At a recent diplomatic reception in Dubai celebrating the 78th Indonesian Independence Day, a standout figure, Idin Asmitha, a 49-year-old long-time UAE resident, not only delighted diplomats and dignitaries with his culinary creations but had previously been tasked with preparing meals for the President of Indonesia, the fourth most populous country globally.
Idin’s role for the evening was to showcase his country’s culinary traditions, leading a team of around 30 cooks and kitchen staff. The menu featured Indonesian favorites, including nasi goreng, chicken satay, tempeh, soto ayam (chicken soup), beef rendang, and more.
What they accomplished, in diplomatic terms, is referred to as gastrodiplomacy or cultural diplomacy through the promotion and sharing of unique local cuisine. As Idin pointed out, “People always come together around food,” making it a valuable way to share values, culture, and tradition.
Idin and his team went beyond just serving food; they also explained the details and origins of each dish to foreign and local dignitaries.
This wasn’t Idin’s first experience preparing meals for VIPs. He had previously been requested to prepare authentic Indonesian meals for President Joko Widodo, who is a frequent visitor to the UAE. Serving the leader of over 270 million Indonesians and the fourth-largest country in the world in terms of population was a significant career highlight for Idin.
In his culinary profession, Idin is considered a VIP, recently being included in the Top 50 Executive Chef Power List 2023 in the region, which features over 1,000 excellent and highly-competitive chefs. According to him, his attitude and commitment to hard work played a significant role in his success. He emphasized the importance of serving with a smile, as one’s attitude reflects in the food.
Idin’s culinary journey began in Indonesia and took him to various hotels and positions before moving to Dubai in 2000. He worked his way up from a demi chef de partie to his current role as an executive chef overseeing various restaurants at Media Rotana Hotel.
Throughout his three-decade career, Idin diligently recorded recipes and procedures in notebooks, as mentorship and personal guidance were the norm during his early years. He has learned from renowned chefs and has written down their teachings, accumulating several notebooks of recipes to pass down to his apprentices. He underscores the importance of hard work, passion, creativity, and enthusiasm as the key recipes for success in the culinary world.