You may know Camille Massard Combe as “chef Camille”, the pseudonym she adopted after arriving in Indonesia. His restaurant, Mediterranean, is a must in Jogyakarta. Here’s what you need to know about him.
Tell me about your background and your arrival in Indonesia?
I am originally from Paris. In 1994 I stopped studying to work as a crewman/chef on a sailboat. After a few years of sailing in the waters of the Antilles, I realize that I want to dedicate myself to cooking and get a degree. I am approaching the Ferrandi school in Paris, but I need to complete my internship to be able to integrate it. So I worked for a year at the Auberge du Mouton Blanc Porte d’Auteuil. I then started my education at a renowned school and got a CAP in cookery and a BEP in catering. So I can officially start my career in this field.
I studied with Michel Rostang at his restaurant, La Boutarde, Neuilly-sur-Seine. I stayed there for four years, then joined Orenoc at the Hotel Méridien Etoile. Then I want to leave Paris and join chef Dominique Toulouse in Toulouse. I also pass through Albi, where I got my first position as a chef at Table du Sommelier. On my return to Paris, I further developed my experience with Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athénée. When he offered me to work for Jules Verne at the Eiffel Tower, I made a life-changing decision: I left France to join my childhood friend in Indonesia.
How did you discover the Mediterranean Sea and why did you settle in Yogyakarta?
When I came here very soon, I wanted to have my own enterprise. In 2009, I opened my first restaurant with my partner. Then the cooperation with the local sponsor stopped and in 2012 I met my wife. This is where we created the Mediterranean together. At the beginning of the adventure, I went to the market at three in the morning to choose my products, made my baguettes, then sent a message to my contacts with a unique menu. day. From 10 to 20… then 60 people, we quickly built up a solid clientele.
The city of Yogyakarta appealed to me from the beginning. I obviously appreciate the cultural aspect, but above all, the Javanese footprint of this city on a human scale has not been distorted. I also like the fact that I’m building a customer base of repeat customers.
How to cook French cuisine with Indonesian products?
The know-how is very French, but the vast majority of the products are Indonesian. We have developed a network of small local producers and we are always looking for new products. I am thinking, for example, of the market gardeners who provide us with salad, greens, and vegetables on the slopes of Merapi, 25 kilometers from the city. Or even to the fishermen on the southern beaches who deliver fresh fish to us several times a week.
This also applies to cheeses. There are artists like Mazarat near Jogjan, but also in Bali. This trend is growing stronger and it saves us from having to ship products from the other side of the world.
On the other hand, I will admit that I still import a few products from Europe that I have not found an equivalent for, such as olive oil, cream or butter.
What are your signature dishes or what would you recommend to our readers?
I love Mediterranean cuisine. For France, this region is a gateway to the rest of the world and a poetic way for me to travel. I like mixing inspirations, moving from one country to another, creating fusion cuisine.
I like working with duck, you can find it in all its forms in the restaurant. That’s why I recommend the homemade smoked duck breast carpaccio as a starter.
Then, there are very nice fish or rib steaks, but also, of course, salads with Mediterranean inspirations. We also offer vegetarian meals and even a vegan alternative.
Finally, you can finish your meal with royal chocolate, a bit less known than fondant but still delicious, or with a classic like crème brulee, tarte tatin or panna cotta. All homemade of course!
Who are your customers?
In the beginning, there were only foreigners, French, Dutch, German, American… and slowly our cuisine took shape and we created an Indonesian clientele. Today, foreigners are about 15%, tourists 8%, the rest are Indonesians from Kogya, but also from Bali, Semarang, Kalimantan …
You received an award from His Excellency Olivier Chambard, can you tell us more?
Indeed, in 2019, Mr. Ambassador announced that he wanted to make me a Knight of the Order for Services to Agriculture. With Covid, the official ceremony could not take place until December 2021. This award is an honor and reflects the work we do on a daily basis to share French culinary culture in Indonesia. This applies to manufacturers, as we talked about earlier, but also thanks to cooperation with hotel schools. Indeed, we have close cooperation with two private schools and three public schools in Indonesia. We train their cadets who can be our employees of tomorrow. We hired some of them at the end of their experience.
Last June, you attended the Ubud Food Festival 2022, which had an amazing theme. Tell us.
This was a particularly interesting test. Did you know that the bas-reliefs of the Borobudur temple, located just a short distance from the restaurant, have about 150 scenes depicting culinary habits dating back to the 8th and 9th centuries? I was invited to reinvent these ingredients by selecting them and turning them into modern dishes. This initiative is promoted by the Indonesian Ministry of Culture.
My choice fell on ‘kluwih’, a breadfruit, and ‘jewawut’, a millet, a forgotten grain. Here are the dishes I prepared at the festival:
- Breadfruit curry cooked with coconut milk and vegetables.
- Millet risotto is served with “opak”, which are crisps made from rice or tapioca.
- Yellowfin tuna tartare with millet and avocado salad.
What is your news?
We recently opened a pizzeria at Yogyakarta National Museum (JNM). Inside the museum, the managers of Jakarta’s M Bloc Space have created a similar space under the name JNM Bloc. It consists of about fifteen traders and restaurants. Since April, we have been offering a short menu of pizzas, salads and desserts.
We have another project, the opening of a new restaurant in Yogyakarta with a slightly different story and concept, but we will have a chance to talk about it again.
Address: Jalan Tirtodipuran No. 24A Mantrijeron Yogyakarta 55143
Monday to Sunday: 08:00-23:00
Instagram: here and here