Kitchenesia.com - Being suffocated at home for nearly a year, finally I was able to loosen up my mind by staying a night at the nearest hotel.
I found myself in awe of the serene greeneries of Novotel Tangerang, with a tranquil garden and a resort-like pool that made up its surrounding. My attention, however, was distracted by the presence of Executive Chef Salihin, who offered me the signature drink green health. Some waiters said that it is common to see a high-ranking person greeting the guests personally.
While it’s not quite at Flint Lockwood’s level of invention, there have been quite a few fascinating food creations in Novotel Tangerang. Among the signature dishes are bloody mary burger, green chicken noodles, and green health smoothie that graced my dinner table.
Chef Salihin admitted that familiarity is his key factor in creating a food rendition. Despite coming up with myriads of crazy ideas, at the end of the day, sales matter most. “I reinterpret those common foods into something new,” said the Lombok-origin Chef.
We have seen black burgers listed in many burger joint’s menus, from the small shop in the neighborhood to the fast-food giant like Burger King. The trend has been going on over the last decade, and showing no signs of fading away.
Food creation that doesn't sacrifice convenience
While still jumping on the black burger bandwagon, he altered the ingredients a little bit. “Other chefs mostly use bamboo charcoal to blacken the patty. Here, we use pangium nuts. It is a natural food coloring for rawon (black beef soup),” said Chef Salihin.
The same motivation also applies to green chicken noodles, which he claimed to answer the demand for a healthy alternative to unhealthy food.
The conversation moved from a casual attitude to more intimate intent as Chef Salihin shared his personal story. He began with telling the story of how the reality of working in the hospitality industry didn’t live up to all his expectations.
“I had set my target to enter the hospitality industry after graduating from high school. But it came as a total surprise for me learning the fact that executive chefs in local hotels were mostly from overseas. Most of them were from France, UK, Australia, etc.”
But at the same time, it ignited his trigger to achieve the position he is in today.
No one can cook ayam taliwang like the Lomboknese
Living away from home for years, the Lombok-born and raised Chef always craved food that provided him with flavours and aroma. Local staples like seafood and spices, among others, felt like home for the chef.
“The first dish I’ve made professionally was bouillabaisse, when I apprenticed to a French chef in Lombok.” He paid tribute to his hometown’s nature’s bounty by using lots of seafood, and whipping them up into the bursting-with-the-flavours French dish.
Chef Salihin mentioned his favourite dish was ayam taliwang, a grilled marinated chicken. When it comes to ayam taliwang, he firmly believed that nothing beats the Lomboknese. “I have tried countless ayam taliwang from the restaurants across the country. But nothing can come close to the appetizing ayam taliwang made by the Lomboknese.”
With more than 20 years experience in the industry, Chef Salihin closed our deep conversation with advice to some aspiring chefs out there. “Having a good memory is really helpful especially during the busy hours like lunch. Last but not least, never stop learning.”
It came as a surprise that a sip of a drink could lead into a deep, substantial conversation.