Redefining “Family-Style” with ARUN KUMAR
While we wonder what is the art behind good eating, General Manager of The Westin Jakarta, Arun Kumar, believes that the art lies within making it a family affair, simply because food is best experienced together.
ON THAT FINE afternoon, we are ushered towards a cosy corner of a dazzling lounge located on the 52nd floor of the tallest hotel in Indonesia. Overlooking the panoramic cityscape through the floor-to-ceiling windows, it is no wonder that the entire staff of The Westin Jakarta could identify this corner as ‘Mr. Arun’s favorite spot’.
Meanwhile, General Manager Arun Kumar takes a short break from running what he refers to as a ‘mini-city’ and welcomes our distraction to talk about what we collectively love best, food!
“Food is something passed down through generations, sometimes it does not require any written recipes,” shares Arun Kumar who recalls a lot of his earliest food memories involving his grandmother in his hometown, Banglore, India. “Out of the many dishes my grandmother used to cook, my mom would attempt to make fifty-percent of it. And now, my wife perhaps attempt about twenty five-percent,” he says lightly chuckling.
Back in the day, Arun recollects eating a lot of idli – a traditional Indian breakfast made of fermented lentils and rice, served with other condiments – almost every Sunday mornings with his family.
“However, food habits and interests change, especially when you leave home,” says Arun, who spent majority of his career on the move around the globe. “These days food is about exploring new things and occasionally grabbing the most convenient options.”
Arun admits that being in the hospitality industry was an unplanned career path especially since it wasn’t a preferred choice in India. “It caused a lot of confusion with my family, mainly because I started off as a waiter but somehow I managed to do something different from the predictable path,” he says passionately.
Another unforeseen calling was settling in Indonesia – twice within a decade. “Jakarta has the comfort and everything else that my family and I need.”
Fortunately for Arun, getting accustomed to the flavors of Indonesia is not a difficult task since he was raised in a country that is also known as the land of spices. “There are many similarities between the food from both countries; both cuisines are spicy, varied and packed with flavors.”
One of his favorite local dishes is Rendang, which he considers the closest to an Indian curry. He particularly loves Westin Jakarta’s very own dried beef Rendang from Seasonal Tastes.
Eating outside tends to be a family decision, which is mainly dependent on his fourteen-year-old daughter’s fingertips responsible for discovering the latest must-try restaurants on the net, while his six-year-old son occasionally gets the chance to indulge on his current fixation for Carl’s Junior. However, Arun gets his turn once a month, which includes his go-to food like Xia Long Bao from Din Tai Fung or some juicy handmade burger patties.
“Our food choices are so varied. Both the kids have international food habits so they can pretty much live off of almost anything, which takes out a little stress from us as parents sometimes,” says the family man. However, some Sundays are reserved for home cooked meals, with Arun himself as the chef.
From spending his years exploring the culinary world in Indonesia together with his family, some of his favourite spots include Mamma Rosy, Kahyangan Teppanyaki Restaurant and Blue Grass, especially for date night. Notice the varied choices reflecting their international palate?
“Food is really fascinating! In any country I go to, even if it doesn’t seem appealing to me I must try and taste it,” discloses the globetrotter.
He also believes that the ever-changing F&B industry in Indonesia will thrive on continuing to serve authentic food in the future. “Despite the many fusion restaurants, people will go back to eating what they are familiar with as a kid so in the future, the restaurants that are here to stay are the ones that serve authentic food.”
Comically, the question he found the hardest to answer is what he loves to do during his free time, “When I get some free time, keyword being ‘when’, then I sleep.”
However, something Arun will always spare some time for is indulging in his guilty pleasures, “That’s the problem with eating too early, I end up raiding the fridge for chocolates or cheese in the middle of the night,” he admits regretfully. “I pretty much have all types of cheese and chocolates stocked up and constantly refilled!”