No amount of thunderstorm and extreme humidity could stop all the fun from happening in Ismaya Live’s Jakarta Culinary Feastival 2017. The event that took place in Senayan City from 16-19 November 2017 was back after a too-long five-year break, and things were merrier than ever.
Two mega-sized tents, dozens of culinary stars, endless options of food to eat, and numerous talkshows. No matter who you are—foodie, coffee snob, budding F&B business owner or home cook—if eating, cooking, or anything related to that is a hobby of yours, Jakarta Culinary Feastival 2017 was definitely an event you would have not wanted to miss.
Staying true to the implication of its name, the Fork Tent was where to go to stuff yourself with dessert and drink too many cups of coffee. Big names such as Beau, Dough Darlings, Nomz, Common Grounds, and Anomali participated. But don’t discount the less-familiar brands, as hidden gems could be found lurking everywhere.
Right in the middle of the Fork Tent was the Dessert/Coffee Stage, which held coffee cupping sessions and snacks or desserts showcases. Walk a little bit farther to reach the cooking theater, where you got to watch world-class chefs in action (and sample, if you were lucky enough to beat the enthusiastic crowd) and learn a thing or two from them. Where else you could taste the funky dessert combination of mango and kluwek created by Chris Salans, one of the Iron Chefs, without paying for anything?
On the other side of the mall was the Spoon Tent, the venue for savories. There were twenty top-selling Go-Food eateries and pop-up booths from Asia’s best, including Singapore’s Michelin-starred The Song of India and a regular in World’s Best 50, Tippling Club. The semi-outdoor Mari Stage was witness to talkshows, mostly related to social media and F&B business. If those don’t sound “foodie” enough for you, the more complex Chef to Table was ready to entice you with multiple-course meal.
What could have gone better
As a person who experienced the same festival five years ago, I believe JCF 2017 had room for improvements, including the too-familiar chef line-up. For instance, yes, Chef Ryan Clift is a very inspiring person, but he was here before and technically one could easily fly to Singapore to dine at his restaurant. I think the missing piece was a chef figure that would have made people drop whatever they were doing and happily brave the notorious Jakarta traffic just to see this person in action.
Perhaps this lack of excitement stemmed from the absence of purpose. To this very day, I still remember being completely in awe of the food from Will Meyrick and William Wongso’s collaboration in JCF 2012. Two different people, two different cooking styles, one highlight: Indonesian food. There was a sense of mission, to give a bigger platform for our cuisine. With all the progress that Indonesian food has made in the past few years, JCF 2017 missed the opportunity to underline that even further.
Another point at issue was the choice of venue. Setting up two tents in the middle of the rainy season was probably not the best idea, as mini-leaks and sudden electricity loss were just unavoidable. Commuting between the tents was a hassle, as the two were separated by a five-minute walk. It was also hard not to notice the lack of thoughts that went into the booth design, particularly in the Spoon Tent. For once, the black-text-on-white-background setting felt lazy, not sophisticated.
Mari Stage, situated next to the Go-Food eateries area, was problematic. It was not accommodating enough to create a compelling talkshow. The awkward seating position provided in front of those eateries made it hard for diners to listen to the talkshow, while people standing in front of the stage were not in a very comfortable spot as well. And can you really talk about something valuable comprehensively in just 40 minutes? No screen, no projectors, and the speakers had to fight with the loud rain sometimes. Looking at the massive foodie scene in Jakarta, it’s also a missed opportunity that JCF 2017 did not involve them in talking about more engaging food topics. Instead of giving food for thoughts, the talkshows in JCF 2017 felt somewhat frivolous. Almost like a filler.
Kudos to Ismaya Live for organizing Jakarta Culinary Feastival 2017. It was jam packed full of good food in an all-round good atmosphere. Despite my write-up, I understand that JCF 2017 was trying to appeal to the mass market, which was completely fine, as we always need that. Too bad that the festival gave the impression of just another food bazaar instead of an event for true foodies. The preparations appeared to be rushed and the execution lacked oomph, particularly when set side by side with its older and more refined predecessor in 2012. Having said that, JCF 2017 was better than no JCF, and hopefully the next one will not take another five years to happen. And please bring back the Wine and Cheese area, pretty please?