Category Archives: life

How It Is Like Dating (or To Be Married To) A Chef: Expectations vs Reality

Standard
Basically what I do every moment, but change the donut to 'all kinds of food'.

Basically what I do every moment, but change the donut to ‘all kinds of food’.

I love food.

I really do.
I almost constantly think about what to eat. At night, I plan on what to eat for tomorrow’s breakfast and lunch. After I have my lunch of course I think about what to have for dinner. Then I have to choose a snack in between, wisely so I don’t add unnecessary weight to my already chubby thighs. Then comes dinner and I’m back to think what’s for breakfast. And it goes on and on and on, a never-ending food obsession.

So when one day fate decided that my soulmate is someone who happens to be a chef, well… that’s just perfect, isn’t it?!

Let me be clear first, the fact that he is a chef was not in any way the reason I fell in love with him. My feelings would still be the same if he was a dangdut singer, for example (well, yeah…. maybe not so much).  I never really made a big deal about what he does, actually. But when I started dating him a week or so and my friends got all excited saying stuff like ‘Wow, he’s a chef! You’re so lucky!’ or ‘Yaaay! Free food!” it got me thinking… is it really a big deal, dating a chef? But why?

 

Expectation #1: Dating a Chef = Free Food at His Restaurant

This seems to be the main assumption and the first thing people ask me when I tell them my boyfriend’s a chef. First of all, if every wife and husband and girlfriend and boyfriend of people who work in a restaurant can eat there for free, how do you think the restaurant will make money? Pretty sure their family members would just eat there 2-3 times a day, every day, if they don’t have to pay a single penny. Then the restaurant goes bankrupt in 3 months and they live happily ever after.

So no. I still have to pay for my food if I eat in the restaurant where he works. If he owns the restaurant, yes, maybe I can be entitled to free meals, but if he works in a restaurant owned by other people or a company, every food that comes out of the kitchen has to be paid.

Ok sure sometimes he put the bill under his name and he gets employee discount, and most of the times he pay for my food anyway so I don’t have to spend any money, but the food itself is never free.

The only time where the food is gratis is when he does food trials, making dishes for a new menu and letting some people try and taste it. Or, when we go to eat in a restaurant where he knows the chef, usually we get complimentary food or wine. Doesn’t happen very often, but when it does happen, I always shout ‘Yaaay! Free food!”

NEVER let free food goes to waste!

NEVER let free food goes to waste!

 

Expectation #2: Dating a Chef = Awesome Home-Cooked Meal Everyday

This is an important fact that everyone has to know: chefs don’t cook at home.
Seriously, they just don’t. Think of it this way, if you spend most of your days in the kitchen preparing food for other people (chefs usually don’t cook, they just supervise, but you get my point, right?), do you really think that once you get home you would want to cook some more?

I’ll tell you what he cooks at home (IF he cooks at all). Indomie. Yup, instant noodles. Which is basically the only thing I can cook anyway. Sure, he cook it the way a chef would cook it, with extra seasoning, extra garnish, in extra special way, but cooking Indomie isn’t really cooking. And that’s only when he’s in the mood to cook (or when he actually wants to eat Indomie himself), otherwise if I’m hungry he usually just order delivery from Pizza Hut or McDonald’s.

This is all what you can find in Matteo's kitchen.

This is all what you can find in Matteo’s kitchen.

Expectation #3: Dating a Chef = Exploring All the Restaurants and Food Places in Town When You’re Out On a Date

Here’s the thing about chefs. Just because they handle food, doesn’t necessarily mean they are obsessed by food. I mean, how can you be obsessed by something that you have to deal with for 10 hours per day everyday?

Sure, there are some chefs that are also a foodie, always want to check out a new indian restaurant that was just opened, to try out this new dish that everyone has been raving about, or to come and visit the competitors, but most of them they just don’t care. Usually they stick to their comfort food so if they love a good beef tartare they will go to this one place that has a good beef tartare and they will visit that place every time they want to eat beef tartare.

Oh and one other thing, they are VERY picky. I mean really…, the meanest, worst, food critics that you will ever know is a chef. Everything has to be perfect and up to their standard. They treat the food that comes to their table as a guest just as they treat food in the kitchen counter of their restaurant about to be delivered to the guests. And when they found something they didn’t like about how it’s plated, how it’s seasoned, how it’s chopped, how it’s cooked, or how it tasted, they will not stop complaining about it. So usually whenever I take my boyfriend to a new restaurant that I want to try, I always brace myself for the series of critiques like I’m watching Master Chef and I’m eating with Gordon Ramsay. My boyfriend is even worse, he critics also the spelling in the menu, if it’s in Italian. “It’s ossobuco, not osso bucco, and it’s one word!”

