Catriona Mitchell talks with Janet DeNeefe, founder of the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, about her latest endeavour: the setting up of a food festival in Ubud, to have its inaugural outing in June 2015.

Janet, congratulations on your decision to start a food festival in Ubud next June. What sparked the idea, and how long has it been ticking over in your mind?

I have been wanting to start a Food Festival pretty much since I started the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival in 2004, but back then, a festival of literature, global issues and ideas seemed more relevant than a culinary feast.

Who else is on board with you, in terms of programming events, and brainstorming ideas and direction for the festival to take?

The Ubud Writers & Readers Festival staff will be assisting me and we will also bring on board a Festival Manager who will manage the program and technical details. Others who assisted with the kitchen program for the 2014 UWRF will also be among the team.

Actually, you’re referring to the food festival as a ‘sister event’ to UWRF. How else will the two work in tandem?

The UWRF will assist in operations, including the UWRF marketing and media team, so it will be one, big happy family with a few newbies thrown in. With 12 years experience up our sleeves, we know we can create yet another great event.

There are four aims to the festival: education, culture, global issues and community. Can you talk a little bit about your intentions with each?

These four pillars are also the foundation of the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival. For education, we will be addressing food and the importance of good health, and offering educational food workshops for people in the community, both young and old. For culture, we will look at the culture and food heritage of Indonesia, from ceremonies to mythology, and how Indonesian food has been shaped by these.

Global issues will look at seed sovereignty and the global dilemma of genetically modified ingredients, as well as the cultivation of rice and the organic food movement. Community will include community events and presentations for the local community, including discussions about diabetes and other current health issues.


What kind of ratio will there be in the program between the sensual pleasures – that is, events involving cooking and eating – versus the more intellectual events, such as discussions, films, and food writing workshops?

I imagine cooking and eating will be the main part of the program, but discussions, films and workshops will also be a very exciting, prominent feature. Food photography and blogging will also be included, as well as a farmer’s market and a night market. The cooking and eating will also include the drinking of prized Indonesian coffee and other specialities.

Will the focus be entirely on Indonesian ingredients and cooking? How many different kinds of Indonesian cuisine will be showcased, and from where?

At this stage, it is focused on Indonesian cooking, showcasing the diversity of Indonesian ingredients and cuisines from across the archipelago. The plan is to include food from Sumatra to Ambon, spotlighting the regional differences from one place to another, and the history that has shaped their cuisine.

Will there also be international presenters involved, who travel in specifically to give panel sessions and workshops?

There will possibly be some Australians who want to take part. Hard to keep them away, especially when it concerns food! But the focus really is on Indonesians and those living and cooking in Indonesia.

Where will your audiences come from – will you be marketing the festival internationally as well as throughout Indonesia?

We will be marketing it internationally and nationally. I love bringing people together, from all corners of the world. I believe the greatest ideas emerge from these sorts of gatherings and our aim will be to attract a diverse audience.

Do you anticipate that it will appeal specifically to serious foodies, or more to a general public? Will people attend for the full three days?

I truly believe both hard core foodies and the general public will attend the Food Festival because there will be something for everyone. And they would definitely attend all the days. Three days are over in a heartbeat and the program will be overflowing so people will probably leave wishing there was more!

Can you give us a ‘taster’ of some of the events to look forward to? Who or what is already locked in that you feel most excited about?

I am really excited about the local chefs such as Chef Miedy, Will Meyrick, Chris Salans and Eelke Plasmeijer, who have agreed to join the line-up, as well as food empresario Bondan Winarno, Ian Burnett, the team from Alchemy, Slow Food, Pod Chocolate and food bloggers, Bayu Amus and Amanda Niode Katili. I’m super excited about hosting some of the Pasar Santa crowd who are turning Jakarta’s market world upside down and I’m also thrilled to be featuring Indonesian food movies Filosofi Kopi and Tabula Rasa.

Finally – and on a more personal note – how on earth will you find the energy to run another festival?

Energy? Who cares about that! Food is my fuel. Sigh!

Ubud Food Festival


For more on the Ubud Food Festival, see the Facebook page here.

To learn more about Janet DeNeefe, se