Last month I took our kids to Sweden to visit family. I had planned to write the blog for July on my parent’s porch, but jet lag interfered with my plan; it is hard to focus when you feel as if you are wading through a river of mud on a hazy day. So, no blog last month, but this month I have a special treat for you: the testimony of Chef Felix. It will make you want to feed God's people - and everyone else too.
Board of Directors, CCI
Board of Directors, CCI
From the Burner
- Life lessons from Christian chefs
Christian Chef and restauranteur Felix Sienatra,
from one of the top fine restaurants in Indonesia,
shares his testimony this month.
Passion for Serving
Happiness is always found in giving to others, but a deep and abiding joy comes when our desires match God’s desire and will for our lives.
Chef Felix and The Wind Chime
After returning with his wife, Ling Ling, in 2004 to his hometown of Bandung, the capital of West Java, Indonesia, Chef Felix experienced difficulties for months, which tempted them to return to their successful career abroad. For several years abroad, Felix enjoyed a highly satisfying career in a coloful array of fine kitchens in Singapore, Western Australia, and Bali, including holding a position as the executive chef at Saltmill’s Restaurants in Turks & Caicos Islands British West Indies and overseeing three of its outlets. Felix had often cooked for numerous celebrities and tycoons, including Bruce Willis, the Kennedy clan, the prominent people of Silicon Valley, and the prime minister of Italy. However, in his hometown Felix was at first greatly discouraged to find that the culinary business was an arduous experience as he started his own restaurant, The Wind Chime. Chef Felix often asks himself if perhaps the restaurant would be more successful in a city with a larger number of gourmets who can truly comprehend and value his food and can afford the fare offered by his restaurant.
Eventually they decided to stay in Bandung for several reasons. They believed that God would never forsake His children and would provide for their needs. Ling-Ling and Felix have experienced God’s faithfulness with His provision that keeps their restaurant going. God helped them as they went through the hardship of paying the bank loans for the capital and the operational costs of the restaurant. God showed His faithfulness beyond their understanding by providing somebody generous who for years has regularly sent them the funds needed monthly to run their restaurant.
Currently, The Wind Chime is considered by knowledgeable gourmets in Bandung as one of the most elegant restaurants in town. A complete dinner for a couple, including alcohol, runs about $200 which is highly expensive for Bandung prices, however, it is about half the cost of a comparable dinner in Jakarta. These Bandung gourmets agree that Felix the Chef masterfully strikes that delectable balance between delicate and simple local ingredients by marrying sophisticated flavours of imported seabass, lobster, prawns, ducks, wagyu beef, lamb with fresh flavours of local produce of asparagus, mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes, fiddle fern, mangoes, and apples.
Passion for giving
There are times when all the seats are full with guests enjoying their exquisite dishes, but there are also times when they do not have a single guest all day. Although some would consider the profit from the Wind Chime inadequate, Ling Ling and Felix are tremendously grateful for the income they receive from the Lord. And while they do not make a huge amount of money, they love sharing their blessings with others, especially with people who serve the Lord full time, sacrificing their life to reach the unreached. Ling Ling and Felix have decided to not wait until they are wealthy to begin their ministry of providing exceptional food to God’s servants. Many financial investors have offered to invest in a luxury-dining restaurant for Felix and Ling-Ling, which would provide them with a stable and sizable income; however, the investors immediately became discouraged when Felix explained his terms. The investors must agree that the proposed restaurant will, without consideration of cost, provide any menu item to the servants of God at no cost. The investors considered this request ridiculous.
When Ling Ling and Felix are asked the reason they care so much about serving God’s full-time workers, the following poem beautifully expresses the passion of their hearts:
My eyes view the hands that lead and guide
And nurture and fold for each prayer pleaded.
The beautiful feet that walk distance just for one more soul, one more soul.
The lips that proclaim hope and good news to a hurting world that needs to hear.
Do you remember their great care for us?
When our going gets tough,
When our days seem like the longest nights,
When trials and tribulations obstruct our view and block our hindsight,
When hope seems like a distant past for us?