This is a nice chef compared to my bf when he find the word "macaroni" in the menu of Italian restaurant.

This is a nice chef compared to my bf when he find the word “macaroni” in the menu of Italian restaurant.

Expectation #4: Dating an Italian Chef = Eating a Lot of Italian Food

My boyfriend is Italian and he is a chef specialized in Italian food. So when we eat at the restaurant where he works, of course we will have Italian food. But when we eat out, trust me, he will never ever in a million years order Italian food. Heck, it would be a miracle if I could drag him to eat in an Italian restaurant that is not where he works.

The reason? Well why do they want to eat in a place where it serves the food that they know best how to cook? In the case of Italian chefs, ‘ESPECIALLY if the chef is not Italian.’ Trust me, they will avoid Italian restaurant where the chef is Japanese, for example. Usually they will avoid any Italian restaurants altogether. The only time I eat Italian food with my boyfriend is when it’s in his restaurants, or when he decided to cook it at home (happened maybe only 2-3 times), and when we were in Italy (no other choices, it was all Italian food in Italy, but hey at least it’s made by Italians!).

If the chef looks like this, it's a good enough Italian restaurant.

If the chef looks like this, then it’s a good Italian restaurant.

Expectation #5: Dating a Chef = Great! You Can Learn How to Cook Too!

Uhmm.. Why would I?
If you love to cook even before you met him, great. You can learn a few tricks from him, then. But if you’re like me, if you would prefer spending a bit more money eating out or ordering take-outs (or saving money by “cooking” instant noodles), when you have a chef boyfriend or husband it will still be the same. You have someone else in charge of the food, why should you be one too?

Plus, he will not stand it to see me trying to “cook”. He would just grab the pans and the spatula and the whatever it is that I have in my hand, and just finish cooking it for me (or cook an entirely new dish).

Most women feel that they want to spoil their man by cooking him a nice hot dinner, bla bla bla, Stepford Wives style, but if your man can cook 100 times better than you do, honey, don’t even try. Surprise him in bed instead.

Better cooks than I am.

Better cooks than I am.

Expectation #6: Dating a Chef = Watching A Lot of Cooking Show on TV

Oh how I love cooking shows! I never cook in my whole life but I love watching people cook on TV. And I love cooking competition shows (Master Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, Top Chef, Master Chef Junior, My Kitchen Rules… I watch all!). You would think my chef boyfriend will gladly watch the shows with me?

Not a chance.

When he knows how it is in the kitchen of a real restaurant, he doesn’t like to watch the dramatic version of it on TV. Or when some contestant of Master Chef is crying because Joe Bastianich complemented her dish, he would just say ‘Why?! It’s just a poached egg!”

I’ve tried watching some cooking shows with him and most of the times I can barely hear the audio coming from the TV because this chef sitting next to me was busy giving commentary on how they should not chop carrots like that, how they should not put this ingredients into that sauce, how stupid it is to praise a person who can put a plate of chicken soup, bla bla bla. From then on, I always watch my cooking shows alone, thank you.

I watch it because it reminds me of a telenovela.

I watch it because it reminds me of a telenovela.

Expectation #7: Dating a Chef = Dreams Come True

Well maybe, if the purpose of your life is to date or to marry a chef (are you okay?). But when your man is a chef, you will actually need extra patience.

For example, you do know that most restaurants closed at 10pm or even later, right?? That’s when the chef can come home. So if other couples go out for dinner or movies or hang out after work (that is around 7 or 8pm), it’s not like that with you. After work for your boyfriend means 11pm.. okay, sometimes 9.30pm if it’s something important, but you can’t do that too often.

And then, you also do know that restaurants are open also on weekends, right? Well at least here in Indonesia (and Asia in general) they open 7 days a week. And weekends are when it’s the busiest and the most crowded and making the most money. So usually, a chef’s day off is not on weekend. It’s only one day off, not 2 days like ‘normal’ people, and most of the times it’s not on weekend. So it’s even harder for you to plan a day together. Not to mention the headache when you have to plan a vacation together. Then when you’re away on an island getting a sun tan he will receive calls from work about a supplier sending the wrong piece of beef or a menu that has to be created for an event.

So no, it’s not exactly a “dream come true” nor it’s a perfect situation to be dating or marrying a chef, but of course it has some perks. I’ve mentioned about the food tasting before, then it’s also nice to be able to enter a restaurant where all the staff greets you by your name (I know, I’m vain that way), and even though he doesn’t cook that much at home, when he cooks… he really blows your mind.

