Sat, 01 Feb 2003

The boys really start cooking at the Dharmawangsa

Fitri Wulandari The Jakarta Post Jakarta

What can men do to reinvigorate their normal routine of stressful work, other than watching sports, going to clubs or golfing? Some probably will engage in those traditional male activities, but some others are signing up for cooking classes.

Today's modern men have definitely become more open-minded and regard cooking as an art and a fresh activity to break up the monotony of their routine.

The Dharmawangsa Hotel organizes just such a class once a month.

However, this is not just a cooking class where participants learn cooking from scratch.

Participants do not only enjoy a relaxing evening over cigars, wine and good food, but learn gourmet cooking from a international-acclaimed master chefs, who conduct the course in English.

During one recent class, the participants learned to make modern French cuisine from master chef Gilles Marx from Australia's One Broke Road restaurant.

Check out the menu: Smoked duck breast and duck gizzard salad on yellow frisse in warm red wine vinaigrette followed by light watercress cream soup with sevruga caviar.

The list of mouthwatering food continued with Pan-fried halibut filet yellow chanterelle and black trompette mushroom with tagliatelle pasta in a mushroom cappuccino sauce topped off with oven roasted lamb loin scented with basil, artichoke ratatouille and pommes pailles.

The evening class closed with Bittersweet chocolate mousse mille feuille with orange scented figs.

"Basically, I enjoy good food and cooking. I want to know how the chefs prepare these dishes, that's why I'm taking the class," Wiweko Adi Nugroho, told The Jakarta Post, adding that it was his first time at such a class.

The 30-year-old employee of the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (IBRA), Wiweko learned about the cooking class from his friend who works at the hotel.

Eng Fook Hoong, a 48-year-old Singaporean businessman expressed a similar opinion, "I enjoy preparing food. And the cooking class is not so different from some traditional cooking, but it just does it with more passion".

The class, launched in October last year, has gained popularity among male business executives in Jakarta.

Held once a month, it features different gourmet cooking and master chefs.

To sign up for the class, the Dharmawangsa charges Rp 350,000 and each participant is required to bring their own wine.

While cooking may not be popular among Indonesian men who traditionally consider cooking strictly women's work, the class does have almost an equal number of Indonesians and expatriates.

Most of the Indonesians admitted that they already had a strong cooking tradition at home.

"My dad is a good cook...He can cook better than my mother," Wiweko chuckled.

However, their desire to learn how to cook gourmet food is not their only motive.

It is a change of pace, a getaway from the routine and serious day-to-day business world.

"Cooking is just one of the many facets of my life. Some people like to go to movies, others go to soccer matches ...," Eng remarked.

"But here, we don't eat to survive but as a lifestyle. It's beyond survival," he added.

Unlike rookie Wiweko, Eng is a regular visitor to Dharmawangsa's male-only cooking class since the monthly program began six month ago.

He actually flies in from Singapore to attend once a month if does not happen to be in Jakarta on business that day.

"As a businessmen, I don't have much leisure time. I like to come here because I meet many people from different cultural backgrounds ... it's very refreshing," Eng remarked.

Luis Fernandes, general manager of the Dharmawangsa said that the idea to set up such a course was to give a unique, yet refreshing program for men.

"Men live in a stressful world that makes them tend to be too serious," Luis said.

"We want to have a program for men where they can meet people from other companies to have fun ... but it's still educational," he added.

The entire program is set up to create a casual, relaxing time for the boys.

The class atmosphere was indeed very relaxing. The men casually learned how the master chef prepared the dish over a glass of wine.

After the chef finished cooking one dish, his eager students all had a chance to taste their handiwork.

And then the conversation begins at the tables, mostly about the best places in town to shop for the right ingredients and exchange other cooking tips.

Before and after the class, the participants enjoy a cigar and wine session.

"The cigars, the wine and the cooking are all an appreciation of things made by hand. Cigars, wine and food are all made by hand," Luis explained.

In the end, Luis said, the whole program comes down to the basic aspects of dinner: "good wine, good cigars, good food and good company".

I-box The Men's Cooking Class at the Dharmawangsa Contact: Eming Phone: (021) 725-8181