Wina Bissett is on a mission to tell the world that everyone can, and should, cook. Take it from the self-made cookbook author, who’s successfully transformed herself from an amateur foodie to a kitchen professional. With TV shows and book appearances in town, Bissett is well known for her simple yet delightful cooking style. NOW! Jakarta chats with the mother of two in her cosy living room while indulging in her heavenly baked Pandan cake.
When and where did you learn how to cook?
I never had any formal culinary education, but I do have deep love for food. I love to eat! Back when I lived in Melbourne and the UK, I spent most of my money on food (laughing). Not only do I enjoy eating, I experience my food and truly appreciate it. I went backpacking around Europe years ago and explored the rich variety of cuisines there. From cheap eateries to Michelin-star restaurants, all I wanted to do was to experience the best places to eat.
Why did you decide to write a cookbook?
I started cooking after I got married. Before that I was a spoilt girl who loves to eat without knowing how to cook. I used to teach Fashion Business at La Salle College and Universitas Pelita Harapan, but after giving birth to my first child in 2011, I decided to be a fulltime housewife. Eventually, though, I got bored. So one day I went to a kitchenware shop in Kemang, bought a mixer and started to bake. The first cake I made was the Coffee Walnut Cake. That’s how I started to bake, and as it turned out, many people liked my baking and cooking. Some friends started asking me to sell them the cakes. And I thought, instead of selling, why not teach people how to do it? And that is where the idea of writing cookbooks came from.
Please tell us more about your books.
I started writing my first book, Masakan Rumah Wina Bisset
t, in 2012. The idea was to make a cookbook that one can keep and treasure, hence the fine photography and design. At the beginning, nobody knew me and everyone doubted me, including my husband. I was rejected by many publishers so I didn’t have any choice but to borrow money from my husband and publish it myself. He was also hesitant at first until I convinced him that I could sell my book and pay him back. In 2013, my first book was published. I knocked on the door of every bookstore, convincing them to sell my book. And the result was good. I sold almost every copy. One bookstore even asked for more but since I didn’t have any left, I called Gramedia. I showed them my sales figure and they agreed to reprint my book. The second book is about cookies and cakes. The third one is a collection of Indonesian home cooking recipes, written in Bahasa Indonesia and English.
What were the challenges you faced as emerging writer back then?
Well, because my first book was self-published I had to do everything by myself, including registering for copyright and book license. But it was a fun process actually. I learned to be more creative. I sold the book through my friend’s company, schools, and so on. I saw that as an opportunity to learn and I enjoyed every single second of the process. Basically my purpose is to share my knowledge with the public. I believe everyone can cook and through my books people can learn to make simple yet delicious home cooking without being intimidated by complicated techniques.
How would you define your cooking style then?
I call my food honest food. My cooking technique is simple and easy-to-follow, especially for beginners. I’ve received some criticism from many chefs who think that my cooking methods are too straightforward. Well, I don’t like to follow certain rules in cooking. I cook based on practicality as a busy wife and a mother of two little children.
What’s next for you?
I am in the process of finishing my fourth book, Masakan Keluarga Wina Bissett
(Wina Bissett’s Family Home Cooking), inspired by my husband’s family cooking which is rooted in Scottish and Armenian traditions. The creative process, which included writing and taking photographs, took place in UK. The book is expected to sell in December before Christmas. I’m also planning to open my cooking studio soon, where I will hold cooking classes, and to open my own pastry shop. Everyone who wants to learn or teach cooking is welcome there, because the whole point is to share knowledge with others and improve the quality of Indonesian cuisine. As an active council member of All Saints Church Jakarta, I’m also occupied with many church activities, including baking for church events. But on top of that, my priority as a housewife is to cook for my husband every single day, bake and play with my children, so yeah, I’m pretty busy now (laughing).