I am the only producer of tempe in Israel
People here don't know much about Indonesia because our countries have no official relations, so Israelis don't travel there," said Roy Grant.30 Agustus 2019 23:48
Roy Grant berpose dengan tempe bikinanannya. Dia adalah pengrajin tempe satu-satunya di Israel. (Roy Grant buat Albalad.co)
I have got his mobile number from one of his loyal customer, Professor Ronit Ricci. And Roy Grant, the only produce of tempe in Israel was excited when I told him that I want to interview him about his tempe.
He saw people making tempe when he was having holiday in Bali 19 years ago. By then, he tried to make tempe and sell accross Israel. He always tell his customers that tempe is originally from Indonesia.
During interview via WhatsApp yesterday, Grant, 50, always write in incorrect spelling: tempeh, not tempe. "You may be right, but in the US and Europe people write tempeh," he said in an exclusive interview with Faisal Assegaf from Albalad.co.
I have got information that you learn to make tempe in Japan? Is that right?
I lived in Japan for a few months, but I did not learn there. I also make natto, which is a Japanese food made from fermented soybeans, perhaps this is why you were told this. I learned how to make natto from the Internet, many years after I left Japan.
You told me that you have been Indonesia. At that time, did you already know and eat tempe?
Yes I knew how to make tempe by then. I was in Bali, and I went to see a few places that make tempe, also one that makes tofu. People were very friendly, they let me take pictures. I was impressed that in Bali you don't need an incubator to regulate the temperature while making tempe, it is always warm enough.
My parents lived in Singapore for several years so I was visiting them.
When and for how long did you stay in Bali?
April 2000, for just 9 days. It was the best holiday in my life.
Why did you decide to produce tempe in Israel?
I became vegan 24 years ago, so I was pursuing healthy vegan foods.
At first time, how many tempe did you produce and how many persons did you employ?
In the beginning, I was just making a few kilograms at a time. I still don't employ people. It's a small country, there is no justification for a large tempe factory in Israel.
It's more like the small workshops I saw in Bali, but I cook with gas and not wood fire like I saw there.
So do you produce tempe at your home?
I have a small kitchen outside of my house. When I make tempeh, my parents come help me for part of the process, to save time.
Where do you live in Israel?
I live in a small town, about half way between tel Aviv and Haifa. It's called Beit Herut.
How many customers for first time? How are their response on the taste of tempe?
To be honest I can't remember how many customers. Some don't like, but some like very much. Also some people know tempe from living in Europe or the USA. They say my tempe is good.
Do you make tempe everyday?
I make tempe once a week usually, sometimes more.
How popular your tempe in Israel today?
Most people here never heard of tempe, but health conscious people do, also vegetarians and vegans. I have a few hundred people who buy from me directly.
For a few years, I tried making tempe in someone's factory and I had a distributor who delivered to health food shops all over the country. It was not successful, the shops did not take good care of the tempe in the freezer, and did not know how to tell people what to do with it. Now I work directly with customers and they can contact me anytime.
Do you tell your customers that tempe is originally from Indonesia?
Of course! I have an Internet pamphlet I sent people. It includes photos I took in Bali
What is their comment when they know about that?
People here don't know much about Indonesia because our countries have no official relations, so Israelis don't travel there. If they could, I'm sure they would love it. And many would come.
Today how many kilograms of tempe do you produce weekly? And how many persons do you employ?
I make about 40 kilograms every week. I work alone, my parents come help me for a few hours to save time, filling the bags with soybeans.
Do you tell your customers how to cook tempe? Or give them leaflet about tempe menus?
I give them some tips. Also, I have an email I send, with links to YouTube videos on how to cook tempe.
Most of your customers from what backgriunds and cities?
My customers are quite diverse. Many vegetarians or vegans, others health conscious people, many in tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Also some religious people.
Do you have any special customer?
What kind of special?
Maybe from high profile persons?
Oh, not really.
How much do you sell your tempe per kilogram?
Each pack weights 250 grams, costs 17 NIS, that's about US$ 4.80. Price includes delivery.
Who are your biggest customers? Young or old? Male or female?
To be honest it's a mix of everyone. Religious people not as many.
Since when the number of your customers are growing?
Mostly in the past 3 years. But growing a bit every month.
How many custmers do you have today?
Today I have a few hundred customers.
I would say between 200-300.
Regarding special customers, is there any artist, politician, or government official becomes your customer?
No I don't think so.
Is your tempe production always be sold out every week?
No I try to keep some spare so I don't run out.
How much revenue do you earn each month?
I'm sorry Faisal, with respect, I can't get into these details.
There are around 35,000 pilgrims from Indonesia visit Israel every year. Have you tried to cooperate with hotels and restaurants to serve tempe on their menu?
Are you sure there are so many? I don't know where they stay. I was in touch with a group of researchers from Indonesia who were here for about six months, but at the moment I don't know of anyone from your country who is here temporarily
Are you the only producer of tempe in Israel?
As far as I know, yes
How much do you like tempe?
I love tempe.
How about your wife, children, and parents?
My wife liked tempe even before we met. My children like it too.
How did your wife know about tempe?
She studied in New York, she knew it from there.
How often tempe becomes menu in your family?
Once or twice a week.
Are you optimistic your tempe business will be keep growing?
About the business growing, it's growing, but I don't think it will ever justify opening a factory just for tempe. Maybe with other products.