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Our Valentine’s was more like Halloween!

What a scares!


I think I'll remember Valentine's day 2105 for quite a long time, but for all the wrong reasons.

The day began quite well for us: we were starting our new deck oven for the first time, trying out new recipes for Ciabattas in many flavours, Focaccia, Buckwheat bread, Baguette Tradition (à la French way…) and we were all excited to be baking up a storm!

Halas, we were quite oblivious that we were all in serious danger, including, unfortunately, our customers. When Teteh Sri almost fainted around 11:00, she and we blamed it on her lack of breakfast, just some exhaustion we thought, but still, I took her to a clinic in Cipete, where the doctors didn't find anything amiss. By noon, Tika, our barista was complaining of "masuk angin", telling me she wanted to go home, having already thrown up.

It's only when our waitresses, Denia and Alle, feeling dizzy and "lobat", found out that the bakers in the kitchen were feeling the same way, that we realized something was wrong. Thinking that we were victims of a gas leak or intoxicated from a Rentokil spray in the rest of the building earlier that morning, I shut down the kitchen, asked all the customers to vacate Komunal88 and started adding fans in the kitchen to help the ventilation.

Within minutes, three of our staff: Endang, our baker, Achmad, our helper and Denia, our waitress had fainted and were unconscious in our air conditioned storage area at the back of the kitchen. I was able to feel exactly how far our parking area is from Komunal as I ran breathlessly to get my car and drove again, but like a maniac this time back to Cipete. If you have cursed a lunatic driving a Honda CRV full beams on and leaning constantly on the horn, I do apologize as I had three unconscious teammates in my car.

The reality sunk in after our baking consultant reached out to me to tell me that all symptoms were consistent with Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Our new oven must have been faulty and leaked CO ever since 08:00. It is probably a good thing that the ventilation in the kitchen is so strong, otherwise the consequences may have been lethal for a lot of people.

I know for a fact that at least three of our customers were also admitted in various clinics of South Jakarta, complaining of massive headaches and vomiting. I do not know yet how many more have kept quiet or haven't connected their symptoms with us. To all that were affected in any way, I humbly apologize for unknowingly placing you in harm's way. Ignorance of a danger is no excuse and I am currently pursuing all avenues with the oven supplier to determine the fault.

I am so relieved that no one lost their live on this fateful day. Our colleagues remained in observation for the rest of the day and were released with a prescription of… Panadol (!). They rested at home on the Sunday and were back at work yesterday Monday, even though on a slower pace.

On the Sunday, unabated and defiant, my office managers and I decided to operate Komunal88 instead of our usual frontliners. Chef Mirko, alone in the kitchen, was like a whirlwind and managed, I do not know how, to get his usual fabulous fare out to our customers. Our regulars were puzzled but supportive and all in all, only one party became abusive, saying they had a horrible experience and demanded to leave; I of course refused their offer of payment, since no one should have to pay for afirst-world problem horrible experience. I hope anyone else that feels the same way will reach out to me by email and let me try to make amends.

Essentially, I now feel blessed and grateful. Blessed that we are all still alive and able to continue the Komunal88 adventure and so grateful for the fantastic support of my colleagues and customers. It is fair to say that Sunday must have been well below par, even by our "soft opening" standards. But we ended the day, exhausted and happy, having kept our community of Komunal88 open even at its darkest hour so far.

Today, Tuesday, the croissants that have become our signature are back in the showcase, customers are happy, the kitchen is humming, and of course the oven will remain off for the near foreseeable future.

More than ever, I'm the one you should kick.