Joy A. Muchtar
Chinese restaurants in one part of the world are not like Chinese restaurants in another. Though the core items on the menu might be the same, the restaurants usually tweak their fare to suit local tastes, and local ingredients.
Jakarta is home to many Chinese restaurants, including one in North Jakarta that has Weda Renanti as its assistant manager. Weda, who has a background in the food industry, spends her days making sure things run smoothly. She can’t speak Chinese, but has learned enough to help her understand Chinese customers.
Today she tells My Jakarta about some of the challenges of hospitality in Jakarta.
How long have you been working at this restaurant?
I have been working at this restaurant since 2006.
What is the most famous dish here?
There are many, including seafood fried rice, prawns cooked with salted egg and the golden jade combination.
Do you like to eat Chinese food yourself?
Yes I do. [laughs]
When you go out to eat with your family, where do you usually go?
I like to go to sidewalk restaurants with my husband for seafood, and with my daughter I like to go to KFC.
What kind of food do you like?
Indonesian food. [laughs]
Are you a Muslim? How does it feel to work in a restaurant that serves dishes that contain pork?
There are some people who are fanatics, who refuse a job just because it involves working with pork.
I’m not like that. He [God] is the one who can see my actions and He’ll be the ultimate judge of that.
What do you want your daughter to be when she grows up?
I most definitely want my daughter to be in a better position than I am, but concerning the matter of profession, that would be her choice because it is her life. I am just here to lead her to a profession that is good for her future.
What exactly do you do here, as a manager of the restaurant?
I’m the assistant manager here, my responsibilities consist of day-to-day operations, scheduling the activities of my fellow workers and serving the customers.
If a Muslim accidentally eats pork without knowing its pork, what would you do?
The employees do not consume the same food that the customers eat, so the chance of that happening is highly improbable.
But if a Muslim customer came into this restaurant, I would make sure they do not accidentally get dishes that contain any pork.
How many customers do you usually get in a day?
We usually get more customers during the weekend than on weekdays.
We get a lot of businessmen and women for lunch on weekdays. Without reservations or a party in the restaurant, we usually get around 80 to 90 customers per day.
If you weren’t working in this restaurant, what would you be doing?
If I had the chance, I would open up my own store, probably selling food, because before I got this job I worked in the field of food.
If I had the money, I would open up my own warung [street stall] selling food and drinks.
What do you do with the leftover raw materials that aren’t used that day?
It depends on the food.
For example with porridge, if we made it in the morning and we still have some left by nighttime, we have to throw it away because it cannot be used again.
Do you like to cook?
Yes, I like to cook the dishes my husband and my daughter ask for.
What do you like to cook?
Soup, sauteed vegetables and fried chicken.
Can you speak Chinese?
A little bit maybe?
I can’t. [laughs] I can’t speak the language but I can recognize a few words and phrases, for example, when a customer says cha , I know that means tea. So I approach them and tell them what kinds of tea this restaurant provides.
I can only recognize a few, but not a lot. I only know the types of food. For example, if they ask for cai , I know that means vegetables. And when customers say mai dan , I know that means bill so I will get them their bill. I don’t know how to write the words. I just know them when I hear them.
Would you want to learn Mandarin someday?
Of course, if I had the chance. Maybe not now, but later, I’m already in my thirties, though. [laughs]
Weda Renanti was talking to Joy A. Muchtar.