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15 Oct 2023

Ivan Setyawan Follows His Passions to Build a Sweet Pastry Business

For Ivan Setyawan, the path to becoming a pastry chef has sometimes been chaotic and messy. But now his delicate desserts are sold in two busy stores, and it all began as a means of saving money while he was living in Australia.

After finishing secondary school in 2009, Ivan studied at Monash University in Australia, pursuing a bachelor's in accounting and finance. "I wanted to save money while I was there. So, I just tried to cook and eat at home," Ivan explained.

"I didn't know the cooking concepts and had never helped my parents in the kitchen either. But at the time, cooking felt enjoyable, and I was curious to learn more about it. Although I found the recipe books confusing when I initially started reading them," Ivan added with a laugh.

But his goal to learn more about the culinary arts had to wait. His parents insisted that he first complete his university education. He earned a bachelor's degree in 2012 despite feeling out of place.

Ivan then began looking for a reputable cooking school. He enrolled in the William Angliss Institute’s 2.5-year commercial cookery course.

"The peaceful and pleasant environment in Melbourne captured my heart,” he said. “Melbourne-based William Angliss is the school with the greatest reputation. It's also simple to commute.”

There, he was taught precise cooking skills using classical French cuisine as a foundation for experimentation and innovation. He was also encouraged to put the techniques into practice via a part-time internship. His education and his hands-on expertise in the kitchen were complementary.

"In class, lessons were only demonstrated once, and there was little opportunity to practice because the ingredients were limited. But there was a chance to practice at a specific pace you must follow at work. You would receive a reprimand if you didn't keep up," Ivan said.

He had three distinct job experiences at that time. First, he worked at a fast-service Italian restaurant. This job challenged him because he needed to perform tasks rapidly in a hectic, crowded, noisy, and hot kitchen situation. Yet throughout his six months at the restaurant, he learned to become more organised and work according to a schedule, knowing that he had three shifts with different menus to be served.

Next, he worked for a catering company. He learned to prepare and cook in bulk. The atmosphere was calmer, and the working hours were set. "It was clear because there was a timestamp on every event. But surprisingly, a task like chopping potatoes or onions might require one sack. I was chopping a sack of onions there," Ivan explained.

Working at the 2014 Australian Open tennis championship was another adventure. Because of the massive number of cooking staff and everyone getting to know each other, Ivan said this was the most exhausting job. Additionally, he was required to cook for almost 17 days straight in a tent-style makeshift kitchen. "It was chaotic. From the first day of work, the kitchen experienced a continuous heat wave," said Ivan.

Home, Baking, and Love

Despite the many challenges, Ivan’s passion for cooking only grew. After returning to Indonesia, he decided to start his own cooking business with his wife, Yoan Tjahjadi.

Interestingly, Ivan decided to focus his business on pastries, a kind of cooking he didn't try to develop during his studies. "There was only an introductory class when I was studying. But I was sure I could pull it off,” Ivan recalled. "At first, it was messy. I was taught to work in a rush, like in the hot kitchen, which isn’t the right approach when baking."

Fortunately, Yoan, a fellow William Angliss Institute alumna, had done a special pastry class and could lead this part of the business.

“So, I learned from scratch,” Ivan said. “After two years, I have got the pace. It's calmer and relaxed."

The result of their efforts is Namelaka, a patisserie that sells choux pastry wrapped in craquelin and mousse cake. The couple started with a home-based business that sold products online. They introduced their products to new customers by regularly participating in stalls at live events. Then, they were presented with an opportunity to start an offline store in Menteng, Jakarta.

"It was somewhat of a leap of faith at that time. We saw the potential and a nice location. If we didn't create an offline shop, we wondered when we would grow," said Ivan, who also uses his accounting finance knowledge in his business.

The physical store opened at the end of 2016, and the couple soon saw the benefits. Hampers available in their online store but never sold were now selling. Customers had more confidence after seeing them in-store.

Now, with two offline outlets in Menteng and Kelapa Gading, Namelaka is expanding. Ivan and Yoan are currently providing jobs for 20 employees. Bite-sized choux craquelin is one of the many items on offer.

Ivan said that to retain quality and uniqueness, he wants to avoid being swayed by culinary trends on social media. In his opinion, the emergence of social media has aided the advancement of the food business, particularly the world of pastries and sweets in Indonesia. However, building a strong brand takes more than just social media.

For Jakarta Dessert Week 2023, held from 24 September to 22 October 2023, Ivan drew inspiration from Indonesian folklore. He brought back a much-loved Namelaka creation, the pandora. But this time, the dessert was themed on the story "Bawang merah, bawang putih". Among the special ingredients were Indonesian chocolate, fresh mango and smoked pineapple.

This uniqueness has helped Namelaka thrive, even as other businesses struggled through the pandemic. Ivan explained that being able to ship his pastries throughout Jakarta had been important to the business from the start. He wanted his customers to be able to avoid the traffic. It turned out to be a huge advantage.

“During Covid, we had a lot of orders coming in. And we went on as usual since (our product) was designed to be delivered even as many restaurants were considering innovations for takeout and delivery," Ivan said.

Ivan is now evolving his business to become more ecologically friendly. He is working on waste management and steps to prevent pollution and conserve the environment where his special ingredients come from.

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