They surrender their wills and desires for our sake,
And remind us of the promises to us that God had made,
They let go of their dreams and makes His, their own,
So we could fulfill God’s perfect design for all.
God’s servants suffer and hurt, though.
They have needs, too.
They give much, yet they need much more.
They dwell in fleshly frames that grow weak and shaky.
Who do they cling to when things don’t go well?
Who answers their midnight calls and petitions when troubles knock on their door?
Who sends them encouraging words when life gets bleak?
Who remembers the ones who are always remembering others?
Ling Ling commented, “How can we remain indifferent when we read letters from those serving in remote areas demonstrating enormous sacrifice as they serve God reaching out to the unreached in the interior areas of Kalimantan or Papua. Their families must bathe without soap, wash their clothes without detergent, and since they cannot afford shampoo, their scalps are itchy and their hair is full of ticks.”
“Frequently, many of God’s full-time workers live in remote areas where food and medical access is limited and the access to clean drinking water is also difficult,” Ling Ling continued, “yet, they remain dedicated to serve God wherever he has called them. Although they experience extreme hardships in life, when they receive the small gift from us they feel that God truly cares for them and will never leave them. They are thankful for the little donation we send them. With the small amount we are able to give, they can afford to buy chickens to provide eggs for their family’s source of protein.”
Felix added, “We do not know how to comfort them when they are hurting. We do not have a lot of money to support them, but we have the desire to provide them with a little joy through gifting of creating good food that God has given us. It is our hope that our food will taste like a banquet from God for His faithful and dedicated servants and bring them a moment of physical and emotional refreshment. When we hear that evangelists like them come to town to attend spiritual seminars, conferences, or training, we rush to invite them and their family to taste our food, which we hope will taste like a heavenly banquet to them. For years we have loved to serve other people with our cooking, such as, missionaries, preachers, and other people in Christian ministry,” said LingLing. Felix and Ling Ling cannot forget a touching experience of serving a family of four. Ling Ling remembers, “Their children were amazed to taste the food and they exclaimed that they did not know food could taste so delicious.”
For Ling Ling and Felix, sacrificing financially and providing for others’ needs regularly does not come natural to them; they both acknowledge that only God’s power and grace enables them to give. They are convinced deep in their hearts that this is God’s will for them and they long to be obedient and faithful to Him no matter what. It is God’s grace and love that gives them the ability to give and share when their own financial situation is not always stable. Even when they have the opportunity to give away the best steak pieces their restaurant offers, they do so eagerly and with a grateful heart. Whatever God has given them in their refrigerator is never withheld from His servants which He asks Felix and Ling Ling to serve. God has made them cheerful givers; their giving is a delight, a privilege for which they are extremely thankful. God could have chosen many others to have this privilege, but they are grateful that He has appointed them to this wonderful ministry. Not everyone has the opportunity to use their gifting and something they love, such as creating beautiful food, to serve others. Felix and Ling Ling recognize this privilege and do their best to be faithful to their calling.
The command: “Go and invite”
Clearly, God says in His word that His children are to go out and bring people to the sumptuous wedding banquet. Although the banquet in this context has a symbolic meaning of inviting people to enter the kingdom of God and to enjoy His spiritual blessings forever, Ling Ling and Felix also believe the call can be interpreted literally to include inviting God’s servants to a real ‘banquet’ which meets their physical needs. And, Felix and Ling Ling passionately believe that they are to provide that banquet to God’s full-time workers as He enables them.
Years ago, when a servant of God told them that someday they would feed many people with the food they cooked, they did not immediately respond to it. It was years later that they started praying and asking God to show them how to use what they love to do most for His purposes and plan. Unexpectedly, He answered their prayers by sending His servants to eat at their restaurant. One time, the elders of Felix and Ling-Ling’s church did not know where to take a guest preacher to dinner. Felix offered his restaurant. As time passed, it became clear that the prophecy made years ago by the pastor had come true. “We love doing this ministry of providing special meals for God’s servants because God Himself has provided us great banquets from time to time,” shared Felix.
