Exclusive Interview with Chef Cédric Vongerichten
Chef Cédric Vongerichten, owner and founder of restaurant Le Burger and VONG Kitchen visited Jakarta during Bastille Day and was kind enough to spare a moment to chat with the Eat Vacation.
Chef Cédric Vongeritchen is the son of critically acclaimed Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who owns, operates, and curated menus for restaurants in four different continents. Together, Chef Cédric and Chef Jean-Georges have worked together to open and curate restaurants together, among them being French-American VONG Kitchen and burger joint, Le Burger.
As a child, Chef Cédric had always aspired to open his own restaurant and create his own dishes. “At the age of nine years old, that’s when I am kind of stuck to my head that’s something I wanted to do,” he said. “And you know, I had nothing else really that I wanted to be, not a doctor or a soccer player.” From the age of nine, Chef Cédric never looked back.
Being married to an Indonesian woman, Chef Cédric frequented Indonesia to visit her side of the family and visit destinations such as Bali and Komodo Islands. Having experience in the hospitality industry all over the world, during his visits he saw a gap in cuisine in Jakarta that he wanted to fill.
“I felt that there is a lot of opportunity, and that people really like food in Jakarta, but there are not enough choices; there was a gap,” Chef Cédric said, “a lot of the younger generation here, they study abroad in Australia, London, California, New York – when they come back here, they want the same taste and feeling in food they have when they go overseas.”
When creating VONG Kitchen and Le Burger, Chef Cédric had two different visions for each restaurant. VONG Kitchen was to be a more refined, borderline fine dining restaurant with American-inspired cuisine but with a delicate French twist with dishes such as the truffle pizza, lobster roll, and refined pasta dishes. In contrast, Le Burger was crafted as a more casual spot for high-quality burgers and drinks.
When creating the menu for Le Burger in Jakarta, Chef Cédric revolutionised Jakarta’s burger game by creating the first burgers in the country using a potato bun. The process of creating the perfect potato bun in Indonesia was a process a careful and meticulous one, spanning one and a half years.
“Potato buns, don’t exist in Indonesia, they do brioche buns and things like that. We sent a lot of samples from New York City my chef here, Luisa, she was working here with different bakers and trying and testing it out. Now we are happy with the end result and we are working with a local baker that makes them only for us,” Chef Cédric said. His attention to detail in all dishes in his restaurant goes unnoticed.
While Chef Cédric has brought more Western flavours to Jakarta, he has also brought Indonesian flavours to New York. After the start of his ventures in Jakarta, he decided to open Wayan Restaurant in Manhattan. Here, he modernised Indonesian food by creating dishes with their signature flavours whilst combining it with French refinement. Also in New York, he and his father opened up Perry St previous to the aforementioned Wayan Restaurant, which focuses on relaxed elegance in the blending of French, American and Asian influences and ingredients.
Whilst Chef Cédric has opened a plethora of successful restaurants around the globe, he cites his greatest achievement as having an extensively collaborative team in every location. He stresses that having successful restaurants is nothing if you do not have a strong, tight-knit team to carry on the grind.
“I think for me, my greatest achievement is having a team that follows you and believe in you. I have a vision, we build it together, and we grow together; without a team, it’s impossible. I’m here [in Jakarta], but Wayan and Perry St are still being run in New York City because we have great people. I would like to have, as we keep on growing, to really have a stronger team and more people that follow us.”