Chili Chompers: Chef Cameron Gardiner

To turn up the heat, we invited some of our friends to bring their own twist to the beloved spicy condiment. Here are their sambal challenge stories.

Hailing from Australia’s capital, Chef Cameron Gardiner of Pullman Jakarta Thamrin began his culinary career at the age of 15 working for leading 5-star hotels and restaurants in his hometown before moving to the Middle East in 2007 to join the opening team of Hotel JAL Fujairah Resort and Spa, the first Middle Eastern hotel by Nikko Corporation.

The year 2011 saw his relocation to Hong Kong as group executive chef for Chiram Strategic Group, one of the city’s premier restaurant groups, overseeing three fine dining outlets.

Now in the Big Durian, Cameron, who draws from his diverse experience in modern gastronomy, is ready to explore all the possibilities including trying variants of sambal.

Arriving in Jakarta six months ago, Cameron challenged himself to eat more sambal and Indonesian food. When everyone ordered sushi, he would have soto with sambal. Surprisingly, Cameron said he never experienced stomach aches eating the fiery condiment. “I never had an episode of health problems because of sambal. I even challenge myself to eat more. I can say that I’m able to eat chillies more than most people do.”

Sambal matah and sambal terasi are two of his favorites. Getting into creative mode, Cameron prepared one creation of sambal that went well with smoky, fried and grilled food. The inspiration behind the dish is his experience eating satay and grilled pork.

“I wanted to make something like barbeque sauce but with more character. I was thinking, maybe I should smoke the chillies first. I use fish sauce because I don’t want to use shrimp paste. Then it has a few other ingredients such as salt, sugar and other herbs. When I try it, I can feel the sweat coming and it can only mean one thing; this sambal is good.”

The result is a sambal that can be described as super hot and unpredictable. At first, it tastes mild, but don’t be fooled; it will soon shock the palate. The taste intensifies with time as a result of using both smoked and fresh chillies. Fresh chillies provided the spiciness and the smoked ones added body to the flavor. Smoky and spicy; way to go!


Jalan M.H. Thamrin 59 Jakarta
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Twitter: @Pullman_Jkt_Ind

Written by Tatu Hutami Photographs by Dennie Ramon June 1, 2017.