The 14-hour work at Koi Dessert Bar hasn’t deterred this Indonesian-Australian talent from producing some of the finest desserts in Sydney. Post-MasterChef, Poernomo runs this popular 11-month-old dessert spot in Sydney’s hip Kensington Street with his two brothers and mother. Koi’s open kitchen is framed by a counter filled with a host of miniature cakes, which Poernomo creates with his pastry chef mother. His tasting menu features a range of exquisite plated desserts which he is most known for crafting. The modest 23-year-old describes himself as “an amateur cook, and not a chef”. He, however, has an open mind and is willing to learn.
We talk to Poernomo who will be cooking in Singapore along with world renowned chef Marco Pierre White and other MasterChef personalities next month. Marco Pierre White and Poernomo will helm the ultimate MasterChef pop-up dining experience in Singapore from November 25 to 9 December at Ash & Elm, located at InterContinental Singapore.
What were your plans before MasterChef happened?
Before the show, I wanted to be nutritionist and I was studying food science. I’m very health conscious and into fitness. My mum and dad didn’t want me to go into the food industry as it’s quite hard and the hours are long. And they wanted me to finish university. But I love food, so I tried to find an alternative and decided to put fitness, nutrition and food together. My mum still wants me to go to uni, although I don’t have time now. But if I can, I will.
How has the show changed your life?
It’s given me more direction. I’ve asked myself if I want to be a nutritionist or a chef. But I’m certain now that I really want to do this, and don’t mind the long hours. I absolutely love it. I got addicted to work so much and my brain is constantly ticking no matter how late I sleep.
MasterChef Australia judges constantly rave about your plating techniques. Has your plating evolved since the show ended?
It’s definitely evolved. On Koi’s menu it’s experimental; I like to play around with plating. However, I would say that nowadays, my plating is not overly complicated. It has become simpler even though there are five to seven elements on it.
What do chefs and critics say about your desserts?
Matt Preston loved my food. But I’d take any criticism on board for me to improve. I love criticism as there’s always room for improvement.
Do you have a dessert you enjoy most?
I don’t have a sweet-tooth to be honest. If I had a sweet-tooth I won’t be this skinny! But I enjoy the whole creative process and the artistic side of desserts. I’m not a huge fan of cakes; I don’t like baking. But I do want to try the mooncake. I taste a lot of different things and look at cookbooks to find out what works.
What’s your favourite flavour combination?
I like to use fresh flavours. Although my menu offers rich items including chocolate that people love, I personally like ginger, lemongrass, passionfruit, and tropical flavours. I like something that’s not too sweet, and with enough acidity – something that’s perfectly balanced.
How did you learn how to cook?
I tried to learn from my mum but she’s always too busy at work. So I read a lot of cookbooks that belong to my mum. I was very lucky to practise cooking techniques at a young age. You somehow build this foundation of instinct from young – to add a little more sugar or salt. I like to season my desserts because fruits change every season – you don’t know if it’s going to be sweeter or more sour, so you go by taste.
Which chef do you admire most?
I really look up to Chef Grant Achatz from Alinea in Chicago because his cooking is so progressive.
Will you introduce Indonesian flavours to any of your creations ?
Honestly, I will try. But I’ve grown up in Australia all my life. I’ve only visited Indonesia about six times. I haven’t really had the chance to explore the different flavours. I love eating it though. I love spices, chillies and curries. But for desserts, I’ve haven’t tried a lot except for chendol.
Have you been to Singapore and what do you like about it?
I love Singapore, and I miss it. So far I go there every year. I love the hawker food here – Maxwell (food centre) for sure.
Will you venture to Southeast Asia at some point?
I hope so, I’m not looking to stay just back in Sydney. My dream was to have a dessert bar – that’s already happened, but that’s just a start. You can’t just have a dream and let it finish. My next goal for me is to be Australasia’s next best pastry chef.
Note: Singapore is the first stop in Asia for the MasterChef pop-up dining series. Poernomo will be here from December 4 to 9. Only 200 seats will be available during this 15-day dining pop-up event. Visit Sistic outlets island-wide to purchase tickets for the pop-up. To enjoy early bird promotion from now till October 27, tickets are priced at $138+ and $248+ for lunch and dinner respectively. From 28 October, lunch will be priced at $168+ for lunch, and $288+ for dinner.
Visit www.facebook.com/masterchefdiningsg for more information.