Sean’s Blast from the Past

Sean Macdougall, executive chef at The Ritz-Carlton Jakarta, Pacific Place, looked back to yesteryear to recreate some food gems.

There is something sentimental, temporary and fragile about food. The taste, smell, and texture of food evaporates into a certain place and setting. You had it, ate it, it went through your stomach and what remains are profound memories.

Chef Sean claims to be a country boy. He was raised with meat in various forms, veggies and carbs. His parents and grandparents all came from farms and they could cook well; they would use all parts of cow, lamb and poultry carcasses. His family would grow some of their own veggies; they also had stone fruit all year round, homemade tomato sauce, lemon curd, and others.

“I was raised in Busselton, Western Australia, then a seaside country town which has now just turned into a city at the edge of the Margaret River wine region.

“We were lucky to live on the edge of town, we had access to bushland behind our house, 19 acres of farm paddocks on the other side to hoon around on motorbikes and the beach was only a 15-minute bicycle ride away,” said Sean.

When asked about some of the most famous dishes of the past decades, he quickly went into reminiscing mode.

“Thinking of the 1970s give me flashbacks of garlic prawns, prawn cocktails, chateaubriand; can you tell I enjoyed my prawns? I also remember savory recipes with pineapples being bandied about,” he said. People tend to look at the past through rose-tinted glasses, but Sean was happy to see the savory pineapple to stay behind. “Keep the pineapples fresh and served with lime!”

For the 1980s, he recalled cajun blackened seafood, soup served in bread bowls and pasta primavera, while in the 1990s, he remembereds sloppy joes, crockpot cooking, many dips, and of course chicken Kiev, bombe Alaska and mushroom vol au vent.

“I read of chefs using crockpots at home, putting the ingredients in before heading off to work and coming back to a slow food dinner; this appeals to me,” Sean said, underlining that crockpot cooking was a good idea to revive nowadays.

For FoodieS, he recreated a set of dishes that aim to take you back to the era with certain memories of occasions and people.

The first dish reflected the love affair between Sean and prawns. Prawn cocktail is a classic dish made from crisp lettuce, poached prawns and tangy cocktail sauce. His version was made from a zesty mango and avocado salsa on the bottom and poached prawns topped with lime, dressed with shaved fennel on top and some fried tempe for crunch.

The second was a reworked version of vol au vent: the traditional creamy mushroom sauce was replaced with sauteed king oyster mushrooms with garlic, cognac, basil and some jus in a pastry case topped with an olive oil poached ocean trout with a carrot sauce.

The third dish was a chicken Kiev. The dish is typically a garlic butter roll wrapped in a flattened chicken breast, breaded and fried, and then served sizzling. Sean made it more exotic, his version had garlic butter with kemangi and a touch of sambal, served up with green pea puree and beetroot red wine glaze, with pretzel crumbs added.

To complete the set, he made bombe Alaska: an old classic of layered sponge and ice cream, coated in a thermal protector of meringue, caramelized in the oven.

“Tying in a 1960s evergreen Tim Tam biscuit combination: chocolate biscuit, chocolate ice cream, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate and white meringue. Pram, our pastry chef, wanted to serve it on rocks! So we made chocolate pebbles,” explained Sean of his last dish.

In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “There is no love more sincere than the love of food.” Yes, the love of food is sincere as it takes you to a certain moment in your life.


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Written by Tatu Hutami Photographs by Dennie Ramon April 30, 2017.