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FIVE MINUTES WITH: Indonesian celebrity chef Farah Quinn

We chat to Indonesian celebrity chef Farah Quinn about her love affair with food, how she became a chef and her advice for home cooks.

You have your own television cooking show in Indonesia, Ala Chef. How long has the show been going and what does it cover?

The show has been going for four years. We travel around Indonesia and work with ingredients we find in the area but we make simple stuff. My show is for people at home that can do the same thing. Nothing complicated. We do some Asian but also food influenced by my travels.

How did you come to be a chef? What is your story?

My background is actually pastry. That’s what I went to school for and a lot of my professional experience all in the pastry kitchen.

When I was 16 I moved to the US as a foreign exchange student and attended college there. I’ve always had a passion for cooking and being in the kitchen. It was more a hobby for me because when I was growing up in Indonesia the culinary industry wasn’t very big, and a lot of people have housemaids.

I never thought I wanted to be a cook but one day my [American] housemate said ‘Farah, you are such a good cook. I have a friend who is a pastry chef’. That was first time I had heard the words ‘pastry chef’ and I fell in love. I did some research and decided I wanted to go to school for that.

How would you describe your love affair with food?

Food is part of my life. It’s something that always makes me happy. Even with my crazy schedule now, when I come home the first thing I do is make something in the kitchen. I just can’t get away from it. Now I make a living from cooking and I love it.

One day I will retire from TV but I’m always going to be cooking and baking in my house. It’s something I just really enjoy.

What is your earliest food memory?

I remember when my mum taught me my first recipe. I was five. It was seaweed jelly [dessert]. There was a technique to make it look like there is seaweed in a mould. That’s when I first fell in love with cooking.

What is your advice for home cooks?

Don’t be afraid to go into the kitchen. A lot of people think it’s really complicated. I’m a career woman and a mum and I’m so busy but there is always time to whip up something in the kitchen.

What you serve up in kitchen is very important because it’s what you put in your mouth, and what your family is eating. So don’t be afraid. If you have a willingness to learn you can do it. There are so many ways to do simple cooking.

What is your favourite food?

Pastries but I love anything sweet. It just depends on my mood. I’m a big fan of chocolate too and I also love meringue.

You are known as ‘the sexy chef’ and there is a perception that you’re a model. How do you keep in such great shape?

I don’t do modelling. A lot of people say that, I don’t know why. Keeping in shape is hard work. I’m really disciplined and I try to balance out everything. I exercise and eat healthily so I can indulge when I have special events. At home I eat a lot of uncooked stuff like raw vegetables.

What is an example of an easy recipe you like to prepare?

I love stuffed French toast. I make it for my son, Armand [five years old. His birthday is April 18 so he will be six years on April 18, 2013]. I use wholemeal bread and stuff it with cream cheese, honey, and a slice of banana, and just make a sandwich. Dip it in French toast batter (eggs, milk, vanilla and cinnamon) and there you go – a quick, easy, fabulous breakfast.

What is your advice for people wanting to become a chef?

Just follow your passion. Being in the kitchen is not as glamorous as what you think. I started from the very bottom as an intern in a resort and it’s really hard work. If that’s what you really want, stay focused and work hard and it will take you somewhere. But of course it needs to be your passion.

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