Maya Aldy, head chef and co-owner of Otel Lobby, took some time away from creating delicious dishes in her bustling kitchen to talk about her amazing journey as a chef, where you can find her outside of Otel Lobby, and her picks from her own menu!
What is your culinary background/training?
I received my culinary education from the French Culinary Institute, NYC, where I received a Grand Diplome. During school and after graduation, I was lucky enough to work at some of the best restaurants in New York. I moved back to Indonesia in 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks and chose to live in Bali. I worked there for six years before deciding to come back to my hometown, the city I love dearly, Jakarta.
After returning to Indonesia, you worked in Bali for a while and even took a break from the kitchen. What happened?
I moved to Bali after the Sept. 11 attacks. My folks were worried about the uncertain situation; at that time I was a young woman living alone in NYC. [The Bali move] turned out to be a great! I had so much fun working in the kitchen in Bali and made good friends with a lot of fellow chefs and farmers … until the two horrible bombings took place in Bali.
In just about two years I went through three attacks. My heart almost stopped beating due to depression and I lost my mojo to cook and be in the kitchen. I quit my job and decided to travel around Bali for a few months. I had no idea what to do, I was just exploring. I took many wrong turns but there was a lot of love around me during the journey. I met all kinds of new people, had new experiences, and found my mojo again, which led me back to the food. I love the people I came across during those months – the salt farmer, the healer, the street cooks, the nasi jinggo ladies – meeting them was all precious experiences for me. It made me realize how grand this human experience is and that I am a part of it, connected to everyone.
When did you open Otel Lobby and what is the concept behind the eatery?
Otel Lobby opened at the end of 2011. We want to create the atmosphere of a swanky hotel lobby with a nice bar and a cool restaurant, a place you can hang out with your friends before your big night out.
What dishes would you recommend from the menu or what are your best sellers?
I would recommend first-timers sit at the bar and have one of our signature cocktails or mocktails with an order of our duck buns, then a nice, fresh market salad from our local farmers with a piece or two of our homemade country bread. It’s been hot lately, so I’m eating a lot of fish. I would recommend the slow-cooked salmon, but our pastas are made fresh daily, we’ve been playing with some really fun, tasty burger varieties recently, and our freshly made pizzas are great for sharing. If you are really hungry, you could have the meat sampler or our best seller, the beef Wellington. Then I would finish with our lemon pie or our homemade ice cream for dessert.
When you’re not at Otel Lobby, where can we find you in Jakarta?
I like Bauhaus and Cork and Screw because they make a mean Vesper, and I like their set up. Most of the time I am in my living room with friends with a bottle wine, cheese, and a lot of good laughs.