Petty Elliott is an Indonesian self-taught chef and author of several cook books. Her passion to promote Indonesia’s food culture has taken her from cooking in her family home to guest chef in many prominent hotels and resorts around the world. She has given talks, culinary demonstrations, and has cooked for diverse audiences, from remote forest communities to celebrity guests, from ambassadors to the President of Indonesia.
Petty has been untiring in her efforts to teach modern Indonesian cuisine and mentor young chefs, especially those from less fortunate backgrounds. In addition, she was President of Wisma Cheshire, the Leonard Cheshire disability charity in Indonesia, for over ten years in a voluntary capacity and is also on the National Board for The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Indonesia since 2019.
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey into the culinary world?
It started when we left Jakarta in 1999 and moved to the UK. In Jakarta there is a lot of help but here I had to do everything myself, and I’m actually very grateful for that experience as it changed my life . We had two small children so we didn’t go out so much – I was cooking Indonesian food for family, for friends and neighbours, and the reaction was – “wow, this is something different”! Many people asked me for tips and I would share my recipes. Then I applied for BBC Master Chef for Amateurs in 2001 out of curiosity, and I got selected but didn’t win. But that was really the beginning of my journey. When we moved back to Jakarta, I decided I wanted to focus on my passion for Indonesian food. I started small, with the expatriate community, and I also started to travel within Indonesia to learn different regional cuisines. I published my first book in 2009 on a modern approach to Indonesian cuisine. I was continuing to give cooking classes and was also writing for national magazines, doing hotel events and talk shows. And it just grew. Now I’m back in the UK and my journey is not finished – I still just want to share my culture with the world.
Although most of the cooking in the home is done by women, the professional world of chefs is still dominated by men. Is this changing?
Definitely. There has been huge progress. In the past, male chefs dominated the industry and were arrogant. But now I know a lot of female chefs around the world, from young chefs to Michelin-starred chefs, and there is much more appreciation of them. People in the industry want to collaborate if you have talent, it doesn’t matter so much if you’re male or female. I think it’s wonderful to be able to work together on terms of equality.
What is the next step for you – your own restaurant?
I don’t yet have my own restaurant but I have an opportunity to work with a group from Jakarta for opening something here. There still isn’t much knowledge of Indonesian food. There’s a lot of work and research to do because the competition in London is huge, and for now everything is postponed because of the current situation. In the meantime I will continue to work and collaborate. A few weeks ago I did cooking classes for the London Cookery School and an event with Kew Gardens. I am also sharing my recipes online. For now, we have to think more creatively and be more positive.
Who are your role models?
I think the person who inspired my is my mum. She was a teacher, then worked in the education field, and was very dedicated. Also my grandma – she had 12 children and she spent all her time cooking! I think I got my love for Indonesian food from her. But also women I’ve met in the UK – women in their 60s and 70s in our industry who are so active and creative.
Why do you support PAWA ?
PAWA is inspirational in so many ways — because it helps girls get education but also because it is run by volunteers. I volunteered for many years as president of a disability charity in Indonesia so I know how important it is to give your time and to give back to society . PAWA wants to educate girls and change their lives and I really want to support that.
Petty shares some recipes for teas to nurture us during this time of isolation
3 Immunity Boosting Comfort Tea Recipes to make now
During this period of staying at home and working from home, it is important to maintain or improve our immune system. Hope these beverages with natural ingredients will give you comfort and boost your energy!