This week, food-making gets a whole new meaning at “Cook for a Cause”, a joint series of event by Happy Hearts Indonesia and Modena. Two home cooks, Yvonne Yuen and Duangporn “Pop” Achanai, and restaurateur / French chef Gilles Marx, hold specialty classes for eager foodies at Modena Experience Center, South Jakarta. The event culminates with a gala dinner at Keraton at The Plaza, tomorrow night (September 15).
Prestige talks to Yvonne Yuen, right after her overbooked Chinese cooking class yesterday. The former Prestige cover girl and cooking show host prepared three Chinese comfort dishes – Fish Soup with Chinese Herbal, Orange Chicken and Fried Wantan (dumpling).
How did your class go?
It went quite well, more than 40 people came. I was nervous before the class, but glad to finish everything within two hours. The class was actually quite serious, the participants were responsive and they had a lot of questions. I think they enjoyed it.
Were the students well-informed about Chinese cooking?
Some of them cook, some don’t. They came just to support the cause, which was very nice.
When and why did you start cooking?
I moved to Indonesia when I was 19, and I was missing my hometown a lot (Yvonne was originally from Shanghai, and moved to Hong Kong before residing in Jakarta). Back then, I didn’t know how to cook. I was intrigued, though. I always watched my a yi (aunty in Chinese), grandma and maid, so I started learning from what I remembered.
Cooking was, and is, always very sentimental to me. When I taste flavours that were similar to those of my hometown, I am comforted. Food becomes a comfort for the palate, also the heart.
How easy is it to find traditional Chinese herbs in Indonesia?
Most of them are available here, although some are not as high quality as the ones in China. At my class today, I made sure all the ingredients were available locally.
Besides family, who do you usually cook for?
My friends who love food. Sometimes I host them at home, or at the cooking studio on the second floor of Emilie (a noted French restaurant in Senopati, South Jakarta). My children are all grown up, so I have a lot of time. Cooking is now a big part of my life.
Tomorrow, we’ll be preparing the gala dinner, and Chef Yen from Emilie is going to help out with the plating.
When did you start teaching?
At first, I didn’t want to teach. I was quite selfish. I want all the knowledge for myself. But my friends asked me to teach them, and after a few years I gave it a try. It turned out I enjoy it. Nowadays, I share my recipes with those who want them.
How did you learn to teach?
The more I learn about cooking, the more there is to learn. During my early years of cooking, I used to take classes in Hong Kong during my homecoming. I felt that I needed to learn the ways of teaching. I could cook, but I didn’t know how to teach.
Why did you decide to be involved in this Happy Hearts’ initiative?
I met Sylvia (Beiwinkler, CEO of Happy Hearts Indonesia) at a dinner in April, and we got talking. I have known Happy Hearts for a few years, but I wasn’t actively participating in their activities. Now that I’m given the opportunity, of course I go for it. I try to do charity as much as I can. I hope the event raises as much fund as possible.
For further information on the gala dinner, contact Grace Eirene at email@example.com and +6221 536 4488.