Meet Gun Gun, one of our 2021 Unilever Heroes. Every year, in the Heroes Awards, we recognise a handful of employees who have gone above and beyond their day job. Against the difficulties of the last 12 months, their stories are even more remarkable, bringing help and hope to communities around the world. We are deeply proud of them.
How do you help food businesses that have been badly hit by Covid? Unilever chef Gun Gun Handayana from Jakarta explains how he has been helping his customers despite the pandemic restrictions.
Hospitality and food service in Indonesia, as elsewhere around the world, experienced massive negative impacts as a result of Covid-19. “Restaurants became mausoleums, housing only empty chairs,” says Gun Gun, who is Executive Head Chef of Unilever Food Solutions (UFS) in the country. “Nobody was going out to eat – I saw so many of my customers struggling with their businesses.”
As Indonesia gradually reopened after the lockdowns, many restrictions on personal mobility remained. How could customers best be reached with ideas for new menus, product information and training?
The first answer was for Gun Gun to acquire new skills in food photography and video-making. Working from home in his own kitchen, he created new dishes which he turned into assets that could be used to inspire chefs.
And at the start of the pandemic in Indonesia in March 2020, Gun Gun hired ten third-party chefs, covering every region in Indonesia. When Covid restrictions prevented the core chef team from travelling, the third-party chefs representing UFS were available to visit customers. So from the start of the pandemic up to the end of 1 June 2021, Gun Gun and his colleagues gave over 5,000 cooking demonstrations (up from 419 the previous year), on-site where possible and virtually where it was not.
And bucking the business trend during Covid, market penetration increased 21% in 2020, compared to 2019.
Helping young entrepreneurs
Launching a new business in the restaurant sector is challenging in Indonesia, and young entrepreneurs appreciate all the help they can get. Gun Gun led efforts to set up UFS’s entrepreneurship programme in June 2021 to mentor 30 culinary start-ups. The entrepreneurs involved – from street hawkers up – are located across Indonesia, mainly in the big cities, and are receiving help in areas such as food safety.
The Covid outbreak offered the opportunity for Unilever Food Solutions to thank Indonesian healthcare workers for their efforts in fighting the pandemic. Gun Gun spearheaded UFS’s Meal4Meal program to support medics in the Jakarta area.
Collaborating with local food operators, he supervised this ambitious program. Meals were prepared offsite by operators known for their high safety standards. In all, over 27,000 meals were delivered to overworked frontline medics who were dealing with high levels of Covid.
As his brother is also a doctor, Gun Gun understood the stress that medical staff were under and how quality food could lift morale. “Meal4Meal is one of the best experiences that Unilever Indonesia has contributed to the nation,” he says.
All of this comes naturally to Gun Gun. “I can’t imagine my life without a spatula, a wok and my kitchen,” he says. “I was born to cook!”