Serving food from the heart
Chef Felix serves the food with his whole heart. His passion for cooking is reflected in the exquisite execution and superior taste of his dishes. Also, he continually improves upon his already inspired menu, ensuring that his guests always enjoy an innovation of flavors and intriguing combinations. Ling Ling and Felix also lavishly serve God’s servants, who are their honorable guests, with a collection of sweet and savory menus with contrasting flavors that complement one another beautifully and is cooked with great care and passion to bring out the best in all the array of ingredients.
French cuisine is Chef Felix’s rare and incomparable endowment. The following descriptions of The Wind Chime’s cuisine, based on a reviewer in FRV Travel edition 8.5 of February-March 2012, give a glimpse of the sumptuousness and beauty of Felix’s craft. His sautéed French escargot with garlic herbed butter and champignon mushrooms delight our fancies and bring to our mind a cool, romantic Parisian dinner. The foie gras served with polenta, portabella mushrooms, truffle oil, and mango coulis is magical, eliciting maximum flavor from the very freshest of ingredients and we all are inspired to draw our lips in uttering, “Délicieux!” Preparation and creation down to the smallest detail capture the essence of French flavour in every dish. Indeed, The Wind Chime is one of Felix’s masterpiece emerging out of his experience as a “palate seducer”.
Chef Felix plates dishes complex in flavour with a refreshingly delightful presentation. A tantalizing example of his artistry is the jumbo prawn appetizer that is both attractive to the eye and promises perfect succulence with a savory flavor. The jumbo prawn rests on a thin slice of dragon fruit, accompanied with yellow mango vodka jelly that balances the rich flavor of the prawn, atop with orange flying fish roe. The intriguing dots of yellow and black sauces of salmon roe and balsamic reduction sauce encircling the island of dragon fruit resembles colorful precious stones. The drop of green color of the nasturium leaves on the body of the prawn offers a pretty touch to the palette created by the chef. The presentation of the cuisine created by Felix shows an interesting arrangement of the ingredients and garnishes that provides an attractive textural contrast and a burst of robust flavor.
For the adventurous type, patrons can also look forward to The Wind Chime’s renowned and very exquisite Chilean sea bass and pan-seared French foie gras with toasted brioche and apricot emulsion. But among the top-notched dishes offered is The Wind Chime’s Butcher’s Wife Steak. It is especially prepared from one-hundred and eighty grams of Australian wagyu complemented perfectly with potato dauphinoise, grilled asparagus, and a mixed capsicum stew, served in a portabella mushroom and topped with chanterelle sauce. This unique dish takes us to another level of indulgence. The steak is so tender, succulent, and flavorful that with the last bite the diner is left broken-hearted with the realization that the enjoyment of the incomparable dish is over.
A wonderful dessert or two after a filling meal is what The Wind Chime offers for a dramatic and explosive ending to a grand night. Their gorgeous hot chocolate truffle presents a mix of sweet and sour blends of chocolate mousse-filled meringue embellished by yogurt sherbet. This luscious dessert continues with chocolate lava cake with a packed surprise in its core and generous adornments of liquor- coated cherries. While their wine selection is slightly limited, their wine collection includes great wines produced all over the world.
According to local people living in Bandung who have frequently traveled abroad for business, the food served at the Wind Chime surpasses the quality of the food served at several well-known and prestigious French restaurants in both San Francisco and Paris. The high-quality of the Wind Chime underscores even more the exceptional ministry God has given Felix and Ling-Ling to bless God’s workers with the rare opportunity to experience world-class food in Bandung, Indonesia.
Felix the chef has been given an extraordinary gift from God, so he asks the Lord to continue to grant him and his wife the great honour to serve Him by providing His dedicated servants heavenly ‘banquets’ at The Wind Chime, a restaurant God has built through this dedicated couple. As they give they are engulfed with the tremendous joy of the Lord as they experience His will for their lives to become the extension of His loving care to His dedicated servants. As their food is a perfect fusion of divine flavors and visual beauty, so are their lives a perfect fusion of their gifting and passion and God’s will.