Anyone Can Cook (ACC) community is using food diplomacy to promote Indonesia in Abu Dhabi.


Who doesn’t love food? Food has always been universal. You just love any food that is considered tasty even though the food has such an unfamiliar taste for you or came from the end of the world.

That’s why food could be such a perfect tool to promote local culture. Food diplomacy, as it’s often called. Furthermore, our country, Indonesia, is known for its incredible gastronomic diversity.

Recognizing this, the Indonesian diaspora in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), formed the Anyone Can Cook (ACC) community, whose mission is to introduce the world to the diversity of Indonesian food.

Irene Darryl founded this community on September 17, 2014. Initially, ACC was merely intended to serve as a gathering place for the Indonesian diaspora in Abu Dhabi.

Most Indonesian diaspora members who have recently arrived in Abu Dhabi, said Irene, are unsure where to get Indonesian food and supplies. There's also confusion over how to get a driver's license or register for vaccines at a hospital, among other things.

“Once the question is shared in this community, it will be quickly resolved. All members will work together to help new members to adjust themselves," Irene added.


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The cure for homesick

Even though they began as a typical diaspora community, they felt a great longing for Indonesia over time. Especially the Indonesian culinary, which is hard to get in Abu Dhabi. Therefore, the community members took the initiative to offer their own cooked food to other community members.

“Despite the fact that the people who cook were our own friends, they handled the transaction professionally. The selling price is carefully calculated, considering the cost of the ingredients as well as the time spent cooking. As a result, not only did the members of this group succeed in providing excellent dishes, but they also learned how to run a business,” Irene explained.

Irene also asked community members to organize courses since she saw buying and selling Indonesian food as a bigger opportunity. With her work experience at the Hilton Gatwick in London, she was one of those who gave training. She teaches communication skills, as well as how to handle customer complaints.


Food diplomacy

The ACC community not only provides training but also support for members who want to share their knowledge and skills. Members who want to teach cooking, baking, or soap-making classes to other members, for example.

The number of people in the ACC community has now surpassed 300. Housewives make up the majority of its members, who are passionate about promoting Indonesia through food diplomacy.

Which country is more suited for food diplomacy than the UAE? Immigrants from various countries account for 85 percent of the population of the UAE. This is a fantastic opportunity for members of the ACC community to learn more about other countries' cultures and cuisines.


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Jamu as a cultural heritage

Members of the ACC community promote a variety of Indonesian foods and beverages, which have gained popularity among the international community in the UAE. One of them is an Indonesian citizen named Kristantinah Chika with her jamu kunyit asem.

Her jamu is popular among the Indonesian diaspora in Abu Dhabi, as well as Malaysians, Indians, and even Portuguese. One of Chika's goals is to let people know about Indonesian jamu. That Indonesia is more than just batik and rendang.

Some entrepreneurs who join the ACC community can even expand their culinary business to Indonesia. Among them are Nenden Setiawati and Syahfitri Mutia. Nenden distributes a variety of cakes and bread under the name Nenz Gourmet, which she learned to make in Abu Dhabi.

While Mutia has been a resident of Abu Dhabi for 11 years. She then decided to pursue a career in Indonesia, where she would sell a wide range of foods. From cinnamon rolls to nasi kabsah, and authentic nasi biryani.


Holding on during the pandemic

As time goes, the ACC continues working. The Covid-19 pandemic couldn’t stop them. They even succeeded in holding the Online Food Bazaar: Indonesian Culinary Festival in honor of Indonesian Independence Day. The event included eight small businesses, 17 kinds of Indonesian dishes for 45 dirhams.

Not only holding an online food bazaar, but the ACC also held a cooking demonstration on September 9, 2021. Entering the community's seventh year, members want to continue to contribute to society.

They held a lontong sayur palembang culinary demonstration, which was led by Indah Septarina, a Palembang native. She demonstrates how to make lontong sayur in a rice cooker. Indah has been actively promoting Palembang cuisine in Abu Dhabi for the last two years.


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Getting the recognition

The ACC's success cannot be separated from the Indonesian Embassy in Abu Dhabi, which frequently entrusts their consumption needs at each of their events to members of this community.

As a result, GulfNews, the largest media in the UAE, trusted one of the ACC members, Ayu Saraswati, to share her opinions and recipes in the media. This Sidoarjo-born woman's Sate Padang recipe was also used by a 5-star hotel in Dubai. Her pastries were also sold in an Abu Dhabi coffee shop and were highly popular with the locals.

Furthermore, Irene admitted that she is very grateful that the ACC community has become stronger and has even begun to get recognition outside of Abu Dhabi.

“On social media, we're frequently asked if the Anyone Can Cook community has branches in other countries. If this can be accomplished, I will be very happy, because the diaspora who have traveled overseas are, all the same, separated from their families. So, perhaps, this kind of community may expand on its own, providing a support system for Indonesian immigrants wherever they are," Irene closed.


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