Chef Juna Rorimpandey is the owner and head chef of Correlate restaurant in South Jakarta. (Brilio/Correlate)
The celebrity chef takes us from his troubled start in life to his new restaurant Correlate.Blaise Hope 17 March 2017 16:15
Junior Rorimpandey, or Chef Juna, is Indonesia’s most famous chef.
The 41-year-old rose to fame when he hosted Indonesian Masterchef in 2011 and 2012. At the same time, he was the executive chef at one of Jakarta’s top restaurants, Jack Rabbit. Now, Juna heads his own restaurant - Correlate in South Jakarta.
But his journey hasn’t always been smooth. He shares his troubled beginning and his pathway to success with Brilio.
Brilio: Tell us your story. How did you end up being a chef?
Juna: Well, I moved to the US in 1997 just to escape my life because I was a ‘bad kid’ before. Then I enlisted myself in a pilot training but unfortunately, the money that I had was not enough. So, I had to scramble for work illegally after six months of the visa expired. In early 1998, Indonesia had an economic crisis so at that point I made up my mind not to get back home ever. You know... and just try to survive in the States.
So [I was] still scrambling, looking for job or do some work, labor work, whatever I could get my hands into because I was illegal but then finally I became a waiter in a Japanese restaurant. And then, after two weeks the sushi master asked me if I want to be trained by him. So, I accepted that and everything took off from there. Apparently, the drive of being scared because I was illegal and now I have a good job by working under the roof and stuff like that and not hard labor pushed me to become, you know, I have to be better every day. Because it was so hard for me to find a good job since I was illegal.
Apparently, I was doing great and the owner of the restaurant sponsored me to get a green card [to be] US permanent resident. So, we did that procedure and five years later, I was an American resident. I have a green card.
Brilio: What do you think about what is going on now?
Juna: With America?
Juna: It’s hard.
Brilio: Would you worry about your status?
Juna: About my status? I wouldn’t, because I am green card holder. A permanent resident. I am already inside the States if I were there. But right now, if I want to get back there, I feel a little worry. I don’t know what is going to happen in the airport. In the immigration locket. Even before that, if you spend too much time overseas as a green card holder, they’ll always give you hard time to go in.
Brilio: When did you get back to Indonesia and when did you realize that you have made it?
Juna: I went back to Indonesia in 2010 because of a job at a restaurant here in Kuningan called Jack Rabbit at that time. We were very successful. One of the biggest restaurants in the city at that moment. But if you asked me when did I realize I have become someone, I am still not. I have not. Of course, I am better than one year or two years before but then, to answer your question, I haven’t [made it].
Brilio: Can you tell me more about Correlate?
Juna: Correlate is something exactly I really want. If you are a chef, a real chef, your end goal is always that you want to run your own restaurant. So, Correlate is my restaurant. Of course, I have a partner behind me, but then I call all the shots and all that stuff. So, this is my dream restaurant. So, that’s why it took years to be able to finally have the guts to open it in a right way with the right preparation and so on.
Brilio: Do you have a message for youth out there who are struggling with their career right now?
Juna: I know it’s different for everyone. So, I can only say, for me, what I had been through is one, I just keep my head down, I just keep working, I let my hands do the the talking. Somewhere down the line, somebody is gonna watch and they are gonna appreciate that and your career is gonna take off. That’s all.