Clarity comes at the strangest of times.
My body was jostling vigorously in the back of a 4-wheel drive Landcruiser barreling through the Sea of Sand at the base of Mount Bromo, an active volcano in East Java, at 2 o’clock in the morning. In true local style, our driver was using the moon to track our direction towards a viewpoint where my travel companions and I would witness one of Indonesia’s most iconic sunrise vistas.
As I was bouncing up and down with nothing to hold onto but my excitement, my eyes surveyed the view outside. Although it was night, the orange-red light cast from the oversized moon crept onto the mountainous ridge and revealed the crevasses that snaked from top to bottom. Beauty.
I turned to my travel mates only to see their eyes closed in an attempt to sleep. “Open your eyes!” I wanted to exclaim. How could one want to shut themselves off at this very moment?
A year in Bali sounds like paradise, and it was. But restaurant work is restaurant work, no matter where you are—my staff and I cycled through the highs and lows of production and service like the best of them. There was an abundance to teach and learn in the environment we operated in, and it created a remarkable bond that is unique to Room4Dessert.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that it was during this time Indonesian produce captivated me. However, the novelty of shopping at local pasars (markets) in Bali wore off when I continued to see the same fruits and vegetables week after week. If Indonesia was such an expansive country spanning across 17,000+ islands, why did I keep seeing the same produce? I wanted to find more variety, more distinctive, indigenous plants. How?
When I concluded my time at Room4Dessert in June 2017, I wanted to explore Indonesia outside of Bali. Up until then, if anyone asked me where Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, or Maluku were, I was a broken compass. It was time to change that. If you cannot tell from the existence of this blog, my sense of adventure is great. Indonesia fed the flame, and this is how I found myself in a Landcruiser at Mount Bromo in the hours before dawn.
At that moment, with my adrenaline running high, my mind was clear. I loved this experience—traveling from island to island, getting deeper into the food and culture, and meeting locals along the way. I was only able to do so because I didn’t have the responsibilities of a job. One could not be the other.
What if I were to travel across Indonesia to hunt for indigenous produce? What if I had to trek through land and water to find ingredients? I could finally discover the fruits and vegetables I could never find at the pasar. Wouldn’t that be something?
I am proud to introduce ASLI FOOD PROJECT ft. Indonesia.
To learn more about the process, travel and purpose behind this project in greater detail, please visit and follow www.aslifoodproject.com. For the next year, I will be dedicating my time and energy towards this in order to continue my own personal growth and knowledge in plants and sourcing, while also providing an educational and awareness platform for the global food industry and Indonesian community on the bounty of this country’s plants, cuisine and culture.
A slight sadness comes from the fact that I am taking a hiatus from restaurant life for the time being. My love of the kitchen has not diminished, but I know I must undertake this project in order to come back to it with a greater purpose than when I stepped away.
The adventure continues.
Photo: The sunrise view of Mount Bromo from Bukit King Kong in East Java.