Waste is a huge problem in Bali, as one can imagine, from the massive tourism industry it plays home to.
There’s something revolutionary happening at Potato Head Bali. Ijen, the new seafood bar and grill at the beach club, is racing to become the first completely zero-waste restaurant on the island. They’re already 97% of the way there, setting a groundbreaking example for the restaurant industry on how to stay cool and sustainable while throwing nothing away.
Ronald Akili, the founder of Potato Head, and Chef Wayan Kresna Yasa decided to create a restaurant that was completely zero-waste. They were firmly committed to the goal of finding every possible way to reuse and redirect waste products for other purposes. And of course being the legendary Potato Head brand, they did it with funky fresh style and never-before-seen design.
Everything—like, seriously everything— at Ijen had a past life before being made into what it is now. The mottled blue and yellow base on the tables and chairs are made with recycled foam and sponges. The patterned coasters are made from old tires. The napkins are upcycled textiles. The candles are filled with old cooking oil from the deep fryer. The cups are melted beer bottles, most likely one of the thousands of Bintang bottles thrown away in Bali every day. The list goes on and on, as everything from the floors to the utensils were built with repurposed materials by local craftsmen.
Waste is a huge problem in Bali, as one can imagine, from the massive tourism industry it plays home to. Most businesses are unconcerned with what goes into landfills and can’t be bothered to separate their trash for recycling and reuse.
Chef Wayan works overtime to make sure the kitchen isn’t throwing anything extraneous away. All single use plastic has been eliminated from the kitchen. The restaurant only works with suppliers who have given up single-use plastic as well. Food is stored in reusable sealed bags and Tupperware. The shells of shellfish are used for stock then dried out and burned in the oven like charcoal to smoke the fish. They meticulously separate compost, animal feed, wet paper, dry paper, shellfish, animal bone, and recyclable plastic. Chef Wayan painstakingly follows up with all suppliers, farmers and processing plants to verify that everybody adheres to the zero-waste philosophy and any waste from the restaurant is being repurposed appropriately. Talking the talk and walking the walk demands constant commitment and creative solutions, but Chef Wayan is determined to accomplish everything he set out to do.
“You really need to stick to it. Not when you have a hard time, you quit. If you start it, you have to continue and finish it strong. Change your menu or minimize your menu. Or work more closely with the farmers or suppliers to teach them or advise them…
I want us to set the example for other kitchens. I’m not looking for an award. I’m happy with people looking up to me and starting to contact me with questions. I’m happy to help with that.”
Needless to say, the food at Ijen doesn’t disappoint and the seafood is fabulous. All of the fish supplied to Ijen is line caught, as using a single line is a much more sustainable method of fishing. The restaurant works with conscious suppliers like Bali Sustainable Seafood, who teach fishermen in local villages how to fish sustainably and make a living. At Ijen you’ll often find barramundi, snapper, grouper, and seabass from around Northeast Indonesia, Bali, Sumbawa and Java.
The menu is full of colorful seafood and produce forward items; exactly what you’d want to eat at a breezy island grill. Everybody’s go-to should be the whole fish filet wrapped in banana leaf cooked in the wood fire oven, then topped with fragrant matah sambal. The fish is soft and juicy, and the super-fresh local herbs never fail to pack a punch. The delightful rice parcels are a must-try also. Triangular banana leaf packets reveal a mix of grilled rice mixed with yummy accompaniments like squid, dried shrimp, shallots and sweet potato. There’s a wide selection of small plates to casually snack on like the local ceviche which comes in a coconut and crispy baby cabbage that’s prepared like Brussel sprouts. Ordering all of the sambals on the side to go with your meal is also highly recommended, which include green mango, spicy strawberry, Ijen’s special hot sauce, and fresh matah sambal. All of them are delicious and add extra fabulous flavors to kick up your meal.
Ijen proves that the future of the restaurant industry is already here. Everybody needs to visit Ijen and see with their own eyes that it’s possible to operate a sustainable, zero-waste restaurant that’s still incredibly trendy and delicious. Next time you’re in Bali, head over to Potato Head to support the groundbreaking zero-waste movement.