San Diego College of Continuing Education (SDCCE) graduate and Chef, Rie Sims brings the taste of Indonesia to San Diego at the Warung RieRie. The fine-dining restaurant went viral on TikTok after just opening in May with reservations booked until September 2022.
Sims grew up in Jakarta, Indonesia where she cooked alongside her father, an international spokesperson for aviation safety. “I was introduced to cuisine from around the world at an early age. When my dad visited a country, he would cook the traditional staples from there and I would write down his recipes,” she said. “He would tell me to cook with my heart, because when someone makes you food, they give you their heart.”
Before moving to San Diego with her husband Dave Sims, Rie managed surf schools for Billabong and directed films in Indonesia.
At 41, she became the co-owner of Warung RieRie, and has since achieved international success. Warung RieRie is recognized by the United States Embassy in Jakarta as the fourth best Indonesian restaurant in America and back in 2016 Chef Sims was requested to cook for the President of Indonesia, the Indonesian Delegation, and media representatives at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit hosted by President Barack Obama.
“Even though I have been honored with these incredible experiences, I always advocate for SDCCE’s culinary arts program. They give all people the same opportunity, especially immigrants,” she said. Sims enrolled at SDCCE to formalize her training as a chef and completed the Culinary Arts certificate in 2020.
With locations in Point Loma and Mountain View, SDCCE students learn hands-on the art of cuisine and pastry as well as restaurant management through its six no-cost hospitality and culinary arts and certificate programs.
“As a chef, you cannot only cook, you have to run your business,” said Sims, who developed a business plan and menus in class for Warung RieRie. “The projects at SDCCE transitioned my restaurant into a fine dining experience.”
She added that crafting Indonesian food can take hours to prepare from the Sop Konro (Ox Tail Soup) to the Bebek Bengil (Pan Seared Duck). “Our instructors encouraged us to explore our own creativity through presentation. The plating technique comes back to you, plating is your signature.”
Warung RieRie customers will find more than colorful plates during their visit. The restaurant located in Serra Mesa is inside of an imported rice hut from the island of Sumatra. The menu changes monthly inspired by the traditional cuisine found on the Indonesian Archipelago or the islands of Indonesia, where Sims would travel to as a kid. She incorporates environmentally sustainable practices topping off her signature dishes with vibrant flowers, herbs, fruits, and vegetables from her garden.
“Home grown produce and farm to table is something my instructors at SDCCE always shared with us,” said Sims. Inside the classroom, culinary arts students are given ingredients from local farms to participate in cooking labs.
To experience the exotic flavors of Indonesia, Chef Sims recommends guests to join the waitlist, which already has three hundred people in addition to reservations booked until the end of next summer.
SDCCE is enrolling now for the spring semester. Free culinary arts classes begin February 2.