Calgary’s Indonesian Kitchen restaurant closes after 13 years

Click to play video: 'GlobalFest offers fireworks and international food'
GlobalFest offers fireworks and international food
GlobalFest is more than just fireworks, it’s also a great opportunity to sample international cuisine. Watch as Katrini Chastam of Indonesian Kitchen prepares a traditional dish – Aug 22, 2016

After 13 years, Indonesian Kitchen in Calgary is moving onto catering endeavours.

The restaurant, located at 3917 17 Ave. S.E., closed its doors Sunday because matriarch Kartini Castam is retiring.

“Right now, families demand me to be home and spend more time with them,” she said with a laugh.

Castam’s daughter Maryam Gowralli said the closure will be a new adventure for her mom.

“It’s very different when you have a local business because you always have a premises that people visit, and you really become a part of the community. Your regular customers become your friends, your family,” she explained.

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“But at the end of the day, it’s a new life page for my mother. She’s retiring, semi-retiring.”

Cultural ambassadors

People visited the restaurant for more than just food. Castam said they became “ambassadors of Indonesian culture.”

“People who are going to Indonesia — like to work or do their own research or to visit — they will come here and ask me what to wear, what to bring, what to expect, and our restaurant is like opening the door to that,” she said.

Workers prepare food at Indonesian Kitchen in Calgary on Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. Global News

Castam said her restaurant experience is about educating her children on Indonesian culture beyond school as well as lessons in business and customer service.

“I really got to experience that matriarchal culture that comes from Indonesia because it’s all women basically working here,” Gowralli added, noting that she has worked with her mom since she was a teenager.

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“It’s nice connecting with people and connecting with the city and connecting with culture. We’re very honoured to have provided that experience for people.”

At one point, the restaurant was the only Indonesian restaurant in Alberta, Gowralli said.

“We had people coming in from Edmonton, from Fort McMurray, from Vancouver and the U.S., so we are so grateful, and we’re still going to be providing catering services at some point,” she said.

“We’ve created an extended family, and there are so many people from all different walks of life that have come to see us because the Indonesian community here in Calgary is relatively small.

“There’s something really special about us because we’re one of the few Indonesian restaurants. We provide an act of discovery for people and people to have an intimate relationship with food.”

Kartini Castam (left) and her daughter Maryam Gowralli at Indonesian Kitchen in Calgary on Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. Global News

‘My second home’

Castam is grateful for the outpouring of support after they announced the closure.

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“Cooking is my passion. I love cooking. I love people, and it was very enjoyable for me to have the restaurant,” she said.

“I’m really heavy-hearted I have to leave. I’m very sad. This has been my home — and I’m really happy to be here, and now I have to leave — but still my home, my second home.”

Gowralli chimed in: “When she cooks in front of people, it’s like magic, and so she’s like everyone’s mother or grandmother. People instantly feel that.”

The pair said to watch for updates on their website in the new year.

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