Andrian Ishak

Molecular Gastronomer - Namaaz Dining | On the nature of creative ideas, approaching food as an artist and musician, and the culinary arts as the ultimate multisensory experience.

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I’m not really into winning anything. I simply want to create and express myself in a way where no one can tell me what to do, and how to do it.”

Andrian Ishak


Founder & Chef | Namaaz Dining
On the nature of creative ideas, approaching food as an artist and musician, and the culinary arts as the ultimate multisensory experience.

 

Tempeh under the guise of cotton candy, rehydrated watermelon slices that look and feel more like beef carpaccio – these are a few of the elaborate and delicate culinary inventions of Andrian Ishak, a curious molecular gastronomy chef, hell bent on expanding our perceptions of institutional Indonesian Cuisine.

Despite gaining attention in recent years (most notably getting continuous smoke to blow from talk show host Sara Sechan’s mouth and nostrils), it comes as a surprise that he only recently has begun his immersion into the culinary arts.

Having originally played his trade as a musician and artist, Andrian is a man at the captivating intersection of food, arts and music. Anchored in this unique position, he feels liberated, allowing freedom to give birth to a holistic curation of the senses.

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Image Credit : Anggara Mahendra

The result? An unorthodox approach with a Willy Wonka-esque imagination and the showmanship to match. Think of a dining experience where a chef blasts music from  Mötley Crüe and plays along with his electric guitar while your dessert explodes and ­­­crackles on the plate before you, culminating in a tossing of liquid nitrogen in the air that evaporates into a thick cloud of cold smoke.

It is this indeed this exciting permeation between crafts gives that has given notoriety to the multisensory 17-course dining experience of his restaurant, Namaaz in Jakarta.

Manusia was invited to interview some of the speakers of Southeast Asia’s leading culinary event, the Ubud Food Festival where we had a short interview with Andrian. A pure joy emanates from him as we find out where he get’s the creativity to transcend taste and to question the existing boundaries of food, his background as an artist and musician, and the Indonesian dish that describes him the most!

 

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You came from a background of arts and music, and said yourself that you were a late bloomer in the culinary arts. What parallels and differences do you see between your approach to Art and Music, and Food?

 

I think the main difference is that the culinary arts involve all of your senses. In music, you can hear beautiful songs, and get some form of visualization from concerts and music videos, but somehow you’re missing the sense of “touch” when it comes to the final product you make; you can’t really touch music.

It’s the same in terms of emotions that come from the act of listening. We can feel a lot when listening, but it’s all a very internal process.

I did a lot of painting too, but again, it was mostly about entertaining myself in what I saw visually. It was missing a lot – the hearing, and tasting parts.

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Image Credit : Anggara Mahendra

“We can feel a lot when listening, but it’s all a very internal process.”

So it was interesting to approach the culinary arts from that background. When we talk about the culinary arts, we seem to focus mostly on taste. But somehow, the dynamic nature of molecular gastronomy became very liberating for me, in that I could express my artistic side and incorporate all the senses.

I decided to incorporate music, and enhance sight. I put laser shows in the restaurant, and use smoke like in concerts – but I make smoke out of Pandan and Rendang! Can you imagine that? It’s an elaborate form of art. That’s what I love about this craft.

Coming at it from this angle forces you first study and think about the way we see our food and the culture behind it, especially in Indonesia.

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“The dynamic nature of molecular gastronomy became very liberating for me, in that I could express my artistic side, along with all the senses.”


You’re very much a person who’s pushing the boundaries of what we perceive as food here in Indonesia. Is creativity something you’ve always felt you had, or was it something you’ve developed over time?

 

I’ve always loved and have been involved in art ever since I was a kid. When I drew, I took serious intention in it – my drawings always had to mean something.

I remember now, there was a painting competition I once took part in, and instead of using regular paints, I used a typewriter to paint a robot with the letters ‘X’ and ‘O’, and that blew away the judges.  So, creativity was always with me.

But I’m not really into winning anything, I simply want to create and express myself in a way where no one can tell me what to do and how to do it.

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Image Credit : Anggara Mahendra

“I’m not really into winning anything, I simply want to create and express myself in a way where no one can tell me what to do and how to do it.”


When you look for an idea for any aspect of the multisensory experience you provide in Namaaz, where do you usually start? What’s the process like for you?

 

First of all, for me, the very idea of creativity is abstract. You can’t really find anything that directly teaches you how to be creative. You can learn all the techniques from books, and chefs, you can find all the best ingredients and markets anywhere around the world, but creative ideas still seem to come from nowhere. I don’t really need to know where to go to be creative.

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Image Credit : Anggara Mahendra

“The very idea of creativity is abstract.”

I usually get ideas when I go travelling, but sometimes I don’t find what I’m looking for. But on any other given day, like going to the ATM, it can come!

That’s creativity. It’s about keeping your mind open.

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Image Credit : Anggara Mahendra


What is one Indonesian dish that describes you the most?

 

Martabak! and It’s for sentimental reasons.

In primary school, I wanted to learn guitar from my neighbor, but he asked me to pay him. My parents didn’t want me to learn guitar and didn’t want to help pay.

I negotiated a deal to cook him martabak instead. I went to a street vendor and learned how to make it, and it was the first thing I learned how to cook!

It’s for that reason that Martabak is the only dish that I choose to not deconstruct and leave in its pure form, just to preserve that memory.


 

If you would like to get in touch with Andrian you can email him at:

andrianishak@namaazdining.com

Instagram: @andrianishak

If you would like to know more about Namaaz, visit:

https://www.namaazdining.com/

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