August: The Best Restaurant in Indonesia on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2024 list

Eve Tedja


epicure catches up with Hans Christian in Jakarta to hear about the impact of August’s recent recognition from Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list.

After several major setbacks due to the pandemic, August finally opened its doors in Jakarta in 2021. Founded by chef Hans Christian and F&B professional Budi Cahyadi, the 50-seat restaurant’s homey ambiance evokes a neighbourhood coffee shop rather than an austere fine dining restaurant, its open-plan layout inviting guests to dine, wine, and linger. At August’s heart lies the open kitchen, a state-of-the-art culinary opera where Christian, pastry chef Ardika Dwitama Tjandra, and the rest of the team produce their morsels of delight. 

August, August: The Best Restaurant in Indonesia on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2024 list
Hans Christian and Budi Cahyadi from August

When it comes to cuisine, August is a bit difficult to place into any conventional categories. Some dishes highlight the product, such as James & Jen’s Fresh Egg, where Christian sources the egg from James & Jen’s Farm in Bogor and serves it within 48 hours. Hans cooks it sous-vide at 65 degrees Celsius and serves it along with bacon marmalade, sautéed horenzo, and a simple sauce made from roasted chicken bones and a pinch of ginger. 

Other dishes are inspired by childhood memories. Breakfast from Mom pays homage to how the chef’s mother used to prepare rice for him with lap cheong sausage omelette. He takes this nostalgic breakfast to another level by serving it as a crispy rice cake topped with chicken lap cheong and egg sauce. 

August Jakarta
Breakfast from Mom, one of August’s signature dishes

August received the American Express One To Watch Award in 2023 and currently ranked 46 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2024 awards. While it’s not the first time an Indonesian restaurant has been included in this prestigious list, August has made history by being the first Jakarta-based restaurant to achieve the coveted honour. 

Here, Christian tells us about his culinary background, the concept for August, and why being able to sit down with his team for a family meal before service truly matters. 

What were you doing prior to opening August? 

I went to the States to study culinary nutrition and eventually landed a nine-to-five job in a research and development company. But I felt something was missing. I applied for and landed an opportunity to stage at Alinea in Chicago where I found out my calling to be a chef. My first full-time job was at Yono’s in New York. It’s a classic fine dining restaurant where I had the opportunity to learn about Indonesian flavours under chef-owner Yono Purnomo. Then, I joined Next, one of Grant Achatz’s restaurants. 

Unfortunately, my work permit was rejected and I had to return to Indonesia in 2016. An opportunity came up to work at View at Fairmont Jakarta, where I got to learn about what Jakarta had to offer and was given complete freedom to express my creativity. There, I realised the importance of menu design and taking care of the guests in the dining room. I knew that I needed to find an expert at this art of hospitality if I were to open my own restaurant one day. Then, I met Budi Cahyadi. 

August Jakarta
The interior of August in the centre of Jakarta’s business district

Can you please share a bit about August’s concept and food? 

I wanted to make a place where people could come and enjoy good food. It’s not necessarily an ambitious restaurant or super ground-breaking, just simple and tasty food with a bit of creativity. Just a  restaurant  made for the love of hospitality and good food, without even trying to be too fine, intimidating or “intellectual”. 

When it comes to cuisine, I always say that our tagline is “contemporary” or “modern flavours,” which is the opposite of “authentic.” My food cannot be put into specific boxes, such as Italian, Asian or Indonesian, because it is based on my personal experiences and influences. Let’s call it “modern flavours with an Indonesian influence.” One of my commitments is highlighting Indonesia through the products I use, such as ingredients like torch ginger kluwek.

In Jakarta, most restaurants are still business-minded. There are not many places where you can clearly tell the direction of the restaurants or places that are driven by the chef-owners. I’m sure there are many Indonesian chefs who can do it, but they’re somewhat afraid of the market. They feel Jakarta’s market isn’t ready for the tasting menu concept. 

To tell you the truth, I’m also guilty of underestimating Jakarta’s market. Back when August first opened, I designed our concept to handle 60 percent à la carte and only 40 percent tasting menu. In reality, from when we opened until today, 90 percent of our reservations are for the tasting menu.

August Jakarta
Foie PB & J, a classic favourite from August in Jakarta

August in Jakarta has been a great champion for nurturing a healthy work environment. Can you tell us what this means?

Budi and I are committed to making August sustainable in many ways, from developing good relationships with suppliers to fostering our team members and F&B community. 

We take staff meals seriously. We don’t use leftover ingredients for them; we have a programme to cook a nice and comforting menu. Every day at 3.30pm, we take a break, stop everything, and sit down to eat. We call it a “family meal”. We eat for an hour, then clear up, and continue setting up.

August is closed on Sundays and Mondays as well as during long holidays like Christmas and Ramadan. We want to make sure our team can go home and enjoy some time with their family. We provide a benefit for the staff that allows them to eat in August twice a year with their friends and family, fully covered. Many people work in a place where they can’t actually afford to invite their friends or family to eat. We’re grateful our staff have taken care of our business, so why not give some of that care back to them?

We also want to contribute to the F&B community in Jakarta so that we can grow together. Thus, we created an F&B privilege programme (for non-management level personnel only), opening our restaurant to those who work in the industry to come and eat with a 50 percent discount. 

Did you ever imagine August being the first Jakarta-based restaurant to be in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list?

The challenges before we opened August didn’t allow me to dream that far. I resigned from my previous full-time job and then the pandemic happened. August’s opening had to be postponed for two years. I put everything into it, including my savings. This restaurant is basically a do-or-die for me.

Winning the One To Watch award is both gratifying and puts us under a lot of pressure. I felt I wasn’t worthy enough to be standing alongside the great chefs on the list. While it is a great honour to be recognised as a rising star, the only way forward now is to get even better and go up. 

“Triumph Over Adversity” was written by Edwin and first appeared in the June/July 2023 print edition of epicure. 





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