Left: Toto Sunarto, Executive Chef at Rancamaya Golf and Country Club, Bogor, Indonesia Images by Diana DeLucia
rancamaya golf and country club, bogor, indonesia 2012
Rancamaya Golf and Country Club is a unique, world-class residential community located in the exquisitely cool foothills of Mt. Salak, West Java. Inspired planning and environmental sensitivity nurture a better way of life and offer residents two of life’s greatest luxuries: tranquility and freedom. Situated 450 meters above sea level and just 45 minutes from Jakarta via Jogorawi toll road, Rancamaya has dramatic views of Mount Salak in the south, Mount Panrango in the north and east and Bogor in the west. The air is fresh and cool.
Being an Australian, I had traveled to Jakarta and Bali, Indonesia several times before I was 21, but I had not ventured to other regions in the country. I have been a resident of the United States since July 2002 and having the opportunity to return to Indonesia in 2012 was a wonderful and memorable experience.
I vividly remember flying into Jakarta Airport, alone this trip. I barely made it through customs as I was missing $25 USD in cash! (no cards or other currency accepted!) I had to leave my passport with the customs officer and run half a mile to an ATM to get my cash. Then I had to remember where the customs agent was, and hope he had not vanished! Phew...after that I tried to locate my driver. I couldn't find him and my cell phone had died. It took me a while to find an English-speaking person, but eventually, I did! There were two exits and I was at the wrong one. I frantically ran through the crowds to the other exit, and my driver, bless his soul, was still waiting (four hours later). You have no idea what was running through my mind!
I had the most scenic drive to Bogor, and when I arrived at Rancamaya and checked in, I met up with the General Manager, Ulrich Hahn and his delightful wife Bella. The next four days they immersed me into the culture of the area and the property. The views, of Mount Salak from the clubhouse and the golf course are breathtaking, they have a zoo on the property for all to enjoy. The staff at Rancamaya were incredibly courteous and kind and the cuisine was regional, but had a pinch of the international influences of Toto Sunarto, the Executive Chef.
Sop Buntut (Indonesian Oxtail Soup) recipe by Toto Sunarto, Executive Chef at Rancamaya Golf and Country Club, Bogor, Indonesia in 2012. Image by Diana DeLucia
AN INTERVIEW WITH toto sunarto
GK: Tell us about your background and training as a chef.
I studied hospitality for six months in Citayam, Indonesia. Since 1974, I’ve worked as a chef in many hotels and restaurants including the President and Mandarin hotels in Jakarta, Indonesia. After that, I worked as a sous chef at the Kandara Palace Hotel in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. After several years in the Middle East, I came back to Indonesia and took the helm as Sous Chef at the Jakarta Hilton Hotel where I worked for more than 10 years. During that time, I developed my culinary skills further and took part in the hotel sponsored master’s degree to be a certified chef. This certification within the Hilton group led to more responsibilities and promotions. Hilton International sent me to several countries in Asia, namely Thailand, Singapore and Japan. I spent three months in Amsterdam and Australia as well. Later on, I spent a total of six months in the United States in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco.
The purpose of this undertaking was twofold. I promoted and taught Indonesian cooking styles to the foreign chefs, and I also learned several other Western and Asian cooking skills and styles that enabled me to grow as a chef. After my years with Hilton, I wanted a different kind of challenge and became Executive Chef in several upper-market Italian restaurants. I always have had the desire to experiment within the Italian-style of cooking. While I believe I have an overall good understanding of Western food, my cooking style and preferences are more in tune with Italian cusine. Six years later, after working in two Italian restaurants, I moved to the five-star Kempinski Hotel in 1998. In 2001, Rancamaya offered me the position of Executive Chef.
GK: What are your responsibilities at Rancamaya? What kind of changes have you made?
Working in a private club is different from a hotel or restaurant in many ways. Members come to the club often and each one has a favorite dish. You can imagine that menu planning is a bit different. We have our standard a la carte menu that changes yearly, although we keep 85 percent of members’ favorite dishes such as Nasi Pasundan, Ikan Balita and Nasi Goreng Buntut. They are Rancamaya classics.
The creativity comes in with our daily, weekly and monthly specials, and our monthly international and local Saturday buffets. We try to please both the more traditional food lovers and the ones who like new dishes each time they come to the club. The food promotions include dishes from the 33 different provinces in Indonesia and countries in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. I am able to draw on my experiences while traveling for the Hilton group to create these dishes.
We also feature a wide selection of organic rice, fish and vegetables. A health-conscious attitude is becoming a way of daily life in Indonesia. We use very fresh products as much as possible, and vegetables and fruits are delivered daily from farms near the club.
GK: Could you explain how the Indonesian cusine differs from Western cuisine?
Indonesian cuisine differs in many ways. First, we have so many different languages, which contribute to the variety of different cuisines. Secondly, there is the chile factor. Indonesians cannot live without chiles. Indonesian cooking also uses more spices and herbs than Western cuisines. For example, in a simple dish such as Ayam Goreng, which is Indonesian-style fried chicken, we add more than 10 different spices.
The views of Mt. Salak are stunning no matter the time of day. Image by Diana DeLucia