The guys at Locavore need a bigger kitchen. It is a humid Wednesday evening and the restaurant is packed to the rafters. The open kitchen – which can’t be more than 10m by 3m – is also packed, with a line of cooks feverishly preparing a slew of dishes. Working alongside them is one of the restaurant’s co-founders, chef Ray Adriansyah.
Despite the apparent chaos, there is order. Everyone is hard at work but there’s none of the high-stress, volatile atmosphere found in many a restaurant kitchen. In fact, there’s a particular rhythm and cadence to the work flow, right down to the way food is served. The famous Balinese smile is ever-present, whether from a shared joke between staff or when a staff member is explaining a dish to a customer. Explaining the menu is not just a job for the waitstaff; every so often, a cook will emerge from behind the counter to explain a certain dish and its ingredients.
Locavore first opened its doors in Bali’s Ubud in 2013 and has since grown into a flourishing empire. Along the same stretch of road, there’s Locavore To Go (a casual dining concept), Night Rooster (a cocktail bar), Nusantara (Indonesian family-style dining) and, most exciting of all, LocaLab, where they research and test new menu items. In June this year, the team opened their own butchery – Local Parts.
“A butchery is something Eelke (Plasmeijer, Locavore’s co-owner) and I have always wanted,” Adriansyah says. “Apart from helping supply our various restaurants, we wanted to share great local produce with the public. All our meats are locally sourced – we sell duck from central Bali, beef from Java, and we make our own charcuterie from Balinese pork. We want to show that you don’t have to travel far to get great meat.”
It’s this commitment to and inventiveness with local produce that has set Locavore apart from most restaurants in Bali. Their rationale is, why import exotic produce from distant countries when there’s a wealth of great ingredients available in their own backyard? “We have a great relationship with our suppliers, most of whom we’ve been working with for years,” Adriansyah shares. “For example, the guy we get our vegetables from lives just 15 minutes away. If we forget something, we can just call him, and he’ll hop over with more supplies.”
Apart from mining Bali’s natural larder, the team also scours the Indonesian archipelago for unique ingredients and recipes to take back to LocaLab. “Having an R&D team allows us to go forward in terms of menu development,” Adriansyah explains. “We’re also creating a database of local ingredients, which we call LocaPedia.”
With so much thought and care going into their food, it’s no surprise Locavore has caught the attention of pundits. This March, the restaurant continued its rise through the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list, claiming 21st spot. “Even though this is our third time [on the list], it still feels unreal,” Adriansyah says, a smile playing on his lips. “When we first made the list, we thought it was a joke. We couldn’t believe a small restaurant in Ubud would be included.”
Accolades aside, Plasmeijer and Adriansyah are also keeping themselves busy with food festivals and collaborations with fellow chefs. Both of them agree this is just the beginning for Locavore.
“There’s still so much work to do here,” Plasmeijer says. “It will always be a work-in-progress.”
This article was originally published in the September 2018 issue of Silkwinds magazine.