Come to think of it, maybe for me dating a chef is not such a big deal. But according to my belly, it is.

-Lika

Advertisements

The Power of Dangdut: Stairway to Pantura

Standard

The very first Indonesian word i learned when i came to Jakarta the first time was “macet” (traffic jam). The second was dangdut.

Someone came to pick me up when i landed at the Soekarno Hatta airport and, after we dribbled the fake taxi drivers who ask 300.000 rupiah to get to the centre of the town (the average is about 120) and the guys who offer themselves to carry your luggage to the taxi for 100.000 rupiah, we finally stepped into a taxi, a real one. After 2 minutes we were already stuck in the jam, not moving at all.

“Macet” the taxi driver said, whose meaning i discovered to be “traffic jam”, a word that i could never forget anymore (we took 2 and half hour to get to Jakarta that day).

Can you see me? I'm the one in the blue car. (Bay Ismoyo/GettyImages)

Can you see me? I’m the one in the blue car.
(Bay Ismoyo/GettyImages)

So, well, we were there, in the traffic, the taxi was stinking of dirty feet and weird cigarette smoke, i was getting nervous, not a good start for sure but… From the speakers of the car a music was gently invading my mind. A music i never heard before, with an enchanting rhythm. A sweet flute, percussions and a thin feminine voice were drilling into my brain

“What the hell of music is this?” I asked to my friend.
“That’s dangdut, Indonesian music,” he answered.
“I love it,” i said. And since that day, like the word “macet”, dangdut never left me alone.

If you are Indonesian you know what i’m talking about. If you are not, go have a look on Youtube, digit dangdut and you will soon know what it is.

I have learned most of my English thanks to rock and roll. When i was a young teenager i was used to spend most of my time (at least the one spared from porn and video games) listening to old English rock, mostly from the ’70, digging into the lyrics and the music, and in this way i learned the language. Led Zeppelin, Queen, Deep Purple, Janis Joplin and Pink Floyd were my teachers. So i said, why don’t we give dangdut a chance? Who knows, maybe i can learn Bahasa Indonesia faster than i think. I was delusional.

If you approach Indonesian music you will soon discover that, if your target is the pop music, most of the songs are based on few words, repeated and mixed, but still the same words: “Cinta” (love), “Kangen” or “Rindu” (missing), “Selamanya” (for ever), “Putus” (break up), “Asmara” (romance) and few others. You can’t learn that much. Yes, you learn for sure how to say “I love you” to a girl, but not much more. The 90% of the pop songs are love songs and that’s it.

But if your target is dangdut, like it was mine, you have a larger range of scenarios to explore. Well… Not really.

Let’s divide the complete discography of dangdut in 2 parts: songs by female singers and songs by male singers.

I love dangdut but of course i’m not an expert, my knowledge is not that huge but I soon realised that, when you listen a dangdut song by female singers, the topics are just 2: sex (mostly as a victim) and cheating men. Period.

The lyrics of the songs by female dangdut singers picture a word full of bad guys, experts on cheating and lying, guys that have 3, 4 or even 5 wives, guys that only think about having sex no matter how, guys who make you pregnant and disappear, dudes who don’t come back home for 3 years already (tiga kali puasa, tiga kali lebaran…) and leave crying children and desperate wives, bastards that fucked you and then give you a wrong address so that you can’t find them, maniacs that marry another wife when they already have one or that goes fucking around young widows (janda muda).

Come on, it's already 3 years. Just give up.

Come on, it’s already 3 years. Just give up.

Well, if you listen a dangdut song and the singer is a sweet young lady, even if you don’t understand the lyrics don’t worry, she is talking about some piece of shit she met, someone who lied to her, fucked her in the darkness of a tea plantation, then left her alone, pregnant and hopeless. Unless the singer is not talking about her husband who has an affair or about getting money by making guys horny with her dance moves (sawer). So, still, i could not learn that much either.

When the singer is a man, the things are different, more stuff to learn, larger number of words to memorise. The problem is that, beside some old male singers, especially The King Rhoma (God keep him healthy), there are not so many male dangdut performers nowadays. You have to dig in the classics, which i did. The result was nice and so far the classic dangdut is still my favourite.

