Malaysia’s success of becoming champion in World Pastry Cup 2019 boosted APCA Malaysia’s reputation as one of the world’s best pastry schools. The Malaysian team that consisted of Tan Wei Loon, Otto Tay, and Loi Ming Ai, are part of APCA Malaysia’s family, and suddenly, the other countries in South East Asia wanted to be part of APCA, including Indonesia.
His name is identical to Tulip Chocolate, however in 2019, Louis Tanuhadi took the giant step to pursue his idealism by establishing APCA Indonesia. We met the Director of APCA Indonesia to dig deeper into the reason behind his decision, his idealism, to APCA’s competitive edge compared to similar pastry schools or courses.
Why did you decide to open APCA in Indonesia?
Actually, it’s an idealist project. For the last few years, I’m very eager to join competitions. With Tulip Chocolate and PT. Nirwana Lestari, I obliged all members of our technical team to compete.
However, if you want to go further,
everything began with a simple question: why Indonesian chefs are highly sought after in Middle East? We got 2 answers: they demand lower salary, I mean, their performance is higher than their salary demand, second, they’re rather submissive. When pastry chefs from other countries often complain, Indonesian chefs will work extra hours voluntarily. In short, I want Indonesian chefs to be famous not because they’re cheap and submissive, but because of the skill and knowledge. Actually, we had great potential in art, just look at Bali, we have many great artists, but unfortunately, in international stage, and somehow our skills are not appreciated properly. After joining competitions for years, I had the answer: we don’t have an institution that really cares about educating the young generations to be real chefs.
What sort of instutition? Like APCA?
But, don’t we have some schools and courses already?
True, but most schools only taught the academic side, not the skills, actually the job is all about the skills. In other countries, like China and Korea, the skill education began since they’re 16 with 90% of the focus on practical skills, meanwhile in Indonesia, it’s only around 30-40%, the rest are academic stuffs. I wouldn’t say theory is not important, nor I’d say the formal education is wrong, because we always have someone who wants to work in culinary management, like an F&B Director, for example. But if you want to be a professional chef in a kitchen, you need to focus on the practical aspects, there’s no other way!
Since when you had the idea of opening APCA in Indonesia?
I’ve known Niklesh Sharma (APCA’s founder, also Managing Director) and Jean Francois Arnaud for quite a while. After his success of opening APCA in Malaysia and India, actually Niklesh asked me to join and open APCA in Indonesia, at that time, I was still focusing on my job (Tulip Chocolate), but along the way, my mindset began to change.
What actually happened?
In some occasions, I invited international chefs to teach in Indonesia, but I had numerous rejections. “Sorry, I work for other chocolate company, meanwhile you represent Tulip, we can’t work together,” that’s what they usually said. For example, once I invited Otto Tay to Indonesia, after that, he had conflict with the chocolate company that sponsored him. According to them, Otto should not associated with other chocolate companies.
So, the concern was merely on the brand?
There are others. Whenever I brought Indonesian teams to join international competitions, we have many challenges. The biggest one is, we still had the old education system. I mean, in martial arts, if someone has 10 moves, the students will also have the same 10 moves, there’s no progress.
One of the reasons behind Malaysia’s vast pastry development, is the presence of Asia Pastry Forum. In short, every November, APCA Malaysia invites the best pastry chefs all around the world to come to Malaysia and teach with one objective: profit, to be brutally honest with you. While the Master Chefs are teaching, they got help from the local assitants from APCA Malaysia, so their skills continually developed. In Indonesia, the objective of inviting pastry chefs from abroad is still about making profit, but we haven’t got a permanent team to absorb the knowledge.
This year, I plan to hold similar concept called Indonesia Pastry Forum in June 2020. I wouldn’t mind if we have few participants or suffer any loss, the point is, we will improve the skills of our chefs. It’s one of the reasons why I build APCA Indonesia.
Do you have any exact moment where you went, “this is it, I want to build APCA now!”?
In 2017, I met Niklesh, and he said APCA Malaysia has many students from Indonesia. Without student visa, they had to go from Indonesia to Malaysia back and forth, every month. It’s a business opportunity for us. The deciding moment was when Niklesh said, “Louis, I will open APCA Indonesia, with or without you.” Back then, Niklesh has managed to boost APCA Malaysia’s reputation, and his next target was to be the biggest pastry school in Asia. Finally, I ask my wife for permission, and took the giant leap.
Who’s the actual target audience of APCA Indonesia?
APCA is designed for people who want to focus on production, not the management.
You’ve just compared APCA to schools, what about the informal courses?
Courses teach you, “this is Budi’s mother, this is Budi’s father” meanwhile, we taught the ABCD to Z. Other informal schools might teach tou European cakes such as Black Forest, Sacher, and 5 other
recipes, but when someone ask you to make Strawberry Shortcake, you’d have no idea.
When I worked in France, I often bought cakes, slice them, took some pictures, and eat them. I observed each of the layers, from the jaconde, pastry cream, diplomat cream, to the decorations, like macarons, I took note of everything. When I returned to Indonesia, I can make the exact same product, although the taste might be different due to different supply of ingredients and brands. My point is, if you master the basic, you can make any products.
Please explain a bit about APCA Indonesia’s programs!
