Chef profile: Reynold Poernomo, KOI Dessert Bar and Dining

Long before Reynold Poernomo became a household name, his family were already trying their hand in the food business.

In fact, the journey started when Reynold's mother, Ike Malada, began operating a dessert business from their family garage in 2012.

Now, after TV fame and a popular dessert bar in a hip suburb of Sydney, Reynold sits down with Lifestyle to share his incredible story. 

Why did you want to become a chef?

"Cooking has always been a hobby of mine since I was 14 years old. I’ve always been fascinated with food and exploring new ideas, allowing my creative mind to be exercised and challenging myself to create and I think cooking was the perfect way to express my creativity. A big part of what got me started is my mother Ike, the “I” of KOI (Kids of Ike). She was the one who started KOI, making desserts in our garage with $300 to support the family. Seeing this was what really inspired me to pursue cooking as a career."



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Who is your biggest industry inspiration?

"My biggest industry inspirations are Grant Achatz (Alinea in Chicago), Aitor Zabala (Somni), Albert Adria (Tickets) and Jordan Kahn (Destroyer & Vespertine).

"What inspires me about these chefs is how they are pushing the boundaries of new ideas each time they open a new restaurant or create a new menu. They’re cooking with no rules while still being playful, conceptual and original. Grant Achatz, for example is a pioneer in molecular gastronomy which won him multiple awards such as the ‘Rising Chef of the Year Award 2003’. This type of boundary-pushing creativity is what I bring into KOI every day in both our dining and our desserts. We want people to be stunned by how we are manipulating food to create truly unique dishes."

What’s your go-to kitchen appliance?

"There’s no doubt about it, it’s easily Thermomix and I’m pretty sure a fair few chefs would say the same. It’s a life saver of a blender. It’s an all in one set of kitchen equipment, which saves a heap of time and in a busy kitchen such as ours where we are plating up intricate and delicate dishes, time is an invaluable resource! I can guarantee our head chef Alvin would agree to that.

"I also have to give some love to our Kitchenaid Standmixer. This one I’d say is essential to a kitchen that makes so many desserts. We have desserts everywhere! It’s in our dessert bar, on our degustation menu and also our dessert degustation menu."



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Favourite ingredient to cook with and why?

"I love cooking with mushrooms. It’s such an overlooked ingredient. There is an incredibly diverse range of mushrooms, each with their own unique textures and flavours and this gives me the flexibility to use it in different applications. One of the best things about mushrooms is that I can apply it into my desserts as it brings another depth of flavour and a robust savoury umami into a sweet dish. We use porcini mushroom in our Magic Mushroom dessert on our Autumn menu. It’s a porcini with espresso, smoked chocolate and matcha and it looks like a mushroom! I just love that you can do things like this with mushrooms."

What is your career highlight so far?

"Having KOI along with my brothers and myself being listed in the Forbes Asia 30 under 30 Arts while being nominated as a finalist best pastry chef of year by Gault & Millau in the same year, was by far the highlight of my career. It really showed that people were noticing what KOI and myself were doing in the hospitality scene and it was like accomplishing my dream. It really motivated me to continue improving KOI and focus my creativity."



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What staple meal do you cook regularly at home?

"I’m not proud to say it... but instant noodles... sadly. Being a chef is a 24/7 job, you’re always updating menus, coming up with new dishes and working in the kitchen. I have a great team and Alvin really helps to carry the stress of working in the kitchen but nevertheless it still is a lot of work – but I love it!

"Sometimes, depending on how I feel, I’d have the occasional home-cooked dishes like a chicken soup that I cook with a whole chicken from scratch. It definitely takes a lot more time than instant noodles or canned chicken soup but it’s definitely worth it. It’s incredibly easy to make it healthy and you can add a number of different vegetables to give it fragrance and change up the flavour."

Can you tell us about the worst cooking blunder you’ve ever had?

"In the spirit of my inspirations, I tried making a beef-fat ice cream with strawberries served on a bone marrow. All I can say is that the ice cream didn’t feel right. It was weirdly wrong, like it shouldn’t exist… BUT I’m determined to make it work. It’s something that hasn’t been done before and I want to push the limits of what is possible for a dessert in terms of flavours. We’ve made incredible bone marrow dishes in our dining menu and it’s such a unique and rich flavour that I want to take it out of just savoury dishes."

See Reynold in action at KOI Dessert Bar and Dining.

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