Dade Akbar loves street food, and nothing beats the humble meals on offer at the modest family owned stalls of Indonesia.
Dishes from the warung tegal, as they are known, stir up memories of delicious home cooked dinners and are hugely popular for a cheap, everyday feed. But there’s just one thing that sells them short - they’re not pretty.
In the age of Instagram and food porn, Mr Akbar believes little value is given to the ugly and ordinary, which is why his social media project Warung Gourmet, was born.
The project takes the authentic flavours of his favourite warung tegal street eats and marries them with a gourmet presentation that wouldn’t be out of place at a Michelin-star degustation.
“Street food is hugely important to Indonesian culture,” Mr Akbar tells SBS, “Street food sellers learnt to cook in way that is so authentic, and you just can’t get that anywhere else.”
“Also the experience of street food is incomparable to any eating experience, because the personal interactions that happen in these places would be impossible in formal restaurants.”
Not wanting the tradition of street food to die out, Mr Akbar is trying to reassert its value to a new generation of people both in Indonesia and abroad, by making it perfectly Instagramable.
“Everything has to be visually attractive first, to get their attention and to invite them to participate," he says, “Then showcasing it in a way that has never been done before, to cut through the clutter.”
By giving the humble dishes an air of flashiness and allure, he hopes that people will feel proud to share photos of it with their friends.
His own creations, which are regularly posted to his social media pages as well as his own Instagram account Warte Gourmet, feature a host of vibrant colours, tiny garnishes and carefully placed elements.
They’ve been received with much positivity in Indonesia where Mr Akbar says, “it cut-through because it was unique and sparked a lot of intrigue.”
“Of course there are some contradictory [opinions], but hopefully the breadth of my work today and in the future will help people understand it more.”