Open Table Popping Up for Bandung's Foodies

Article from The Jakarta Globe. 

            Jakarta, 2015. haring a meal at a nice restaurant together with family and friends is certainly one of the most popular pastimes among urbanites in Indonesia. But dining at a pop-up restaurant offers a unique alternative to eating out as it is a completely different experience.
            Temporary restaurants, often opened in underused spaces and locations, not only makes the guests feel special but also gives the creators and chefs the opportunity to showcase their culinary creativity. Pop-up restaurants have gained popularity in Britain and the US since the early 2000s but it was not until a few years ago that the concept took hold across the globe and made its way to Indonesia.
            Arifin Windarman, a product designer and chef from Bandung, was fascinated by the idea. When he met his good friend Lukman Gunawan, a graphic designer with a fondness for seafood, at a restaurant and the conversation topic began cruising around pop-up restaurants, they decided to bring this new trend to their own city — and Open Table was born.
            “We wanted to introduce a new concept of dining that brings people together who relate to one another through fun and love, because we strongly believe that the culinary world is not only about food,” Arifin recalls. Lukman and Arifin share the same passion for cooking, and, according to Arifin, complement each other perfectly as business partners. “I’m a proton, Lukman is a neutron — we charge each other and then blend in the same playing area,” he explains.
            Open Table events come in two different formats: either Arifin and Lukman organize a session, or they are hired by companies or individuals to do so, often in collaboration with other restaurants or party organizers. The culinary duo not only creates the different courses for the event, but also helps to take care of the decoration — from setting up the long dining table in meticulous detail by folding the napkins and blowing up balloons, to creating visually attractive menus and place cards.
            “Since I currently also work as a product designer and run a restaurant and coffee bar, I can combine all these skills for our Open Table,” the 38-year-old Arifin says. “Product design has helped me work better in the kitchen as well.”
            While Arifin has been interested in cooking since high school, when he first tried his hand in preparing meals for friends and family, it was only in 2004 that he chose to follow his passion and make a career out of it. “But honestly, cooking has never been about money for me,” he explains. “I simply want to share my love for food with others.”
            Open Table can cater to groups between 30 and 50 people and most of the customers are young professionals looking for something extraordinary; and both Arifin and Lukman are open to adjust the menu to individual wishes. “Everyone can come and propose their favorite menu and theme for the party,” says Arifin, who describes himself as a meat lover. Birthday parties, weddings, anniversaries — no matter what the occasion, Arifin tries to make sure that Open Table, often held in picnic-style in open spaces like parks, near a riverbank or in a paddy field, is a cheerful event for everyone involved.
            “We see it as our duty to please everyone, by cooking food they enjoy and by creating an atmosphere of happiness – that really is the whole concept behind Open Table, it’s as simple as that,” he explains. “Prepare with fun, cook with love and serve with pride.”
            While Open Table is a side business for Arifin and Lukman, they are not big on marketing and promotion. “Basically, Open Table is like pay-it-forward games,” Arifin says. “If you had a good time at one of our events, you will spread the word and share the joy with your friends, and they in return will tell their friends, and that’s how it works.”
            He adds that he feels the mission of Open Table is accomplished when he sees that his guests enjoy themselves and the food on their table. As Open Table has already been established as a successful concept in the city of Bandung over the past few years, Arifin and Lukman are now making plans to expand. “This year, we would like to bring Open Table to Jakarta as well,” Arifin says. “Whereas in 2016, we hope to be able to organize some events abroad.”  (P)


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