Q&A with MasterChef Finalist Jess Liemantara!

Dessert queen and lover of all things sweet, Jess Liemantara was the youngest contestant on this years MasterChef Australia. This week, Jess shares about her MasterChef Journey and the power of connecting people through food!

Photo: Jess Liemantara

Tell us a little about your background. How did you come to apply for MasterChef?

I was born in Perth Subiaco along with my older brother Jeremy, then we moved down to Melbourne. Both my parents are from Surabaya hence why I speak mostly Bahasa Jawa. My parents opened a restaurant in Perth called, “Taste of Java”, and later reopened another restaurant in Melbourne called, “Foodtopia Fusion Café Restaurant”, in Bayswater which was a fusion of Thai, Malay and Indonesian cuisine. My brother and I both helped my parents in the restaurant, I managed floor operations, till management and barista ring and my brother worked as the chef along with my dad. My mum took on the role as the Boss and inspired my bother and I to purse being entrepreneurs ourselves.

We opened the restaurant for 4 years and decided we all needed to move on to venture new opportunities and skills. I started working at Nobu as a food and beverage attendant in July 2017 and was amazed by the authentic Japanese cuisine and the way the chefs work in the kitchen. Being on the other side as a waitress is much different the level of intensity, and is not as stressful as being the kitchen. The chefs work extremely hard to make sure food is consistent and of high quality.

The opportunity to audition for MasterChef 2018 came along and friends and family pushed me to audition for the show. I didn’t feel fit enough for the opportunity just after not going further in my recent audition for the Great Australian Bake Off. After many nagging and support from family and friends I decided to give it ago. I handed in my application and after a month received an email requesting to schedule in an audition. From then on I was short listed to the top 50 contestants to cook for the three judges. To this day I still cannot believe the amazing journey that got me to that very special day.

What’s life like post-MasterChef?

Gosh I would have to say I had a couple of tough months where I felt out of place and didn’t know where to begin just after being away for so long. Having quit my previous job as a waitress, I wanted to pursue my passion as a chef. I searched for work experience and was lucky enough to do be able to undertake professional experience at the Press club and Omnom. The amount of technique, skill and precision in these two businesses are phenomenal, it was such an amazing experience.

I’m currently working at Omnom sometimes it still surprises me that I am now on the other side of the business having people say “yes Chef”, makes me feel like I’ve achieved that one step closer to a new beginning. I’ve always dreamed of being in the kitchen baking and doing what I love most. But it’s not always funs and daisies, there will be tough days in the kitchen but I am willing to learn and get back up when things don’t go to plan.

Working casually along with taking custom cake orders I’ve realised how much time and energy cooking takes out of you. There are days when I just want to sit and relax but all you can think about is what I have to do next, what needs to be prepared and what if it doesn’t work or I don’t have enough time. There are no regrets, I still love what I do and will continue to pursue my dream of one day supplying my cakes to businesses. Taking it slow and as George said, “don’t climb the mountain to high to come down crumbling”. I am hoping to finish off my cookbook by December 2018.

Photo: Caramel Porcini Mousse Balls with Fried Enoki by Jess Liemantara

Can you tell us a bit about your time on MasterChef? What was your favourite thing about the experience?

My MasterChef journey was one of the hardest things I’ve done. The audition process to get to top 50 was so much fun, scary, but so fun. Cooking for the judges for the first time was even more stressful. After not receiving an apron on the first day I was devastated and didn’t have a lot of faith that I would get in on my second chance cook. The opportunity to cook for the second time was such a blessing I got to show the judges I really do want to fight to the very end. Finally, receiving the apron on the second day was such a life changing experience, until I was in an elimination that week.

It tore me to pieces to think being the youngest in this year’s MasterChef that I was in the very first elimination. I have to fight a little harder to catch up to such amazing cooks. Day after day I’ve learnt so much about cooking and about life. The other MasterChef contestants are amazing and made the journey so fun and memorable.

My favourite thing about my MasterChef experience would be having the opportunity to be in 12 eliminations, 5 pressure tests and 7 normal eliminations. I was able to cook over 50 times, really helping me create my menu and find my style of cooking.

The friendships made with the caring and like-minded souls that love food as much as I do is so surreal. We non-stop talk about food. I can never forget the amazing mentoring from the 3 judges, Matt, Gary and George who continuously work hard to make me a better chef and a cleaner one too. I am so glad to have been in MasterChef 2018, the challenges and the professional chefs we met is just mind blowing I cannot thank the Lord enough for guiding me through this amazing journey.

Photo: Masterchef contestants Jess, Brendan and Reece

How does your/your parents Indonesian background influence or inspire your cooking?

