Vindex is no stranger to Indonesia’s culinary scene. His illustrious career has involved stints in high-end hospitality venues around the country, publishing a cookbook and being the advisor to the Association of Culinary Professionals Indonesia, of which he was once president. He is undertaking new challenges in Garuda Indonesia and talks to us about them.
E: You’re a big name in the culinary scene, now as the VP for Garuda Indonesia in-flight service, what aspects do you cover aside from F&B?
Vindex: Anything you find in the aircraft. The ground service is in charge of all the operational matters on the ground, and mine is everything in the aircraft. F&B is the main thing, then there’s the concept, the entertainment and more. If there’s a new aircraft coming, then we decide on the seating, the fabrics, the design of the interior, what colour and so on. Because we’re taking food into the air, we have to manage the logistics and the galley position, and decide on things like the plates, cutlery and more.
E: How did you come to this position?
V: I guess it was fate. My last position was in The Dharmawangsa, I had resigned six months before and decided to do my own thing, like a consultant, so I could have my own time. When you work in a hotel, it’s almost 24/7 work, I enjoyed it for 27 years, but I think it was time for me to look for other things that could help me balance my life better. I was actually planning to open a culinary school, but then on my last day, Garuda came to me, looking for someone from the F&B side, who was capable of making five-star products, because they wanted to maintain the five-star quality. I almost said no, because I thought the hours would be like what I had before. But turns out these were new challenges within office hours, so here I am. In the evening I can be with my family, and the benefit is I can travel more. In a way, I feel like with this job I can help Garuda promote Indonesian food in the aircraft. I started in March 2015, it’s getting more exciting, but also more challenging. Having five different restaurants in one place is one thing, but having 60 separate kitchens for domestic and 19 overseas for the airline, now that’s a challenge.
E: Can you elaborate about Garuda Indonesia’s Star Chef Programme?
V: We started last year and tried to collaborate and take Indonesian food to a higher level. Will Meyrick had started Hujan Locale in Bali, bringing Asian street food to a new level. Gilles Marx, although he’s from a French restaurant, he’s been here a long time and he always tries to incorporate Indonesian flavours in his dishes and sauces. Felix Budisetiawan is an Indonesian chef from The Dharmawangsa, an Indonesian boutique hotel that promotes Indonesian food. It’s like a guest chef concept in a hotel, so it’s interesting that we brought this different approach to the airline, but still with Indonesian food as the core. It continues this year with Chris Salans – a very well-known chef in the Indonesian fine-dining scene, Antoine Audran who just started Kaum in Hong Kong and Agus Hermawan from Ron Gastrobar, one of the best Indonesian restaurants in Amsterdam. So, we are bringing Indonesian food to a wider audience. That’s something we value, and we will continue doing.
E: What’s the biggest challenge you find in your line of work?
V: Making consistent food. As long we have standards, we can handle the challenges more easily. On longer routes we have the advantage of having a chef on board to make sure all goes well. Domestic flights are usually shorter so there’s no problem. Dining in the sky these days is like bringing a restaurant into the sky, where guests can choose their meal and different wines to go with it, a real restaurant experience. We aim to take excellent care of our guests, make sure they’re comfortable, with good entertainment and more.
E: What’s the most rewarding moment in your career?
V: To achieve a five-star standard is one thing, but to maintain it is even harder. So, to be able to do so is an achievement. We’ve also seen more and more local cuisine being appreciated by passengers, even international ones. That kind of appreciation makes us feel like we’re doing something right.
E: What goals do you have for Garuda Indonesia’s culinary sector?
V: It’s still going to be a restaurant experience on board, but with innovative dishes coming out, and more collaboration with great restaurants.
Seabass Acar Kuning
- 6 x 120g sea bass fillets with skin
- 5tbsp olive oil
- Salt and white pepper to taste
- 2 limes, juiced
- 300g vegetables to be pickled
- 40g sugar
- 20ml vinegar
- 6 baby bok choy, cut in half and steamed
- 6 cherry tomatoes, oven baked
- 6 potato and herb croquettes, fried
Ikan acar kuning sauce
- 40g garlic paste
- 80g shallot paste
- 15g candlenut, finely ground
- 20g turmeric paste
- 25g galangal paste
- 35g ginger paste
- 500ml water
- 80g sugar
- 120ml white vinegar to taste
- Salt to taste
- Rub fish with lime, salt and pepper and quick sear both sides in hot pan with olive oil. Bake in the oven to finish.
- Pickle vegetables with sugar and vinegar and set aside.
- Make the sauce by cooking the paste and ground ingredients until fragrant, add water and season with sugar, vinegar and salt to taste.
- Simmer, add remaining ingredients, cook until reduced to half. Check seasoning.