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By Bianca Dias-Halpert

Jeff with freshly made loempia

How can you not love food if you were born above a restaurant ?   So it was for Jeff Keasberry.

His oma’s restaurant in Amsterdam, which opened in 1954, was called “Djokja” after the name of the town she was from in the former Dutch East Indies.  Jeff said that the restaurant was an extension of their living room and kitchen.  Typically after coming home from school he would snack on a kroepoek (shrimp chips) or whatever was available.  His oma owned the building and extended family members lived on different floors so Jeff was never alone, having people and food together all the time.  He said it was like a constant kumpulan (party).

Jeff’s immigration story has a slight twist. In the mid 1960’s his parents moved to the USA.  In the 1980’s his parents went back to the Netherlands to help out his oma with the restaurant which they eventually took over.   In the meantime, his growing up years involved frequent travel between the Netherlands and USA as his extended family lived on both continents. By the time he made the decision to live in the USA permanently, he was familiar and comfortable with the American lifestyle.

When asked how his Indo background has influenced his life decisions, Jeff states that he strives to maintain equilibrium between his Dutch-Indonesian culture and heritage against those of his adoptive country, the USA.  He says that having been born and raised in multicultural Amsterdam with Indo influences it has helped him to be open towards other cultures, have more tolerance and he has developed a broad perspective on spirituality.  He also said it got him to further explore his identity having reached a solid sense of place and purpose.  He shifts easily between a Dutchman to an Indo to fully embracing American culture.  Home is where his heart is and he creates his own “gezelligheid” (sense of warm friendly comfort).

Oma Keasberry in front of restaurant in Amsterdam


Editor’s Note:  Jeff is on the board of The Indo Project who brings great passion and pride in his Indo heritage.  Learn more about Chef Jeff.

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  1. Hello Jeff!
    I was at the age of 4 when we left Indonesia in early jan 1946 for Holland. My brother and I went back there on a holiday trip in 1997. So in fact know very little about that beautiful country, but love the indische rijstaafel with plenty of sambal. You must feel very happy in the US by eating indonesian food nearly every day since you can make the choice of what you will cook. Congrats.
    Unfortunately, 6 years after the ww2, we went from Indonesia to the shit country Brazil and went back only to study in Delft at a later age. Its a pitty your grandma passed away, because my grandma (Emma van den Berg) and grandpa (Jan Meijer)lived both in Djokja for many years, where he worked as director for a sugar plantation and factory. I don´t know if it comes with the age, but never before I became so curious about the pas ancesstors and heritage.
    Here in Brazil there´s neither a Indonesian restaurant nor can you find the necessary boemboes. Would very much appreciate to keep a contact with you in the coming future and, who knows, can you satisfy my curiosity about the past. Please let me know if its possible. Thank you in advance. Guess you´re showing loempija´s on that pic? Looking forward to your comments, keep strong and healthy with all the best,
    Kindest regards

    • Hi Rudy,
      Where do you live in Brazil? How many other Indos do you know in Brazil?
      Thanks for your comments and Happy Holidays!

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