We have a 9 months program (pastry or culinary). During the first 3-6 month, we teach really basic, traditional stuffs, like croissant, I don’t even modify any of the recipes. In intermediate class, we started to introduce croissants with colored layers, to our dynamic advance class. I mean, the advance class will teach you the most modern, updated products. So, with the same basic knowledge, the menus that’s taught to students in batch 1 will be different to the one we give to the 5th batch students. To make it simple, it’s like iPhone, the current iPhone will have the most advance camera, but basically, the use the same iOS
APCA Indonesia has been running for a year already, is everything runs as expected? Or do you make any adjustments?
Run as expected… do you mean in term of education program or income?
Lol! Let’s just talk about the program!
So far, so good. The thing is, for our first batch, we had 7 students who are actually graduates from other famous universities, in fact there were none high school graduates. When they heard APCA finally opened its door in Indonesia, they decided to join rightaway, they felt their knowledge is still lacking. “It’s better for me to study for another 9 months to build solid foundation,” that’s what they said. Some of them actually wanted to enroll to APCA Malaysia, but the problem is, for education program below 1 year, they couldn’t get student visa.
In terms of achievements, I’m quite happy, as all of our 7 students managed to get medals in the culinary competitions held in 2019’s Food Hotel Indonesia (FHI). It showed us, when they joined competitions, the students already equipped with the above average skills, compared to students from other schools
Actually, what’s the correlation between students’ achievement in competition and school’s reputation?
For competition, I don’t really care about school’s reputation, it’s more to finding self confidence for the students. Look, when someone has graduated from school and wanted to start a culinary business, what will they do? Most will start by selling online in Instagram. I had many cases of online cake shops with graduates from famous culinary schools in America, Australia, showed disappointing products, most of the photos in Instagram are actually Photoshopped. Any businesses, be it in Instagram or anywhere else, that rely solely on lip service will never survive. What if, in Instagram, you don’t display the photo of the products, but
instead, your medals from competitions? At leat, people will buy because they believe you’re the best in your field, at the moment. The medals actually belong to the students, not APCA’s, you don’t even have to mention our school’s name. However, when one of our students displayed the medal, suddenly she got thousands of followers. When she’s ready to open a business, people no longer know her as “nobody”, but instead, as a champion. Just try it, when you apply for a job, wouldn’t it be better if you put the list of your achievements and medals from competitions, instead of writing some clichés such as “hard working”, “honest”, etc. That’s why, I often push my students to join competitions, it’s not for APCA, it’s for themselves
Then, what’s the correlation between competition and the growth of industry in general?
I can’t answer it directly. Look, when Malaysia became the chamion of 2019’s World Pastry Cup, people think they changed the standard, like what Frank Haasnoot did when he won the 2011’s World Chocolate Master. Previously, showpiece uses molds, but Malaysia and Haasnoot introduced new, advanced techniques, in the end, it will raise the standard of the competition. Tan Wei Loon amazed the world with his signature blown sugar, many French chefs even are willing to learn from him.
In addition, after Malaysis won, they held a gala dinner that was attended by big names in the industry and prepared the same products they made in World Pastry Cup 2019. Of course, the decision to apply similar techniques is up to the business owners, so the adaptation doesn’t happen overnight, but at least, they know the current level of development.
How much does the APCA Malaysia involved in Indonesia?
A week before Indonesia Pastry Cup that was held in July 14th 2019, Lim Chin Keng (member of Malaysian team in 2017’s World Pastry Cup, also an instructor in APCA Malaysia) saw the showpieces made by APCA Indonesia team, and he was upset. I couldn’t blame our team, because we’re still in that level of skill, at
After that, Lim came to Indonesia and basically rebuilt everything within a week. When Christian (APCA Indonesia) was taking a break for dinner, Lim scolded him, “what are you doing? I haven’t told you to stop!” They might work until midnight, but did you see the result? Much better than before, our standard has been raised, that’s what I want. To me, everything’s on track, it’s just a matter of how the adjust the level of passion, that’s all. When our chefs managed to become champion, it will boost the confidence of our future students to study here. They know they’ll get the best education from the champions. You see, it’s 19.15, but we still have students in class, even though they’ve been here since 09.00 am. Do you know any other school that has the same condition? For sugar class, we might even finish on midnight.
So, what are you trying to say?
APCA Indonesia is the perfect place for those with passion in this industry. Without passion, you might only be here for 3 months, for whatever reasons. But for those with passion, not a single student complained when they had to go home late. So, if you have the passion, and you believe it’s your way of life, this is a perfect place. Although I had to admit, my partners often complain, “Louis, it’s 09.00 pm already, but the school is still running, in terms of costing, it’s not profitable!” (laugh!).
I realize, we can’t change the standard overnight. It’s a long term plan, but how can we reach km 100 if we just sit still? Everything has its 0 km. Indonesia’s problem is, every year we always eager to join competition, but it’s not going on the right track and place, we have no one to guide us. To raise the standard, we need to have the right education institute first, that’s how Malaysia grow
One of the most frequent questions among students is about the certification, what sort of certificate will they get when they graduate?
Because in 9 months we’ll focus on practical skills, we can’t follow the government’s syllabus, as a result, our certificate can’t be considered as D1. On the other hand, we’ll give you certificate from City & Guilds, it’s a world awarding body based in London for vocational skills. You can say City & Guilds is like SNI or ISO. The City & Guilds’ certificate is approved all around the world, but most Indonesians are not familiar with this. That’s our selling point, if you search for any jobs all over the world, APCA graduates may use their City & Guilds certificate.