Banana leaves instead of plastic, line-caught seafood, wood fire in place of gas. This is how the kitchen rolls at Ijen, the new "zero-waste philosophy" restaurant at Potato Head Beach Club in Seminyak, Bali.
Its owner, Potato Head Family, has a history of sustainable business practices, but Ijen takes things up a notch, repurposing the majority of its waste. Plastics are processed into building bricks, green scraps are fed to local livestock, fish scales are the star ingredient in rice-flour crackers. "We use our waste to create other products," says executive chef Wayan Kresna Yasa. "Pickles, aromatic oils, chilli oil. We even ferment our own sambal using a technique similar to sriracha."
Ijen's open-air dining room, which is lit with LED lights, is crafted from recycled materials. The floor is tiled in terrazzo flecked with broken glass and plates, furniture is padded with cushions made from foam recycled from motorcycle seats, – even the drinking glasses are repurposed beer bottles. But the real draw is the kitchen, a study in pale brick and wood (recycled, of course), where Kresna Yasa turns out the likes of mackerel served with rujak, beans grilled over charcoal, and grouper wrapped in banana leaf with a root-spice paste – all are touched by the wood fire in some way. "We call it 'tropical-island seafood grill'," he says.
Kresna Yasa grew up on Nusa Penida, the arid island off Bali's east coast, where most sustenance comes from the sea. Cooking with flame was also a familiar practice for the chef, and at Ijen, he combines the flavours and techniques of his upbringing with skills developed overseas; during eight years in the US he cooked for the likes of Ryan McCaskey at Chicago's Acadia and Dan Barber at Blue Hill Stone Barns. He then joined Potato Head in 2016 to head its Indonesian restaurant, Kaum. "Cooking with fire is something I grew up with," says Kresna Yasa, "but at Ijen I'm combining that with the Western knowledge that you grill the fish, finish it in the oven and get the smokiness from the wood fire."
Vegetables are sourced from local farms, and the fish that end up on the grill depend on the day's take, caught local using a hand-reeling process then promptly delivered to the restaurant's display case. "I'm very picky," Kresna Yasa says.
The zero-waste model keeps Ijen's kitchen and suppliers on their toes, but for Kresna Yasa, the cause is vital. "People need to care about the environment, not just about making money," he says. "I see more and more business owners starting to focus on sustainability. We just need more."
Another luxury group in Bali taking sustainability seriously is Alila Hotels & Resorts, which is developing a waste-processing lab and facility. Alila's Uluwatu and Ubud properties have rolled out "zero waste to landfill" protocols, with Alila Manggis and Seminyak following suit in 2019.
Ijen, Potato Head Beach Club, Jl. Petitenget No. 51 Seminyak, Bali, ptthead.com