Kesia Putri Kurnianta, who completed her Diplome de Patisserie at Le Cordon Bleu London and Bachelor in Restaurant Management at Le Cordon Bleu Sydney, has an impressive background in the culinary world. She worked as the former head pastry chef of Bennelong Sydney, where she was mentored by the award-winning chef Peter Gilmore, and also gained experience at the KOI dessert bar.
Currently, Kesia operates an online pastry business, Kaktus. She plans to open a dessert bar in Jakarta for her next venture in Indonesia. With us, Kesia shares her memorable food moments and recommendations for dining places and what to order.
Hi! Please tell us a bit about yourself and your day-to-day activities.
My three dogs wake me every morning, so I begin my day by caring for them. I try to hop on the treadmill before starting my activities if my schedule permits. However, on busier days, I skip the exercise and head straight to the kitchen, events places, or a coffee shop to work, as I tend to procrastinate when I work from home. I usually have dinner with friends in the evening and enjoy a drink or two before heading home.
What is the most unforgettable food experience you have ever had?
During my visit to Hong Kong, I stumbled upon an upscale restaurant, but I cannot recall its name as I was young and lacked interest in the industry then. However, the impeccable service I experienced has stayed with me ever since. It was my first exposure to the food and beverage industry’s deeper aspects, which piqued my interest and left me eager to explore further. This experience made me realize that while great food is important, a memorable dining experience can make all the difference.
What usually attracts you to visit a place to eat?
I am generally attracted to seeing a place to eat based on both the menu and the personality of the place.
Do you have any memorable food memories?
Yes, I have a memorable food memory of visiting a small place named “Depot Surabaya” in Grogol, which was located in a house and served simple homemade food, mainly from East Java; my late mother used to take us there to eat together after church when I was much younger, and I still find the food delicious, familiar and comforting, particularly the Nasi Bakmoy, which brings up warm memories.
Do you have any go-to venues for hanging out with friends or for special occasions with family?
Sarang Oci, my late parents would always take me there whenever I came home (back to Indonesia) for a visit, and we always ordered the Ekor Tengiri Bakar Rica, Bakwan Jagung, Tumis Bunga Pepaya, and Kuah Asam Fille Goropa; my late father also enjoyed their Es Kacang as a pre-meal treat.
Is there any food you can eat every day without ever getting bored? And where do you usually get them from?
I love jajanan pasar, including Risol, pastel, lemper, lontong, combro, and many others; I could eat them all day every day and usually get them from the local market near my home or anywhere else I can find them, but one of my best experiences was when I had the chance to do a collab a couple of times in Glodok, the street full of jajanan pasar, where I would go out strolling around looking for snacks about 2-3 times just because it was too tempting to resist.
What is your most recent dining destination that left a good impression? (high-end, upmarket, and street food)
My most recent dining destinations that left a good impression are INUA Japan, a high-end restaurant I visited in 2019. Bartolo in Bali for an upmarket experience, and for street food, I enjoyed Perkedel Bondon in Bandung and Lontong Kupang in Surabaya; however, I have been going to Permata Mubarok, a pecel lele place near where I grew up in Jakarta since my school days. Their fried cabbage and sate kulit with sambal still taste the same until this day!
What are your favorite local dishes, and where do you go to eat them?
It’s a difficult question to answer. When I was growing up, my mum cooked for us every day, and she was an amazing cook who made different local dishes from scratch, including Soto, rawon, rendang, pepes, nasi rames, mie kangkung, and many more, so I didn’t really need to go anywhere other than home to get them.
In the past few years, we have seen a lot of unique food trends; which food trend do you like the most? Have you tried recreating one?
I appreciate the growing trend of going local in recent years. I believe that our local culture and ingredients are fascinating and have the potential to unlock countless possibilities. While there are numerous local ingredients and delicacies to learn from, I have started to educate myself more on the subject. With any luck, I will be able to incorporate them into my creations in the future.
Where are your top three dining places that will always be on your favorite list? And do you have any menu recommendations?
All the places I mentioned above are actually my favorites, but if I may add more to the list would be:
Warung Bu Kris would be the place to go for a good local dish that never fails, and I would be happy to go there every day. My go-to dish would be the empal suwir penyet and tahu tempe ulet-ulet, served with sambal pencit teri Medan. However, pecel, rawon, and other dishes are also great options depending on my mood.
Next is Ester in Sydney, I recommend trying their potato bread, prawn with fried capers, and finishing with their leftover sourdough ice cream.
Another favorite of mine is Soto Mie H. Darjo, which I have been going to since elementary school. I always order the soto mie campur with extra risol on the side. But be sure to come early as they usually sell out by around 3 PM.
And I absolutely love Korean BBQ! The best places for me would be either ChanChan in SCBD, where the samgyeopsal, bossam, and japjae are perfect, or San Jung in Karawaci, where the meat and smoked duck are amazing, and the cold noodles are very nice. Of course, no Korean BBQ is complete without drinks, so I always order makgeolli, beer, and soju. Period.
Are there any new restaurants that have picked your interest? Have you tried them?
There have been so many new places with exciting concepts this past year, such as Crio, Jowa, Silk, and many more. I’ve been to some of them, especially to support fellow friends in the industry, but I haven’t been to any MD restaurants. They always have interesting concepts, so their restaurants would be the next ones for me to try and visit.
Did you develop new recipes or discover a new type of food you have enjoyed recently?
I have been to Desa Les twice in the past two years, and Pak Jero’s method of burning the coconut before turning it into santan was really something new for me. I was intrigued to turn the burnt coconut into a sorbet, and although it took a while, I finally managed to get the recipe right at the end of last year. Yay!
What are the most unique ingredients you have ever worked with?
During my time working in Sydney, I had the opportunity to work with Davidson Plum, a native plum with a distinctive blood-red color. Though it had a super sour taste, I managed to create a fantastic dessert with an unusual plum texture. The color of the dessert was unique and eye-catching, and it turned out to be an amazing dessert.
Are you currently working on any projects? If yes, can you tell us about it?
Yes, there are actually a few things going on. I plan to set up a small shop that I can also turn into a dessert bar at night. Until then, I am currently doing some pop-up events here and there. Also, a few friends and I are opening a ropang place very soon! It’s called Ropang-Pan, and we’re aiming to open around mid-March. Please come and say hi! 🙂