateful to be a part of this project,” says Chef Helge, who has already participated in cooking fairs and shows for Chefs with Values at several locations across the globe.
According to Chef Helge, Chefs with Values “combine knowledge and skills, share their love for cooking as well as inspire others – with responsibility and awareness for the origin of our ingredients.”
The Chefs with Value work as culinary ambassadors of Germany and travel around the world to take part in exhibitions and cooking shows and give their audience a better insight into German cuisine. Chef Helge’s trip to Indonesia, however, will be his first time to set foot in the archipelago.
“I am very much looking forward to visiting the country and working with Petty,” he explains. “Since I have almost no experience at all with Indonesian cuisine so far, I am excited to find out more about the ingredients, flavors and ways of preparation the Indonesian cuisine has to offer.”
While Indonesia is still unchartered territory for Chef Helge, Petty Elliott is already somewhat familiar with Germany and the country’s cuisine.
“I took part in the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2014, 2015 and 2017 and also cooked at the Villa Kennedy and Steigenberger Hotel in Frankfurt,” Chef Petty, who says is in love with the traditional German Christmas stollen (an oblong fruit cake), recalls. “Like any other cuisine, I found that German cuisine is changing from traditional to modern, based on influences from around the world. There are many young chefs that are doing an amazing job of championing local ingredients with a modern approach.”
The two chefs will not only prepare the “Magic Hour” dinner together, but also plan to visit traditional markets in Jakarta and have a lively exchange about recipes, ingredients and cooking methods.
“I am very excited about our dialogue and creativity process,” Chef Petty says. “We communicated a lot about different recipes, and as we got to know each other better, we could decide together which dishes best highlight both countries’ food culture.”
According to Anna-Maria Strauß, the intensive exchange between Petty and Helge resulted in a menu that combines the Indonesian and German cuisine.
“This exchange is what the matters most to us, and to present this dialogue on the plates of our guests,” she explains. “In the best case, they will create a menu that will remind the diners of something [familiar] and excite their curiosity for something new at the same time.”
Chef Helge concurs. “I can’t wait to learn more about the differences of our cuisines, but even more about the tings we have in common,” he says. “Food – regardless of its origin – brings people together. It was and still is the cultural focal point of a society. We want to underline this fact through this project.”
Leading up to the “Magic Hour” dinner on November 22, the Goethe-Institut hosted a competition on Instagram, asking users to showcase the culinary richness of Indonesia. 321 images with detailed background information were uploaded to the social networking service, out of which a jury selected the 15 best. The works of the winners can be seen in an exhibition at Goethe-Institut, running through November 30, or online in a virtual gallery under www.goethe.de/fotokuliner.
Although the Goethe-Institut is not particularly well known – yet – for its forays into the culinary world, Anna-Maria Strauß thinks that the current project is only the beginning.
“The topic of ‘food’ will certainly accompany our work a while longer because it involves so many interesting, important and urgent questions,” she explains. “This year’s theme for our annual Science Film Festival, for instance, which revolves around education in science, was ‘Food Revolution’. At the same time, food and its related aspects – agriculture, resource utilization, health, impact on the climate, interaction of animals and humans – are extremely important topics when it comes to global challenges.”
This article was first published in the online magazine of Goethe-Institut Indonesia.