My parents Indonesian background helped so much in times of desperate cooking situations. From marinating with simple ingredients, peanut base sauces and our love for chilli. My dad and Grandma love making Roti isih and I am so glad I was able to make Deep fried sandwich to represent my Indonesian background. As Indonesians, we cook a lot of Thai food due to our past experiences of opening up a restaurant. Watching my dad cook inside the kitchen using just simple ingredients such as mint, lime, chilli, garlic, ginger and other aromats to make beautiful salads and dressing is what got me through my MasterChef journey. My Mum always said to marinate any protein in ginger, lemon and garlic and that’s what helped to get me through.

What are your future culinary hopes/aspirations?

I hope to have my own café one day with a production kitchen and degustation lounge. I’m also hoping to publish my cookbook by December and to hopefully get my brand out there in supplying cafes with the desserts I create. There is not one day where I don’t think about cooking or owning my own café, or even getting my desserts tasted by the public. As they say, the way to success is to dream big and continuously talk your dreams to make them happen.

Photo: Cake created by Jess

What do you love most about Indonesia?

I love how fast businesses grow in Indonesia and the creativity and art put into making a restaurant or attraction so beautiful. I always wonder how fast things pop up, from big new luxurious shopping centres to the never ending beautiful restaurants and cafes that are now booming in Indonesia. Oh and it’s also the best place to shop, I love Mangga 2, Galaxy Mall, Grand Indonesia and Ciputra World.

Any hopes for the Australia-Indonesia relationship/how people can become connected through food?

With such growth in the presence of Indonesian culture here in Melbourne, I’m sure we all meet in the same places whether it is for Ayam penyet, Soto ayam or Bakso, you are bound to see another Indonesian. I think there is such a diversity here in Australia and it’s so great to see so many cuisines and different cultures uniting people food that really brings us all together and grows friendships through sitting down and eating together in your favourite restaurant.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us Jess!

See what Jess has been up to on InstagramFacebook and Twitter. Keep an eye out for more interviews in the coming weeks!

IA-CEPA negotiations conclude – ‘Ayo kita maju bersama’

It has been quite a remarkable week for the Australia-Indonesia relationship. Both governments are showing signed of strengthening their collaborations and we finally saw a big win for the future of business ties.

The Indonesia Australia Business Forum held at the Raffles Hotel, Jakarta on Saturday 1 September 2018 featured some very special guests including Vice President of Indonesia, Dr. H. Jusuf Kalla and the Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon Scott Morrison MP. The forum formally announced that negotiations for the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) had concluded. This announcement leaves the documents to undergo a legal process to ensure internal consistency, translation into Indonesian followed by an official signing and ratification by the end of the year.

Morrison made the trip to Jakarta just six days after being sworn in as Prime Minister which had been in the works for several months for former Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. The Commonwealth Government made a decision not to cancel the trip citing that Morrison’s commitment to travel to Indonesia shows how important the bilateral relationship is and just how close both countries are.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla addressed the forum at Indonesia Australia Business Forum

Continue reading

Menulis Untuk Blog AIYA!

Hallo semua anggota dan teman AIYA,

Australia-Indonesia Youth Assocation (AIYA) sedang mencari kontributor baru untuk blog AIYA. Jika kamu berminat dan tertarik dengan hubungan Australia-Indonesia, informasi/ide yang ingin kamu bagikan, inilah kesempatan kamu!

Kami sedang mencari kontributor artkile Bahasa Inggris atau Bahasa Indonesia, dengan berbagai pilihan topik yang menarik, misalnya:

  • Pendidikan
  • Politik
  • Olahraga
  • Kesenian
  • Kebudayaan
  • Bisnis
  • Media
  • Pengalamanmu di Australia

Jika kamu atau teman kamu ingin menulis artikel untuk blog AIYA, silakan menghubungi Lauren Wilkins atau Wella Andany di blog@aiya.org.au atau lauren.wilkins@aiya.org.au.

Bahkan jika kamu tidak yakin apakah artikelmu sesuai dengan blog kami, jangan malu-malu ya!

Informasi lebih lanjut di sini!

Kami tunggu tanggapanmu!

Call for AIYA Blog Contributions!

Hello AIYA members and friends,

The Australia-Indonesia Youth Association (AIYA) is currently looking for new contributors for the AIYA blog. If you are passionate about the Australia-Indonesia relationship and have something that you would like to share, now is your chance!

We are looking for articles written in both English and Bahasa Indonesia on any topic you like, including:

  • Education
  • Politics
  • Sport
  • Art
  • Culture
  • Business
  • Media
  • Your experiences of Indonesia/Australia

If you or a friend are interested in writing for the blog please feel free to contact Lauren Wilkins or Wella Andany at blog@aiya.org.au or lauren.wilkins@aiya.org.au. Even if you are not sure if the article is suitable for the blog please don’t be shy!

You can find more information about contributing to the blog here!

We look forward to hearing from you soon!