Now let me tell you something that might shock you, if you are Indonesian: “Kopi Dangdut”, yes, the famous song by Fahmi Sahab is not an original dangdut song. Believe it or not. I was in Indonesia for few months and i was humming a dangdut song I just learned (i think it was “Alamat Palsu”) when one of my guy in the kitchen asked me “Hey chef, do you like dangdut?” of course the answer was “I love it”, so that guy started to tell me about this legendary dangdut song, so famous that even a Japanese band did a cover of it. Soon we were in my office on YouTube listening to it. That’s how i knew “Kopi Dangdut” and yes, i did also listen to the Japanese version (which title is “Coffee Rumba”) but there was something in the deep of my brain that reminded me of my childhood, it was like i heard that song before. So i did a fast research on web and, as i expected, i found a song, from the ’60, with the same exact music. The singer was Mina, a very famous Italian old singer, and the title of the song is “Moliendo Cafe”. The version of Mina was a cover as well, in Spanish, of an instrumental song by Hugo Blanco, a Venezuelan musician, with the same title (that means “grinding coffe” in Spanish). They did more than 800 covers of that song all over the world and in Indonesia Fahmi Sahab did the dangdut version. I know it’s hard to find out the truth by an Italian chef but to support what i say i post the video of the version by Mina.

For most of the people in the world that was Mina singing Moliendo Cafe. For Indonesians that was a silly old Italian lady that made a cover of Kopi Dangdut almost 30 years before Fahmi Sahab wrote it

But let’s go back to the topic that is in the title “The Power of Dangdut”. Dangdut might not teach you to speak Bahasa Indonesia but it’s a very mighty tool to link with Indonesians. If you are in a group with some Indonesian fellas, you are maybe the only bule (white guy) and you feel a bit cut out of the conversation… Start singing a random dangdut song and everybody will start to smile, and sing with you. This is what happens to me, at least.

I work in the kitchens, I work with Indonesians, many Indonesians in a tough environment and when the tension raises in the kitchen, in busy time, when everybody is running trying to do their best with plenty things to do… What i have to do is start singing dangdut and i wipe out all the bad mood and the stress. Everybody around me start smiling, singing with me, screaming stuff like “Aseeekkk!!!!” (which means Cool!!!) and even if they are busy they drop the pans to raise their thumbs and start dancing (yes, because no matter how you move, no matter what you do, if your thumbs are up you already joget dangdut).

My knowledge of this music, all the time spent in front of my pc, listening to the dangdut songs was not worthless. In every moment i can cheer my guys up, bring a good mood to a stressful environment like the kitchen, just singing few verses of a dangdut song with my thumbs up. No more stress. Everybody works better and the time goes by faster. Do it and you are already a friend of them.

I made more friends thanks to dangdut than thanks to anything else in my life. Sometimes i go working in places where they don’t know me as i am (a crazy silly dude), just for few hours, doing cooking classes, cooking shows or demos and i always meet new people, Indonesians who think i’m the typical “bule sombong”, serious and a bit arrogant, someone to be afraid of. They respect me, they are so kind with me since the beginning, but when i start singing dangdut their faces light up, a smile soon appears on their lips and i’m soon one of them, a friend. They will work better and more relaxed and everybody enjoys.

If you are with a company a bit more sophisticated, with people who think dangdut is a music for villagers, for uneducated people… No matter. Try the experiment anyway and you will see that somehow it will be funny. They will also probably start singing some dangdut song that reminds them when they were kids and at the end everybody will smile.

It’s just that i find dangdut funny and enjoyable. It’s not the music, it’s not the lyrics (although there are some lyrics that, i swear, are funniest than any stand up comedian), it’s not just the dance… It’s all. It’s the attitude. It’s Indonesia in its most genuine aspect, the one i love and i’m addicted to. Forget all the shit, forget all the corruption, the problems and the contradictions of this country and go to the root, go to the soul of Indonesians. It’s more complicated than this, yes, but after all it’s this attitude that i love, the “dangdut attitude” as i call it, and i find it in most of the good people i daily meet.

I’m writing this article on a bus heading to Pantura the place i know as the centre of dangdut in west Java. My friends told me stories about that, magnifying it as the Eldorado for dangdut lovers: dangdut parties night and day, stages for concerts everywhere, sweet ladies dancing with their sexy moves on the streets, attracting horny guys from all around the kampung.

Look at this. How can people not like dangdut?!

Check this out. How can people not like dangdut?!

 

In my mind it’s a mix between heaven and hell, a place for lust and fun, full of crazy horny girls. And all this with the finest dangdut soundtrack ever. Of course i’m alone, Lika is not with me, and my pockets are full of “goceng” (the 5000 rupiah bills) for “sawer” (the “tips” you slip into the bra of the dangdut singers and dancers as compensation for their entertainment). All i wish is to meet Mela Barbie, my goddess, to donate her the necklace i personally did sewing 15 bills of 100.000 rupiah together. Wish me good luck.

Matteo