Head over to Fairgrounds in the Jakarta SCBD and you will spot a modern Japanese restaurant named Tori Ya. It’s located side by side with Kinokawa, a renowned Japanese eatery that was established 20 years ago and had its first outlet at Menara Thamrin. They both have the same management.
Tori Ya’s specialty is yakitori, and its gyutan is prized by foodies. Now it has a second outlet at Noble House in Mega Kuningan. Within the vibrant graffiti art-covered walls of Tori Ya there is a story of many sleepless nights for one determined, driven woman, Sharon Haliman. The 28-year-old restaurateur started building Tori Ya from scratch in 2014.
“Ten years ago, I forbade myself and my friends from working in the F&B industry,” she laughs. “My father (Alimansyah Haliman, the creator of Kinokawa and Endo) had been in the business for two decades and he was always so busy he rarely had a day off. I didn’t want to end up like that.”
Sharon comes to the restaurant with no makeup on. She is wearing her daily “uniform” of sneakers and a t-shirt. There’s a sporty aura about her. During the interview she mentions that she works out regularly. Although Tori Ya, in her words, “is not really healthy food”, she eats “clean” food on week days. “I cook my own healthy meals and I love making a healthy breakfast for my family as well,” she says.
Sharon is the living proof of “it is never too late to find your passion” and “hard work will always pays off”. Long before she decided to join the food industry, she was into fashion. She used to work as a storekeeper at American Eagle and Club Monaco in Vancouver. Both when she was still a Business Marketing student at University of British Columbia. Soon after she graduated in 2011, she went back to Indonesia with the spirit of entrepreneurship at heart.
“To train me as an entrepreneur, my father put me in his store at Tanah Abang market. We were selling wholesale jeans,” she says. “That was when I inspired to start my own boutique, Betty. I started from a very small corner at my father’s Alibaba Steak & Iga Bakar on Jl. K.H. Wahid Hasyim, selling only 20 clothes. They sold out in a minute, so I expanded to 40 pieces then 60 and to 100 pieces. Within three months, it became a complete boutique.”
Following her success, she open a branch of Betty at Alibaba in Pejaten Village and then a store at Melawai. “I remember going to China to buy clothes for Betty. It was really exhausting,” she recalls.
But the clothing business is getting competitive and hard. She also began to realise that fashion is not her passion at all so she turned her head to F&B. “My father gave me the idea and although I have no experience in this industry at all, I jumped right in. We discussed it and brainstorming what kind of restaurant I want to have. We flew to Japan for some inspirations. That’s how Tori Ya was born.”
Sharon is very hands-on with her business. This busy bee works seven days a week! She typically arrives at Tori Ya at 11 am and goes home at 10 pm. In between lunch and dinner, she manages an online health food store The Honest Grocer, where she sells various superfood and also her own homemade granola.
“From the beginning, my father advised me to be tough because this is a do or die business,” she declares. “The competition is really tight, so we have to do our very best to succeed in this industry. What I love about this business is that I can see the
progress, from zero to now. Yes, it’s exhausting, but I love what I’m doing. I’m grateful that I’m not one of those people who hate their job.”
Sharon is not only inspired by Japanese cuisine, but also by the Japanese work ethic. “Most Japanese restaurateurs open a maximum of two restaurants with the same concept,” she says. “They want to manage them very well and to do so with passion. I’m not aiming to have a lot of outlets for Tori Ya, but I will definitely stay in this business in the future, possibly in the health food industry. My other future plans is to go into food production.”
In the end, Sharon never forgets to be grateful for everything she has. “My goal is to live a fulfilling and humble life,” she says. Whatever she’s doing in the future, you can be sure she will be doing it with passion.
The full feature has been published in Prestige March 2017, The Food Issue. Click here to purchase.
Jewellery: Tiffany & Co.
Photography: Robin Alfian
Fashion Direction: Peter Zewet
Styling: Koko Namara
Hair: Inaro Ahmad
Location: Tori Ya at Noble House Building