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: AIYA Victoria Treasurer and language enthusiast, Johanes Warsono

Welcome back to AIYA Member Spotlights! In this regular series, we talk to a different AIYA Member from either Indonesia or Australia to hear their story. This week, AIYA Victoria Treasurer and language enthusiast, Johanes Warsono answers some questions!

What do you study?

I am studying Accounting and Finance at the University of Melbourne. 

What is your favourite place to visit in Indonesia?

I really enjoy Bandung in terms of weather and environment. From my perspective, it is also the city which does the best job in protecting all types of cultural heritages. Other than that, Yogyakarta must be on the top of the ranking if you want to have a full taste of traditional Javanese culture. However, personally, the city that leaves me the best memory is Surakarta (Solo) even though it doesn’t have a big name as prestigious as these two mentioned before.

Favourite meal in Indonesia?

Batagor (Bakso tahu goreng) for sure. It tastes better when peanut sauce is added.

How about your favourite Indonesian word?

“Pedekate” – a word describing a situation in which a boy (girl) is trying getting closer to a girl (boy). It is a lesson that everyone has to learn but schools don’t teach

Do you have a favourite Indonesian film?

My favourite Indonesian movie is “Laskar Pelangi”. Unlike some commercial Indonesian movies focusing on entertainment, Laskar Pelangi has a very realistic plot about how some poor kids from the same primary school in Belitung live and study and how they win respects from others. This is the first Indonesian movie that makes me feel touched.

How did you first become interested in Indonesia?

It is actually uneasy for a person who has a strong enthusiasm in foreign languages and cultures like me not to interact with any Indonesian elements in a multicultural city like Melbourne. Diversity in languages and culture, richness in resource of tourism, friendliness of Indonesian people are the main reasons that bring this country into my insight and raise my interest.

What was getting involved with AIYA like?

My experience with AIYA is like an amazing journey. When I first joined AIYA, I could hardly make a sentence by using Indonesian. However, only within one year’s time, my proficiency of Indonesian has progressed in a very quick manner. More importantly, here, at AIYA, I also make some awesome friends who supported me and helped me over a gloomy period of time in my life.

Any hopes for the bilateral relationship?

I hope that more flight routines connecting Australia and Indonesia can be opened.

What do you like most about AIYA?

No attendant will feel excluded if they come to any AIYA activity.

Sum up your experience as an AIYA member in three words!

Brotherhood Brotherhood Brotherhood

Read more AIYA Member Spotlight interviews here.

Event Report – Jalan Bersama 2018: Celebrating Indonesian Diasporas in Australia

Jalan Bersama 2018, a gathering of Indonesia Diaspora on Sunday, 12 August 2018 held in the Botanic Garden


            Sydney – The annual Indonesian Diaspora Network gathering this year taken place in the Royal Botanical Garden under the theme Melangkah Bersama Merajut Merah Putih. Indonesian Consul General for NSW Heru Hartanto Subolo and Indonesian Ambassador to Australia Yohanes Kristiarto Legowo have inaugurated the event alongside IDN NSW President, Hendra Wijaya. Around 150-200 people attended the event, the atmosphere was merry and rousing with Indonesia attributes such red and white domination colours and batik to be seen. The walk purposely held just a week before Indonesia Independence Day to celebrate the National Day whilst the main aim is to gather the member of IDN as a day to silaturahmi, get to know each other and ties the shared bond.

Inauguration moment of the event, an honour shared between IDN, the Ambassador, and the Consul General

            The event started at 9 AM with an opening speech from IDN NSW President, then the attendees were grouped into smaller troops before starting the 1.6 km route circling Botany Garden. The initial 20-30 minutes walk expanded into an hour walk with many pauses taken for photo sessions and courteous talk between Mr. Subolo, Mr. Legowo and attendees. The windy and chilly morning didn’t seem to affect the mood and enthusiasm of everyone. The familiar Indonesia nuance was spotted easily: a lot of smiles and introductions, jokes to be heard frequently, selfies in every few steps, and national songs sang along the walk. The walk was improvised to Opera House where it wasn’t included in the initial plan, the few first groups cheerfully took photos and waved their Indonesian flags in front of Opera House and soon, few visitors who are familiar with Indonesia cultures joined the group and asked for photos.

A glimpse of the cheerful event featured countless smiles and jokes


  Once everyone got their muscles loosened down, fun activities such as games and flash mob were carried out. Ular Naga, a game played by 20 to 30 people who divided snake children and the dragon children was an effective game to break the ice amongst the groups. Screams and laughs were shared within the short 5 minutes before the flash mob was taken place. Papuan folk song Sajojo, Ende’s original song Gemu Famire, to Indonesian Pop song Lagi Syantik were played and got everyone danced along.

