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Exclusive Talk with Cheryl Puteri Gunawan, winner of MasterChef Indonesia Season 9

Cheryl Puteri graduated from Le Cordon Bleu New Zealand in 2015. She took the Bachelor of Culinary Arts and Business. Cheryl chose the Bachelor’s degree as she was interested in acquiring business knowledge in the F&B industry and becoming a business owner afterwards. She is a rising star in the Indonesian culinary industry since winning MasterChef Indonesia Season 9 (S9).

Cheryl has been running her own bakery business, CHER, focused on baked goods & cakes based in her hometown, Surabaya, with various lines: @cher.bakes, @cher.hampers, and @cher.cakery. Her goal is to make good quality foods made from premium ingredients accessible to everyone.

It’s been a great session talking & knowing a bit more about Cheryl on her culinary journey with Le Cordon Bleu Indonesia’s team.

What makes you certain that culinary arts is your vocation?

It all started when I was young. I would always follow my mom & Candy, (Candy Puteri Gunawan, also Le Cordon Bleu New Zealand alumni), to the kitchen even though I had no idea what they were doing. Soon, I realized that my family are big foodies. We would always discuss food-related topics, dive into culinary knowledge, and even share tips & tricks on cooking. 

Candy then shared her experience in LCB New Zealand and I became interested and decided to enroll there as well, choosing the Bachelor of Culinary Arts and Business as I was curious and eager to learn more about the business side of F&B besides the theory and practical class it covered. 

What was the most memorable moment when you were balancing between your work and studies at Le Cordon Bleu New Zealand?

It would have to be my first year there. I got the opportunity to study and learn all the working standards in a professional kitchen, from appropriate uniform attire to safety. My favorite and most interesting class was the food & wine pairing. It was an eye-opening experience that’s rarely found in Indonesia. Tasting wine is as interesting as drinking tea or coffee, especially when knowing how to pair each food with the appropriate beverage.  

The most memorable working experience for me was when serving on-site (serving food for the cafeteria or school) & off-site (serving food for wedding ceremonies) catering. I also volunteered at the local restaurant for 2 weeks. My mindset was to focus on absorbing as much knowledge as possible rather than focusing on the money value, while I was still at a student and beginner-level. It also helped me apply strong work ethics to the context of my studies. Hence working while pursuing studies was very helpful to develop strong working values.

Can you tell us about your audition for MasterChef Indonesia alongside your older sister?

It was all Candy's idea. As we share the same passion, I thought it was an interesting idea and we decided to go for it, and while we had nothing to lose, we did not really expect anything out of it.
Unfortunately, Candy didn't make it past the audition. I must admit that I was quite disappointed by the fact that we had to part ways. But as competition got harder, I always remembered my main goal there. I was there to compete and do my best cooking. Whatever the result, I would not have any regrets because I gave my best. So there were times when I had to put my emotions aside to focus.

On the other hand, I'm also thankful and happy for Candy since she did great outside MCI while I'm doing my best inside the competition. That was for me the biggest source motivation throughout the competition.

As for the competition, I believe luck, pressure, and tension became part of the journey, and contributed to me winning the whole thing. 

How was your relationship with the judges & other contestants? 

I like cooking challenges that involve experimenting with different ways to associate techniques & ingredients and I prefer to explore rather than play it safe. Based on my cooking style & preference, I really look up to Chef Renatta's. She's really open to new & unusual concepts.

The relationship with other contestants was super fun & dynamic. We're happy when someone comes out as the winner of a challenge and we admire their skills rather than feeling down. Of course, it's humane to feel down when almost winning a challenge, but I am also happy for the winner. It showed me that their execution was much better and it was a self-reminder for me in the future. 

What’s your most and least favorite challenge in MasterChef Indonesia?

My favorite challenge has to be the tag team challenge when I got paired up with Valerie, and for the ingredients, we got berries & almonds. I really enjoyed that challenge because we got the chance to experiment with dessert. Plus, I did it with my best friend!

My least favorite challenge was the team challenge, because it was hard to combine everyone's thoughts to be executed in various menus. Sometimes people's ideas were opposed and it was tricky to pick which direction we should aim in order to win.

What do you plan to do after winning MasterChef Indonesia? 

I am still focusing on developing the business that I created before I entered MCI. The slight difference is that I am now gaining exposure, which is helpful for my business. Currently, I’m still rearranging my business after a long absence, to participate in MCI. So far so good, little by little it has recovered. Hopefully, soon CHER will open a pre-order for the Jakarta area. And of course, I will be active on YouTube as usual.

How do you deal with your ‘under the spotlight’ situation?

During MCI, we were quarantined throughout the competition with limited access to the outside world. It was quite challenging, but thankfully I found fun activities to stay sane. 

After winning the MCI title, I felt at first a bit awkward and not used to the exposure, which automatically put me in a position where I had to deal with various comments in Social Media / online. It was kind of shocking at first, but I learned to adapt to this new environment and to toughen up against hate comments and so on. Others' words don't define who I am.

What advice would you give to anyone that shares the same passion as you?

Don't be afraid to try new things and seize opportunities as they arise. Of course, the first step will always be intimidating, but you just have to try. And make sure to give your best to conquer the journey. Mine was full of surprises and I am grateful for all of it. 

You just have to take every given opportunity as your stepping stone. 

Le Cordon Bleu congratulates Cheryl for her win on MasterChef Indonesia Season 9.

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