SOUTH PORTLAND — A group of friends who love to cook took time out Sunday to honor a friend by throwing a fundraising brunch in his memory.

They said cooking some of Adrianus Michael “Mike” Kusuma’s favorite foods and serving them to his friends was a way to come to grips with the shocking death of the 33-year-old member of the Class of 2010 in the Southern Maine Community College culinary arts program.

“He was good at everything, but his specialty had to have been breakfast,” said Brett Cary of Cape Elizabeth, a classmate.

Kusuma was killed Sept. 18 by two gunmen who broke into his home in Spring, Texas, an affluent suburb of Houston. He had moved from Maine in 2013 to open an upscale breakfast and lunch restaurant, Sunny Side of the Street, with the help of his uncle and brother.

The gunmen demanded money before shooting him and assaulting his brother, Sebastian. Police have made no arrests.

A family friend told the Houston Chronicle that he believed the gunmen knew about the restaurant’s success and the possibility that the day’s proceeds may not have gone into the bank because it was a Sunday.

“He was intelligent, happy-go-lucky, witty, passionate and creative. There is no way anyone would have a grudge against him,” said Lindsay Bradeen of Cornish, a classmate who organized Sunday’s brunch with Cary.

Kusuma followed his uncle, Tony Kusuma, from Jakarta, Indonesia, to the United States to attend college. He graduated from the State University of New York at Geneseo, went to work for Mercedes-Benz, and then decided to go back to school and obtained a master’s of business degree from the University of Southern Maine before following his true passion, food, at SMCC. He worked in restaurants in Portland and Kennebunkport, including Vignola, Bandaloop and Hurricane Restaurant. His parents still live in Jakarta.

“His passion was food. He could out-eat anyone,” said Bradeen, who like her late friend runs a breakfast restaurant, Lindsay and Jennifer at Runway Restaurant in Limington. .

Kusuma worked it all off by practicing the Brazilian jiujitsu martial art, in which he held a blue belt.

Sunday’s brunch featured a menu of Kusuma’s specialties and his own favorite foods: baked blueberry custard French toast with almond crumb topping, buttermilk biscuits with sausage gravy, assorted mini muffins, roasted root vegetable hash with corned beef brisket and cream puffs to top it all off.

His favorite saying, a takeoff of a Mae West quote, was printed on the menu: “You go ahead, use the butter, use the cream. You only live once, and in the South, once is enough if you do it right.”

The 15 friends who organized and cooked the brunch transformed the Culinary Arts Dining Room overlooking Casco Bay with fall decorations. All of the food was locally grown and raised. Proceeds will go to Kusuma’s family.

Wilfred Beriau, retired chair of the culinary arts program, said Kusuma was special.

“He was a brilliant young man but more than brilliant, a gentleman,” Beriau said.

In Texas, Kusuma quickly made friends, attended Mass at a local Catholic church and competed in juijitsu competitions.

Now Kusuma’s parents, who visited him at SMCC, are rethinking a move to the United States and his brother plans to move from Texas, the uncle told the Houston Chronicle.

The Sunny Side of the Street never reopened after Kusuma’s death.

“He touched a lot of people through his personality and his cooking,” said Kimberly Parent of Oakland, an SMCC classmate.

 


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.