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Two Heads at Benedict

May 15, 2015

Being a chef is the new cool. But according to Fernado Sindu and Ivan Wibowo, founders of private dining service G48, it's not always as glamorous as it seems. Clarissa Santoso from Prestige learned about their culinary journey.

Chef Fernando Sindu and Ivan Wibowo first amde their mark on Indonesia's dining scene when they launched a pop-up brunch concept in 2013 serving customers delicious American menus at different locations in Jakarta each weekend. These day, they running three kitchens: G48 (Good for Eats) private dining, Umabo, and Union Group's Benedict at Grand Indonesia.

The duo first met at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. Sindu had studied Computer Science and worked for Microsoft in New Zealand for several years. Having enjoyed cooking since he was just 8 years old,he took a leap of faith and enrolled himself in the Culinary Institue in 2008. Wibowo, who had studied Food Science and Technology and worked at at agricultural cooperative Ocean Spray for several years enrolled the year after. Then they went their separative ways. Sindu worked as a Sous Chef at Prasserie 8 1/2 Oceana and La Boqueria in New York. Wibowo put in stints at Nobu and Jean Georges in New York. The Latymer at Pennyhill Park Hotel in the UK and the legendary Noma in Denmark.

"When i first entered the culinary institute, it was kind of bridging between the old and new." recalls Sindu. "It was a two-year programme with an additional seven months of training. A lot of young guys aspired to be celebrity chefs and later found out that becoming a chef is not all that glamorous and easy. The training we went through was gruesome. I've had foie gras thrown at me because it wasn't cooked properly. When people call me 'chef', i think of some of the chefs i worked with - it took them around 8 years working as a line cook to earn that title."

Driven by demand, the start of their private dining business was unplanned and was not without sacrifice. "I came back from Denmark to attend an important ceremony for my brother - he was being awarded an entrepreneurial award from The Sampoerna Foundation. The Sampoerna family invited me to cook for them in Jakarta. Coincidentally, Nando was in town. So i asked him if he wanted to help out with the private dining service. After doing five months of private dining on and off, we started the pop-up. We made the decision to commit ourselves full-time to G48." says Wibowo. At the time, Sindu was managing a salad bar in Singapore and could only come back to Jakarta once every two weeks.

Their efforts paid off. As eight months after working full-time on their private dining business. Union Group approached them and offered them the opportunity of a life time. As Sindu remembers: "Benedict happened after we were invited to do a pop-up at Union Group's Cork&Screw. Union is very careful in selecting who they partner with. Before us, the hippest private dining service was run by Adhika Maxi and Karen Carlotta, who are now working with Union Group as well. Ivan and i have always wanted to do something completely different. The brand G48 has become really attached to us and we've started doing consulting and demos, as well as private dining for embassies and corporate events that cater to hundreds of people. For a food business to be succesful in Jakarta, it needs to adapt to the market which is very diverse and dynamic. We believe that good food will always make people come back. We don't consider ourselves business savvy or kitchen savvy but we know how to dictate the market. At the same time being in touch with what the market wants."

Sindu and Wibowo are now focused on making the newly opened Benedict a success. The restaurant located in Grand Indonesia's East Mall serves an all-day gourmet breakfast menu which include eggs Benedict, hot pressed sandwiches, Scotch Eggs and the restaurant's signature Egg in A Jar. Dishes inspired by the chefs culinary experiences abroad. "We've catered to a three-day private event and survived on only 3 hours of sleep. But since coming back to Indonesia, Benedict has been the most difficult challenge especially dealing with the kitchen staff that has a different work ethic and culture, the consistency of the food. When we first opened Benedict, we worked a month without a break, from morning till night to make sure the food is good." explains Wibowo.

To have two chefs working in one team can be challenging because we both have our own ego. But two heads are better than one." shares Wibowo, who believes that both of them complement each other's ideas and skills, helping each other to grow and learn. Sindu adds: "We really feed off each other's energy. We both have different cooking philosophies. but we work towards a vision. We think of each other as a part of a team, part of the brands we have created. We want the food to take centre stage."

It published in Prestige May 2015.