The journey of a nation’s civilisation can be seen through the evolution of food. Food culture has been playing a very significant role since the beginning of humankind and its evolution is far from stopping. Together with civilisation, we have seen the role of food from taking part in history, politics, to technology. Having said that, food and design seem to grow in the same rhythm to complement each other. The new executive chef of Raffles Jakarta, Matias Ayala, is ready to show you his excellent culinary taste and also design presentation expertise.
Born and raised in a small city called San Lorenzo, about 400 km away from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Matias did not originally plan on becoming a chef. With a family background in construction, he pursued a technical field to become an electrician. His love for food started to grow, thanks to his father who really enjoyed cooking with Matias as his helper. This was the start for Matias to learn various cooking techniques and try all kinds of ingredients. It sparked his interest in and passion for food and he finally changed his career to become a chef.
Matias started working professionally in a kitchen when he was 18. He moved to Buenos Aires and lived there for seven years, working for the Orient Express and Park Hyatt under the guidance of highly trained chefs. From then on, his career has taken him around the world from New Zealand, Dubai (working at Burj Al Arab) to Doha, before finally arriving in Jakarta. This career journey has also developed him into an experienced chef in cross-cultural communication.
We had the chance to sit with the award-winning chef (Time Out Best South American Restaurant 2013, Time Out Best Nightlife Award 2015, Fact Award Best International Restaurant 2017) at Arts Cafe to find out more about his taste as well as his approach in design.
What was the flavour that first stayed in your memory? What do you think of Indonesian flavours?
I think the flavour I remember the most is Argentinean meat barbecue on Sunday “Asado”, not only because of the flavour, but also due to the aroma of burnt charcoal, and what “Asado” represents: reunion, get together with your loved ones, enjoying talking and sharing.
I’m always happy to have the chance to try and experience new flavours. Indonesian flavours are totally new for my palate and I find them really interesting. It’s great – the combination between acid, spicy and dry fish, as well as the diversity found in the regions.
What are the characteristics of your cooking? What defines your food?
My style is quite straightforward. I like comfort food that uses simple ingredients but executed exceptionally well. I believe great cooking means getting the most out of simple and basic ingredients. I think what defines my food is the focus on the flavour as the main component, keeping the dish simple but surprising on each bite.
What is your belief in good design?
It is very difficult to judge what is good design. Some designs can be excellent for creating effectiveness on a process though they might not be very aesthetic or vice versa. I personally like minimalistic design, where each element has space to be, and at the same time, the design is practical and effective.
How much do you incorporate design into your cooking?
Well, I love design and whenever it relates to creativity. I think every chef will continuously use and incorporate design elements to our cooking and presentation. Personally, I always try to use design to give my food the right look and to genuinely present the ingredients used.
I also love the idea of working directly with different artists, designers and suppliers when creating a dish for our buffet set up, or on our chinaware. I believe in having a collaboration like this and combining it with good quality food.
What should we expect from Raffles Jakarta’s F&B now that you’re here?
Raffles food is very unique, as it is created with love, care and passion from the team. These make a huge difference. We had several plans and projects for 2018 in terms of F&B, and we will continue to keep setting the trend in Jakarta by collaborating with renowned chefs. We will also renew the menu in our outlets and add some other new selections as well. We have a great plan for Ramadhan and very soon, we will also share some very exciting news on Writers bar. So yes, we have many projects to come.
What do you think about the food trend for this year?
I think for the last year, people, in general, has become more involved and passionate about food & drinks. Today’s expectations are related to value for money and guests, in general, are searching for casual and dynamic enjoyment that provide both great food and services. One more important point about current guest expectation is about the experience that they have while enjoying the meal. It is definitely a great challenge to continue creating new experiences in order to satisfy guests’ needs. In Raffles Jakarta, we are trying to be the forefront in the trend by creating new experiences for our guests to enjoy on daily basis.
How did it feel to prepare for Indonesia Design 14th Anniversary gala dinner?
It was really great! I am very happy and satisfied with the result, with the food that we served on that day. For me, this was the first opportunity in Indonesia to showcase a little bit about me and my team’s working style.