MotionPerspectiveSandra Djohan: ADHD, Dyslexic, Writes Books

Sandra Djohan: ADHD, Dyslexic, Writes Books

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Exhibiting an energy that seems boundless, Sandra Djohan sees no end to exploring her potential

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Having just finished promoting her first book, the larger-than-life culinary pundit is already gearing up to revamp her website, conceptualize another TV show and write another book. Her ambitious New Year’s to-do list also includes flying to Frankfurt as a food ambassador to Indonesia and opening a cooking school.  

Sandra is known and loved for her many accomplishments, despite having ADHD and dyslexia. Most would recognize her as the chef from the TV show ‘Spice of Life’. She is also a fixture at culinary events, frequently quoted in the media, and holds large cooking classes. Others know her from the fantastic food she serves at her restaurant, Epilogue. Her new book, ‘From My Kitchen to Yours’, provides a more intimate look into her life and mind. 

The book marks Sandra’s first venture into the world of publishing, featuring 95 recipes ranging from starters, soups, salads, light meals, main courses and sweets. Alongside the recipe, each page includes a brief story of her experience of the dish. Sandra’s diary-like notes make for interesting openings for each chapter, narrating the chef’s long journey from her lonely days at a strict boarding school to becoming one of Indonesia’s most celebrated chefs. The cookbook is thus warmly personal rather than technical. 

More importantly, the book is another avenue for Sandra to promote Indonesian food on a global scale by participating in the world’s largest literary marketplace, the Frankfurt Book Fair. Together with other notable Indonesian chefs such as Petty Elliott and William Wongso, Sandra traveled to Germany in October 2014 to introduce Indonesian cuisine to an international audience at the Gourmet Gallery of the Frankfurt Book Fair. Only published culinary experts could be chosen for this mission. Sandra will visit Germany again in 2015 to promote Indonesian cuisine at a distinctive culinary festival, which is held in cooperation with the Frankfurt Book Fair. The festival has been held for three consecutive years – each time in a different country. Indonesia has been chosen for 2015. Under the “Indonesia is Cooking” theme, the festival will showcase Indonesia’s culinary wealth. 

Indonesian food is a lifelong passion for Sandra, who grew up cooking before she enrolled in the prestigious French culinary institute, Le Cordon Bleu. During her studies, she discovered that the complexity of Indonesian cooking methods far outweighed European methods, requiring more spices and longer preparation. This knowledge underlies her cooking style today – creating traditional Indonesian dishes using modern French methods. She does so with passion, sharing her findings with enthusiasm – hence her restaurant, book, TV show, and planned cooking school. 

Sandra’s culinary school is slated to open somewhere between 2017 and 2018. The idea to open a school was sparked during a conversation with a senior colleague, William Wongso, who had voiced his concerns that young Indonesians chefs did not know their own home cooking because many of them had studied abroad. Sandra, on the other hand, was concerned that most cooking schools in Indonesia do not teach how to cook Indonesian food. Moreover, graduates were struggling to attain respectable positions in the industry. Hence Sandra’s plan is to open a cooking school that prepares future Indonesian chefs with the skills to produce quality Indonesian cuisine, as well as the right mentality to thrive in the industry. 

Within the next three years, Sandra aims to write four more books. Her second book will throw a spotlight on Indonesia’s endangered traditional cuisine and what should be done to preserve it. Her research includes traveling to 10 to 15 major cities in Indonesia including Aceh, Padang, Medan, Bali, Bandung and Cirebon. Aside from recipes, the book will discuss the history of the food and how it has evolved over hundreds of years. 

As for her TV show, the next ‘Spice of Life’ series will focus more on Sandra and Arimbi in the kitchen rather than the drama that pervaded the first series. Little else is known about the show at present.