Few places in the world are a more beautiful setting for a food festival than Ubud’s Taman Kuliner, a mixture of umbrella-laden, bean-bag strewn grassy lawns and lantern-lit walkways leading to event stages, cooking demonstrations and bustling food stalls, ready and waiting to serve thousands of hungry foodies. By Holly Reid.
With the global food movement gathering force – audiences and consumers passionate about ethical eating and understanding the story and journey of their food – it’s easy to understand why the Ubud Food Festival has gained such momentum since launching in 2015.
Returning for its second year from 27-29 May this year, the three-day Ubud Food Festival was bursting with local flavours and produce, bringing together more than 60 culinary icons from across Indonesia and the globe to take part in almost 100 events.
From fine dining at some of Ubud’s most celebrated restaurants, to in-depth forum sessions interrogating the future of the archipelago’s food industry, the program celebrated Indonesian food in all its forms, from farm-to-plate, producer-to-palate.
The Festival’s growing audience is just one indicator of the event’s success, this year playing host to almost 8,000 people – more than 50% of whom were Indonesian –who collectively devoured over 12,000 plates of food.
This reflects the mission of the Festival to not only hero the dynamic Indonesian food scene and expose expats and travellers to the diversity of the archipelago’s cuisine, but also to support the local culinary industry by creating opportunities for aspiring chefs and entrepreneurs to develop and grow.
“As a Yayasan (a not-for-profit organisation), our mission as a Festival goes much deeper than simply serving up plates of delicious Indonesian food,” explains Ubud Food Festival Founder & Director, Janet DeNeefe. “We also want to create pathways for young Indonesian entrepreneurs and chefs, to connect them with the people and businesses that can support their careers, and to watch their idols in action. Through this, we’re helping to create an industry that will truly become world class.”
Indeed, a prevalent theme of this year’s event was strengthening linkages between business and local producers, with a series of cooking demonstrations on the Kitchen, Stage, Think, Talk, Taste sessions and special events focused on educating audiences on the importance of supporting local industries.
Sustainability was also a key topic of discussion, with panel sessions canvassing trends in Indonesian farming, fishing and production, and the need for improved commitment – farms to consumers – to protect Indonesia’s heritage foods.
Increasing awareness amongst Indonesian audiences of healthy eating featured heavily in the program, a culinary trend that has gained traction in recent years. Local school children and culinary trainees from in and around Ubud were invited to attend the Festival’s cooking demonstration series, to help inspire the next generation, and raise awareness in the community.
“Our country has not done enough to promote our culinary diversity and wealth,” said culinary icon Bondan Winarno, at the event. “I sincerely hope the Ubud Food Festival will more and more be the force to promote Indonesian traditional cuisines, particularly those with a focus on healthy eating.”
photos courtesy Ubud Food Festival