Posted on 21 October 2015 | Categories: People Profile

Balinese Literary and Culinary Heroine


The woman behind Ubud Writers and Readers Festival talks about balancing her business, festival, books, and family.

Janet DeNeefe was about to sleep in her room at Ubud, thinking about her blooming restaurant business when bombs exploded 35 kilometres away from her. 

“Seeing Bali after bombing in Kuta was really saddening. People lost their families and jobs. I kept thinking about how I can give back to Bali.,” said herself, the restaurateur who owns Casa Luna Ubud in that time.

That incident led her into the making of first Ubud Writers and Readers Festival months after.

Ubud now has been good. Her restaurant, Casa Luna already has two sisters, Indus and Bar Luna. Janet DeNeefe herself made it to held Ubud Writers and Readers Festival annually from 2004 until now and counting.

The author of two books and mother-of-four chatted with us about her restaurants, festivals, books, and family; pretty much about her whole Ubud life.

Why did you come up with UWRF instead of other events?

Post-bombing was really a devastating time for us Balinese. Before the incident I already had a plan to make a literary event in Casa Luna. I was also in the middle of finishing process of writing Fragrant Rice, a memoir that talks about Balinese culture and culinary. Suddenly I thought about making it bigger. I want Bali surrounded by people, especially the brave and thoughtful writers that could help Bali.

Then you come up with Ubud Food Festival in June 2015. What is the idea?

We actually want to make a food festival since a long time. However, when I focused in one festival, I will give my best for that one, so that I kept focus on UWRF. Last year we came with The Kitchen session in UWRF. Looking at the comeback, I thought we were ready to make Ubud Food Festivals. I really want to expose Indonesia’s culinary and talents to the world through this event. The most important is I want more Indonesians appreciate culinary as big part of our social life, culture, and history.

You are the author of two books. Would you tell us about them?

Fragrant Rice is my memoir about life in Bali. Basically it talks about my culinary experience and my family. I wrote it occasionally, thus it took ten years to finish. The second book is a cookbook, Bali: The Food of My Island Home. I developed and tested the recipe over and over, especially the Gulai Kambing one. It is very complex but I am happy with the result.

How do you manage your restaurants with all the rush?

I am lucky I have the most professional people as staffs. They are like family. However I always try to spend 20 hours per week for developing ideas and keep improving my business.

Why did you come to Bali at first?

The first time I came here is with my family at 1984. I was stunned by the rich culture and food. I tried frog legs, satay, and gado-gado and that was enough to make me fall in love with Bali. Long short story, ten years later, I came again to Bali, met Ketut who is now my husband, have four beautiful children, and never left after that.

The last question: how do you take care of yourself between your works and your family?

The first and most important thing is trying to keep myself fit with healthy food and exercise. The second is trying to keep calm with focusing on just one work before another. The last is, when I think I cannot take the work anymore, I will let it go. Besides, stress is not good for your health.

Janet DeNeefe is an author of two books, owner of three restaurants, the Director of Ubud Writers and Readers Festival and Ubud Food Festival, and an owner of Honeymoon Guesthouse. Ubud Writers and Readers Festival will be held on 28 October to 1 November 2015.

Text and Picture: Dina Vionetta

Tags: janet deneefe, ubud writers and readers festival, uwrf, ubud food festival. uff, casa luna, indus, fragrant rice, bali: the food of my island home, ub