The air is still thick with remnants of the morning mist when we arrived at Cork & Crew Country Club at Senayan. Sunlight seeps through the bark of the trees and the leaves, printing a golden glow atop the hardwood floor. The swimming pool glistened, yet the picture painted a melancholic scenery. It seems that in the wee hours of the morning, time has yet to start beating. In the quiet moment, we are joined by Head Chef Fernando Sindu.
“Like most people, we didn’t foresee this pandemic to ever be in our realities. We were very much clueless and surprised. Honestly, we had no clue what to do”, he opened up, as we sat down and warmed into our conversation. “Our business model was not meant to be this kind of market. As the pandemic came along and the PSBB was imposed, the core strength of our business model as a dining concept was basically non-existent. For a very long time, we’ve operated solely in that business model”.
Carrying on deeper into the conversation, the chef that was awarded the title of Jakarta Best Eats’ 2019 Chef of The Year confided to us the challenges of running a dining venue in the unfortunate global event of the Covid-19 pandemic, “Most of the challenge is the safety of everyone, especially our workers. Certainly, there are economic facets we have to face, but the health issues regarding Covid-19 is something we are concerned about”.
Chef Nando believes in starting small and setting a good example for everyone else to follow, that is why he formulated a strict regime in the working environment, “The insurance of our employees’ wellbeing is our first and foremost concern. Because only when the safety and health of the employees are ensured, we can then confidently serve our guests and carry out the rest of the health protocols to be implemented throughout our venues”.
Aside from the health concerns, certainly the food and beverage scene is also one that is hard-hit by the economic effects of the pandemic, “Truth be told, the economic uncertainties was one of the biggest challenges we had to face, aside from the health issues. There were moments when we weren’t even sure if we are able to survive, let alone tell our guys (the employees), whether we are going to make it through this adversity or not”.
To ensure everyone’s best performance even in these trying times, Chef Nando believes in doing one thing at a time, “We take on this challenge day by day, one step at a time. I make sure that I talk to my team about this, and encourage them to seize every moment possible. It is a blessing that even during such a hard time, we are still open to serve our customers. I think that is something we should all be thankful about.”
Much like everyone else, his prior working arrangement was also challenged to be altered to suit the conditions, “More than ever now, I rely on my team. Since PSBB was implemented, the circumstances have challenged us to be clear and concise in communicating.”. Chef Nando leads the team with trust and open communication, for he believes that there needs to be an increased level of trust to keep running in times like this, “Before PSBB, micromanagement was something that is apparent in my leadership. But now, we’ve evolved. With more days spent working off site and at home, we need to have a stronger trust foundation, so then the team can confidently be my extension on site. I strategically delegate tasks and encourage everyone to take this chance to grow. There will be mistakes every now and then, but what is important is how we all learn from it.”
In ensuring a safe and comfortable dining experience, Chef Nando and his team has gone above and beyond with their safety protocols, “A lot of our guests were surprised in experiencing the many layers of precautions we implied. But regardless of the hefty protocol, we always ensure that guests enjoy their time at the venue, and leave with a satisfactory and memorable experience. At Cork and Screw Country Club, guests might feel more comfortable with the abundance of open-air area. Whereas with our mall outlets, we implement stronger protective measures to ensure a safe dining experience. We are thankful to see that guests are starting to come back to dine with us.”
In times where everything seems uncertain, we asked Chef Nando whether there are exciting plans in the near future with the Union Group, “We just reopened Loewe Restaurant, and we are scheduled to open one more outlet this year”, the chef shared before coming to a contemplative pause, “But again, 2020 is really a year where everything comes to a halt. Now, we have to refresh everything and start over with a clearer perspective on how we should run and operate our business. We also need to take time to reflect on the things we have accomplished under the arduous circumstances and use that as a stepping stone to achieve greater things in the future”.
In the light of the pandemic, the Union Group has managed to establish a reliable delivery system, “We are excited to cater to their needs, whether it is home-delivery, private events, or even cooking their favorite meals at home. We will continue to grow in serving our guests everywhere”. Another thing Chef Nando puts his faith in is how one should always give back and take care of one’s community, “This is not a value that only resonates deeply to me as a person — but also reflects our core value as a group. We partake in the Medical Heroes Program where we raised funds to ensure that the medical frontliners are well-fed and taken care of throughout the pandemic. We look forward to keeping growing our business while continuously giving back to the community”.
And as the restaurant gets ready to start another day, Chef Nando shared with us another piece of his mind, “The food and beverage industry is always an ever changing landscape, but with the current circumstances, we need to be more innovative and flexible like never before”.
Nine month into the year, and we collectively realise how it is one of the most challenging years we’ve encountered. But the high-spirited chef refuses to give into adversity, and Chef Nando shared with us the importance of keeping a positive mental attitude in facing the current predicament. “I keep two things in mind: Carpe Diem — to seize every opportunity we have and turn it into something worthwhile, and let God almighty do the rest. That is the positive attitude and message I ensure to be shared and believed with my team as well”.
As the sun rose over Cork and Screw Country Club, the chef excused himself to join the team in the kitchen. Under the warm Jakarta sun, Chef Fernando Sindu made us believe that everything will be good and bright, once again.
Cork & Screw Country Club
National Golf Club, Jl. Asia Afrika Pintu IX The MAJ, RT.1/RW.3, Senayan, Jakarta, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 10270