Fruit Fixes: Chef Denny Boy Gunawan

Executive Sous Chef Denny Boy Gunawan from Westin Jakarta admitted that he is more of a meat guy than a fruit guy, but he took up our challenge excitedly.

Like everyone else born and raised in Indonesia, Denny was exposed to many strange fruits as a kid in Bandung, West Java.

One of the weirdest fruits he ever encountered was one that goes by many names, but he knows it as kersen. It is the fruit of Muntingia calabura tree.

“Back then there were still many green area where I used to encountered these fruits. It has a shape like a blueberry and when it’s ripe, it is red and yellow. It has a sweet flavor but I have never known what it would like if it was incorporated into a dish. Maybe someday.”

Though claiming the kitchen was his playground when he was a kid, Denny took a dive into the culinary world through what some may considered as cruel intentions. Young Denny never dreamed of becoming a chef; instead he aspired to be an engineer like his idol, BJ Habibie.

But upon high school graduation, he failed to be admitted into engineering school and was told to enroll at the NHI Bandung Institute of Tourism by his grandmother. Little did he know that he had actually been accepted to communication school with a full scholarship. His grandmother hid the letter from the communication school and told him that all he got was rejected.

“I just found out after I graduated from NHI and because I love her to death, all I could do was smile and basically just cry internally,” Denny laughed, reminising about the past.

However, apparently the elders know best, as Denny is know making his name in the culinary world. Recently, he beat celebrity chef Chris Salans in the Iron Chef Indonesia TV competition. He is continuing to perfect his craft in Indonesian cuisine, hoping to elevate authentic Indonesian cuisine as it is. “I’m a person of subtance over style,” said Denny.

For the fruit dish challenge, Denny stepped out of his comfort zone and into pastry chef territory. The result was two dishes with a delicate coconut hint. He analogized it as a small party with friends and no loud music involved.

The first one was a main dish using beef and taking inspiration from Indonesian cuisine.

He marinated the beef with coconut milk, yellow spices and sweet ketchup. He prepared a condiment with a hint of coconut oil inspired by tongseng sauce. To complete the dish, he prepared cabbage and carrot pickle and coconut crackers made from dehydrated coconut meat.

Denny highlighted the coconut as his chosen ingredient because coconut tends to blend with everything: it does not lose its flavor but at the same time does not overpower a dish. For him, there are no strict rules in incorporating fruit into savory dishes; however, knowing the characteristics of the ingredients is fundamental in making a dish.

“For example, if you are cooking something fatty like beef or fois gras, you need to break down the fattiness with acidity or sweetness. Knowing which fruit will deliver and expose the flavor without being violent will earn you a great dish.”

The second dish was coconut tuiles made from palm sugar, desiccated coconut, coconut jelly, and squid ink coconut. These materials were later stuffed into pastry made from tapioca, parmesan cheese and grated coconut. Denny paired the final product with coconut ice cream and a coconut water sauce.


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