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What Chef Eats: Mac Gyver

What Chef Eats: Mac Gyver

Auli Cinantya
19 June 2022


Chef and owner of AKAR, Mac Gyver's passion for food, have taken him to elevate and explore more Indonesian cuisine. For him, eating can be very complicated and personal.


Chef and owner of AKAR, Mac Gyver’s passion for food, have taken him to elevate and explore more Indonesian cuisine. First opened in 2019, AKAR serves Indonesian food – rethought and recalibrated.

“We hope to trigger a form of nostalgia for customers that dined at AKAR – where they can be transported to a space in time; dinner with family, flavor, or certain ingredients that remind them of childhood.”

Hi! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your day-to-day activities?

I love to eat— more than cooking, maybe. I think cooking supports that hobby, hahaha. Being a chef-owner, your day-to-day responsibilities are not just in the kitchen. You have to
do marketing, and you have to manage the menu, making sure that everything is okay, making sure that the customers are OK. It extends not just to the kitchen as a chef. I think it’s busy that is also fun.

What are your favorite food memories? 

It is my mom’s cooking. She put lots of passion, heart, and soul into her cooking. Sometimes, it is not about the price or fancy stuff but about the amount of care that goes into it.

My mother had a significant influence on my cuisine. The foundation of Akar’s early menu was built on my mother’s recipes, but they were portrayed more creatively and experimentally.

I enjoy her cooking. It is hard if I have to choose which one is my favorite. She is a talented cook. I’m not just saying this because she’s my mom but because she can cook. There is this fish steam my mom made, layover in a bowl with coconut cream on top, it is a humble dish, but there is so much flavor in it; there is also Nasi Tim Ayam, but for this, she cooked the rice with a whole chicken and lemongrass and ginger. That kind of cooking always reminds me of what cooking is all about; it’s about the heritage and the story behind the dish.

For me, eating can be very complicated and very personal stuff. Being a chef is not just about the flavor but about how you can create memories from your cooking.

What is the most recent dining destination you visited that left a good impression? 

Restaurants that left a really good impression on me, one of them is San Ik in Glodok. They have this Gohyong where they serve it on a platter and then fried to perfect crispiness, with layer and dimension. My go-to menu has to be their Oyster omelette; I think it’s every chef’s nightmare because it is so moist and juicy in the middle while the outside is crunchy.

They are living legends; they have been here for around 30-40 years. They didn’t cook for a Michelin star; they just cooked because it’s all about showing the proper culture to the people. When you look at the signboard and all, you can see how they still maintain their classic signboard with Chinese and Indonesian. And the food is delicious. I enjoy going there.

Aside from San Ik, I love Medan Baru; I think they have the best Gulai fish head in Jakarta. They use cannabis seeds, many people don’t understand the use of cannabis seeds, but it is a natural MSG. They also have fried pigeons; the list can go on and on.

There is also Tori Sei in Melawai. I recently found out about this place from a friend; they serve good yakitori for a low price. They also have a nice ambiance, most of the time I go there I always have an excellent time.

The last place is probably Eightman, in Summitmas. They have delicious ramen; the broth is clear, it’s not very gelatinous, a unique broth. The first time I tried their ramen, I was pretty surprised. I didn’t know there was this tasty ramen here; I was impressed by it.

Is there any new dining place that has caught your attention? 

It is not new, but the most eye-catching dining place for me is Locavore. Their service is always good. Also, their food and ambiance are excellent too. They care about what they do and how they sort of push and drive the business; I think that’s the thing that makes me respect them.

Like how they go out of their way to cook beyond. And how they strive to survive the pandemic, just like us in AKAR. That’s why I feel like they are someone I respect. They are not trying to be pretentious; it’s just how they are.

Do you have any go-to venues for hanging out with friends or maybe for special occasions with family?

This Chinese restaurant is called Liyen; they have this deep-fried pork. It’s really good. It’s Hakka-style cooking. I highly recommend that anyone go, so you can try out what’s on their menu.

What is your all-time favorite recipe to make for yourself or at home? 

I don’t cook when I’m at home, hahaha. I don’t want to work at home; I only want to sleep and rest. The only all-time recipe I do is Indomie or Shin ramyeon. I like the Indomie Soto and the classic Bawang Goreng, noodles like shin ramyeon. I like to call myself an instant noodle connoisseur, hahaha.

My top three noodles would be Maggi, Indomie, and Korean noodles, Shin Ramyeon. It’s simple and accessible; we could get it at any time of the day. 

What are the most unique ingredients you have ever worked with? 

This is tricky because I try to give the same amount of value to ingredients. I think ingredients are more like how you used them and their importance. I think the value depends on how we use it. My love for ingredients is equal. 

Did you develop new recipes or discover a new type of food you have enjoyed in the recent year?

I just sorted out the number of recipes I created; it amounted to almost 5 books and one folder. That is the number of recipes I came with, but the amount I can use is not that much. When I’m being creative, some of the stuff is the stuff that I want to do, but I have to think if my team can create it.

Because if it’s only me that could create it, what’s the point of opening a restaurant. Therefore, when I develop a recipe, I have to think about whether it also fits AKAR because sometimes I could go a bit too crazy. So, I’m trying to find the balance between understanding what people like and understanding how far I can push this recipe. Also, looking back in hindsight, what does AKAR stands for. 

Who am I developing this recipe for is also an important aspect. Having a moral compass, inspiration, or creativity compass is essential to show us that this is the direction that we have to take.

Is there any food you can eat every day without getting bored? Where do you usually get them from? Do you cook it yourself, or do you have a go-to dine-out place?

Bakmi! I love Bakmi Alok. I love their artistry because there are only three components; the noodles, seasoning, and the toppings. Kind of like sushi; it’s like poetry, finding that balance of seasoning.

I think it’s something that cooks have to try to understand why something is delicious, and for me, I learn to be a better cook by eating. You have to get up and go out to eat, but also you have to be mindful and aware of what you are eating. Why is it  delicious, or why is it bad? I think this is something that always helps me to be more creative. 

If you can only eat 3 types of food in a year, what would you choose?

Bakmi. Others are chicken porridge and chicken nuggets! Nuggets are my kryptonite, hahaha.

After a busy day, what drink do you choose for a relaxing time?

I like a highball and wine. I’m not a red wine person; I prefer white wine. I like both new-world and old-world wine, but new-world wine kind of opens up the flavor spectrum that old-world wine does not have. 

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