Kevin­dra Soe­mantri


food writer

With an up­com­ing book The Art of Restau­rant Re­view and a re­cent appearance on Net­flix’s Street Food Asia episode, Soe­mantri’s rep­u­ta­tion as In­done­sia’s lead­ing food writer is firmly ce­mented. He re­cently co-founded the first Jakarta Dessert Week and pub­lished an in­de­pen­dent food guide, Top Ta­bles.

Is there a par­tic­u­lar nar­ra­tive that still needs to be told about In­done­sian gas­tron­omy?

We are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a very in­ter­est­ing time, culi­nary-wise. Our big cities show­case a dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter in terms of its din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Yo­gyakarta is strong in its her­itage, Bali is cos­mopoli­tan and cul­tural, and Jakarta is an ur­ban melt­ing pot. It will be in­ter­est­ing, for ex­am­ple, if Jakarta can show­case a new take on modern In­done­sian gas­tron­omy. In In­done­sia, we have the keep­ers of culi­nary tra­di­tions but we also have a young gen­er­a­tion of chefs who has worked abroad and re­turned home, and now bring their own in­ter­pre­ta­tions of modern In­done­sian cui­sine to the table. Each of them has their own roles to play — those who pre­serve and those who push for progress. It will be a new in­ter­est­ing nar­ra­tive if both sides can col­lab­o­rate.

What more can be done?

We need to look in­ward be­fore we talk about go­ing global. I see a gap be­tween the gen­er­a­tions, the culi­nary he­roes, who in­tent to pre­serve the tra­di­tion ver­sus the young gen­er­a­tion who wish to re­de­fine it. It shouldn’t be that way. The older gen­er­a­tion must be will­ing to nur­ture and share while the young should be able to ac­cess their tra­di­tion, the cor­rect way to cook things. It should be col­lab­o­ra­tion over com­pe­ti­tion.

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