Cooking has been Farah Fauzan Quinn's passion since she was in the first grade. She would join her mother in cooking classes and mixed eggs with flour. She started with making watermelon-shaped jelly cakes.
She pursued her passion when she went to the United States for a homestay program at the age of 16. At first, she had culture shock because the high school system is different from the one applied in Indonesia. She also experienced funny mishaps due to misunderstandings and mispronouncing the language.
"For example, when I was in the class, I wanted to borrow an eraser from my classmate. I said, "Hey Joe, may I borrow your rubber?" Rubber means condom. So they all stared at me," Farah said, laughing.
Besides overcoming the language barrier, she also had to cope with food. The first year was hard for her because she had to eat American or European food every day and it took her quite some time to get used to it.
"Most Indonesians say that you have yet to feel full when you haven't eaten rice. But in the second year, I could live without rice," she said.
After completing her high school, Farah took a bachelor degree in the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, majoring in financial studies. Instead of taking a postgraduate degree, she decided to take a diploma in pastry at Pittsburgh Culinary Institute.
For Farah, western foods are easier to make than Indonesian foods. She said that Indonesian foods use a lot of spices and western foods only feature the main ingredients.
However, she added, both foods were very different and therefore, it would be very hard to compare them to say which one was easier, which one was harder.
"Perhaps the tastes of western foods are simpler because they are less spicy, but we can't say that they are easier. Many western foods are also difficult to make due to the meticulous cooking technique," she said.
She said that while Indonesian foods had many ingredients to remember, the cooking techniques were quite simple: just put them in pans or woks.
"To make rendang *beef cooked in chili and coconut milk*, we just have to put the meat in a pan and let it be until the water runs dry. But to cook a steak, you need to know the right temperature to determine how well it is cooked: rare, medium or well-done."
In 2005, she opened a four-star restaurant Camus with her husband Carson Quinn. Two years later, they sold the restaurant because its value had increased -- as Farah put it, "The price offer was simply irresistible."
After the restaurant was sold, she planned to have a break from all kinds of work as she had just delivered her baby Armand. However, she got hooked up with a television show after she showed her portfolio to Indonesian renowned presenter Helmi Yahya, who later involved Farah as a cooking jury in the Pantene pageant.
A few months later TransTV, which was planning a cooking show, remembered and contacted Farah. After making pilots, the station liked it and a deal was made. The public now regard her as a sexy chef.
"I don't remember how we started it. But we came up with the concept of yummy and sexy food. I think it's the people who start saying, *Oh she's a sexy chef.' But I never call myself sexy," she said.
Despite the glamorous side of the entertainment industry, Farah is also ready to face the ugly side: the harsh critics. Many people criticize her for using mixed language in the show and relate this to teenage artist Cinta Laura.
"When I speak Bahasa Indonesia, I use Bahasa Indonesia. But when I speak English, I do speak American English. I don't speak Bahasa Indonesia with an American accent," she said.
Facing the critics with positive attitudes, Farah said that she would not change herself and would just try to be the best person that she could be.
"If people don't like it, there's nothing I can do. I don't want to change just because people say so. This is who I am."
She hopes that her language capability will help her to go international.
"So maybe AFC (Asian Food Channel) will see my show and say, *Hey, she speaks good English, let's get her a show.' you never know."
Farah may be climbing her ladder of fame, but deep inside, she has an idol chef.
"It's a big secret. I love Rocco De Spirito. If you look him up on the internet, you'll know why I like him. He's an Italian. He cooks Italian food a lot. But I like him because he's a cutie. He's so hot."
Since learning is a never ending process, Farah keeps learning new stuff.
"To improve my skills, I buy cook books. I also want to learn more. So, for example, I know the General Manager of Hotel Indonesia Kempinski (Gerhard Mitrovits). So I visited him in his hotel, went to the kitchen and tried the latest kitchen appliances."
"I have worked in a resort but each place has different cooking utensils. I'm always interested to go to the kitchen and look around. I have gone to a cooking school and worked as a chef, but I have no problem learning from local chefs."
For those who want to work in the industry, Farah has tips.
"Either you want to be a chef or you want to have your own restaurant, I'd say just go for it, go after your dream. Focus and work hard, you'll get it. I chased my dream, now I'm on TV and I'm very happy."
- Photos by R. Berto Wedhatama
Farah Fauzan Quinn
Place and Date of Birth: Bandung, April 8, 1980
Height/Weight: 172 cm/50 kg
Bachelor degree in financial studies in the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Diploma degree in Pittsburgh Culinary Institute, specialized in pastry Work experience:
Pastry cook at Lidia's Pittsburgh restaurant
The Arizona Biltmore Resort, Phoenix, Arizona
In 2005, she was invited to the G-8 Summit in Sea Island Georgia and made dessert for First lady Laura Bush and delegations under the guidance of Chef James Mullaney In 2005, opened the four-star restaurant Camus and sold it in 2007