IT’S NO EASY THING
to look at the legion of talents now active in the city and say that any one chef is “the best”. However–after many meals and much animated discussion–it was clear that one individual deserved recognition for his superior techniques and astounding creativity, as well as for his above-and-beyond dedication to modernizing Indonesian cuisine and defense of the archipelago’s many culinary traditions.
Ragil Imam Wibowo is that chef. A 20-year culinary veteran, Ragil has worked in several hotels in the capital and pioneered several restaurants, such as Warung Pasta, the Asian bistro Ginger Li and Segarra, a seafood restaurant at Ancol beach in North Jakarta.
Along the way, he’s picked up a host of well-deserved accolades. Ragil is a five-time winner for Western cooking at the Allez Cuisine competition and a gold medalist for the Salon Culinaire in Jakarta. On television, he’s hosted the Makan Besar (Big Feast) show and appeared on Iron Chef Indonesia . Chef’s latest venture–NUSA Indonesian Gastronomy, which was also named one of the city’s best fine-dining restaurants by the Jakarta’s Best Eats Awards–has been a basecamp for Ragil’s deep exploration of Indonesian cuisine.
As a knowledgeable, wayfaring gourmet, Ragil has spent the better part of a decade in remote parts of the archipelago, chasing down rarely used ingredients.
Along the way, Ragil has learned seldom-seen cooking techniques–and brought them back to NUSA, where he offers two seatings per evening to share his improvisations on traditional Indonesian cuisine with diners. Look into his kitchen and you’ll find langsamrice cookers and a Balinese clay stove. Although farm-to-table cuisine is no easy thing in Indonesia, Ragil has excelled at the challenge, forging relationships with farmers in distant villages that are not on Google Maps, all of whom help him keep NUSA’s larders stocked with the exotic.
Ragil’s vanquished three impossibles: crafting Indonesian cuisine to meet contemporary tastes and standards; riffing on traditional, tough-to-source ingredients; and thriving in the city’s increasingly competitive fine-dining environment.
The jury is pleased to name Chef Ragil Imam Wibowo as Chef of the Year (cr)