A flash mob lead by Indonesian zumba instructor

            At the end of the event, fundraising for the victims of the Lombok Earthquake and prays were sent as support for the misfortunes. Before the event was ended, PPIA from the University of Sydney grabs the opportunity to share information about their event Nusantawa which hold on September 8th. Nusantawa is a creative event of Indonesian students from USYD, the event which will be presented by duo MC Darto & Danang, stand-up by Gilang Gombloh and Adjis, and performances from Glenn Fredly hoped to reach more people in order to introduce Indonesia show business. All in all, Jalan Bersama this year rekindled the spirit of semangat amongst Indonesian diasporas in Australia.            

AIYA Annual 2017 is here!

Dear AIYA Members and Supporters,

The AIYA Annual 2017 is a showcase of what YOU, our fabulous chapters and members, have been up to this past year! This year, we welcomed a new chapter, AIYA Eastern Indonesia (active in both Makassar and Kupang), and energetically pursued AIYA’s mission to connect, inform and inspire young people engaged in the Australia-Indonesia relationship.

click on the cover image or download here

Even bigger and better than our inaugural issue last year, the AIYA Annual 2017 includes messages of support from Australia’s outgoing Ambassador to Indonesia, Paul Grigson, and Indonesia’s new Ambassador to Australia, Kristiarto Legowo. It features updates from our ten most active chapters, who ran everything from sports days and film nights to careers events and debates, as well as an update on our 3rd annual NAILA initiative!

This year’s AIYA Annual includes, for the first time, contributions from individual members. From a large number of submissions, we have selected three of the best pieces for your reading pleasure – Nick Dobrijevich’s story of meeting East Javanese punk band Crucial Response; Steph Pearson’s account of joint Aus-Indo efforts to support those affected by Mt Agung’s eruption; and Martha Weruing’s heart-warming story of finding her place in the Australian community. We hope you enjoy their work.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of our members and partners for your ongoing support of AIYA over the years.

The AIYA Annual celebrates everything AIYA has achieved in the past year, and we encourage you to take a look (you never know – you might see your face!).

Iona Main                                                              Jayne Fendyk

Chief Editor                                                                     Assistant Editor

AIYA President’s 2017 Wrap-Up

On behalf of AIYA National, I would like to extend a warm thank you to all those who have followed and supported AIYA’s activities throughout 2017.

2017 was the milestone fifth year of operations for AIYA, the peak non-government youth body that aims to connect, inform and inspire young Australians and Indonesians, and to create, facilitate and stimulate opportunities for increased bilateral youth engagement.

We have now grown to a massive team of over 120 volunteers across both countries! It is a privilege to lead this passionate and talented group of young people who are fuelled by semangat. We’re all dedicated to the growth and development of the organisation and we recognise and value the role that AIYA plays in the Australia-Indonesia space.

Our admirable communications team has done a fantastic job of keeping you all up to date via our weekly AIYA Links newsletter and via regular social media updates. #ICYMI here are some of notable highlights from AIYA’s big 2017:

  • we ran the third annual National Australia Indonesia Language Awards (NAILA), which received a record amount of entries and introduced new categories, including for teachers of Bahasa Indonesia;
  • we contributed to DFAT’s Foreign Policy White Paper with a submission which highlighted the importance of language skills, cross-cultural competency and understanding, and youth initiatives;
  • we launched the new chapter of AIYA Eastern Indonesia, with bases in both Makassar and Kupang;
  • we strengthened our chapters in Jakarta and Yogyakarta in particular, offering regular events catering to both students and the young professionals community;
  • we hosted an Australia-wide series of film screenings for the Indonesian biopic, Kartini;
  • we continued to build upon our partnerships with the Australia-Indonesia Institute, the Australia Indonesia Centre, the Australia Indonesia Business Council, CAUSINDY, ACICIS and Balai Bahasa, among many other like-minded organisations and universities;
  • we assisted AIYEP’s Australian leg with AIYA NSW hosting numerous social and cultural events for the Indonesian delegates and AIYA National hosting an impressive intern to assist our communications team; and (last but not least)
  • we welcomed in several new board members at AIYA National and experienced great succession in the chapter level executive committees.

We can’t wait to drop out 2017 AIYA Annual publication in late January to celebrate the breadth of our 2017 activities, so please keep your eye out for that in the new year!

AIYA is extremely grateful for the ongoing support of our partners and our members, without which we would not be able to continue to do what we love. We look forward to continuing to work together in 2018 and to having you involved in our events and initiatives, and we wish you all a wonderful and relaxing festive period over the coming weeks.

Salam semangat,

Nicholas Mark

President, AIYA National

Like what we do? Learn more about what AIYA membership can offer and sign up as a member today! Keen to find out more about how you can partner with AIYA or contribute to our initiatives? Please email nicholas.mark@aiya.org.au or communications@aiya.org.au with any queries.