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A Slice of Spain in the Middle of Jakarta with Chef Hidayat of ¿Por Qué No?


Bringing authentic Spanish cuisine to the people of Jakarta, ¿Por Qué No? is a new take of classic Spanish Tapas that will have everyone enjoying their night in Jakarta with Chef Hidayat.

There is something familiar and comforting about Spanish Tapas that the people of Jakarta love to have. Set on the 5thfloor of De Ritz Building sits a comfy and casual restaurant called ¿Por Qué No? Believing in authenticity and home-style, the dishes serves in ¿Por Qué No? is created with Spanish chef Ana Maria Matin Diaz. Currently, the restaurant’s executive chef is Chef Hidayat and he recently sat down with the team at Eat vacation to share his take on Spanish food and his passion in the art of food.

What interested you in cooking Spanish food in Jakarta?

I had no idea about Spain in the beginning: the language, the concept, recipes, and the food itself in the first place, which I imagine would be true for most people here as well, but there’s a process in everything from which we learn. We are also guided by the owner and several partners to grasp a better idea of Spanish food.

What’s the first impression that you want to give customers when they enter the restaurant?

“Por Que No” means “Why not” in Spanish, so whoever the customer is, regardless of age, will discover the answer to that question when they step inside the restaurant. They can also experience unique culinary sensations and adventures in wholly different tastes.

Chef Hidayat had an interesting start to the culinary world, but he wouldn’t want to change his position now.

So the “Why not” means trying out new food?

Yes.

What, to you, defines delicious food?

Delicious food is… delicious. In my opinion, every food is delicious, but what truly sets a special dish apart is its uniqueness. For instance, we create a new dish every month here, so of course that has to be something special.

How long does it take to turn a blank sheet of paper into a fully developed recipe?

As for the duration, we can’t say how short or long it should be, because there’s a process that we have to go through. We also need to consider the situation and conditions under which we are working. For example, around December and especially Christmastime, we get a lot of feedback and input from customers, so it’s a different circumstance altogether.

Throughout your career as a chef, what’s an unforgettable moment?

I would say that an unforgettable moment is how I began from zero.

In that time, why did you decide to become a chef?

At the time, I was a dishwasher and I didn’t even think of ever donning a uniform and an apron like I do now, but then one day a certain someone told me that I was going to be a chef. Those words resonated with me, so I decided to take on the path that led to where I am now.

So you’ve always had a passing interest in cooking?

Yes. I’d had that passion well before I began my career in the restaurant, ever since I was a kid. Of course it was different in those days, though, because all we had was a wooden stove, a pan, and all those outdated cooking equipment.

Chef Hidayat was a big help in helping understand the authenticity of Spanish Tapas and how to enjoy them.

What’s your proudest moment as a chef?

I see our customers’ satisfaction as my pride, so if they are satisfied, then I am proud.

What do you like to do when you’re not cooking?

I like to look at menus, whether Spanish, Indonesian, Italian, or others for inspiration.

Since Spanish cuisine is known to be very traditional, what do you think about unconventional takes on several dishes, such as Paella without rice, which have sparked controversy and debate?

The way I see it, there can be various interpretations of a dish. For instance, like the Paella you mentioned, there’s a vegetable Paella, beef Paella, et cetera. I can’t directly answer your question as I don’t know what your example constitutes, but in a restaurant setting, I have to deal with customers and their individual requests. For instance, one could ask for a burger without beef, or even without bread, which I would personally consider to be an oddity, but it is not up to me to draw the line and thus disappoint the guest. The bottom line is that, as a chef, I would always refer to the customer, so there shouldn’t be a controversy or conflict over it as long as it’s good. A dish can be very pretty, but it’s nothing if the taste doesn’t match the visuals; likewise, a dish can look weird, but we’ll ask for more if we like it. In the end, what matters most is taste.

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