Food sustainability has become increasingly importance as ecological concerns loom large. NOW! Jakarta recently met Kartika Jahja, owner of the environmentally friendly restaurant Selatan to talk about this issue in depth and how the restaurant helps to empower a green lifestyle.
You have been recognised as one of the BBC’s 100 most inspirational women in the world. Through your songs, you have clearly spoken about gender issues. What inspired you to become a restaurant owner?
I have multiple passions and interests, including for music, design, and food. I feel lucky to have the chance to pursue and making a living through my own music, but I have always thought that music alone does not help to earn a living. This is the reason why I am in the restaurant business.
Back in 2008 I had a restaurant named Kedai, and it had a good run for 10 years. I have always been grateful that I could earn a living in both music and food. A while after the establishment I started to narrow my career into activism through music performance and writing. However, it was quite a challenge due to poor time management. My career in activism through music was highly recognised and most importantly had a huge impact on my well-being, and I felt like I just need to keep on doing it but it had entered its tenth year. The restaurant I’d created in 2008 did not reflect who I was in 2017. So, I decided to close the old concept and moved on with the new chapter on sustainability.
Tell us about how the restaurant was reborn.
So we call it SELATAN, a small independently-owned business established with only three people who invested in the restaurant’s vision and mission. Film director Sinung Winahyoko, his wife Fadhilla Ristianti and me. Almost 80 per cent you see is all about recycling from the previous restaurant, Kedai. It did take time, love and passion to rebuild the restaurant into a whole new different level.
SELATAN was meant not only to serve food but also be a community space that can be used for film screening, discussion, studio, performing arts, acting and dancing classes, etc. The objective is that people nowadays are so detached from community, and the human connection is so rare that I personally think that we need a space to be physically together and to connect to each other.
What are the challenges in sustainable food system and menu?
The menu is 50 per cent vegetarian and 50 per cent classic Indonesian dishes as we want people to have as many options as possible. Now the challenge is how to deliver the values I have mentioned above to public; how to advocate green living to customers well.
As for the menu, consciousness is important. It is not the food that is the medium of activism or the messages. We are living in an era where everything is so instant including the food we eat, like we usually don’t question where it comes from. To bring out that conversation ‘do you know that the food that you eat is causing misery to a lot of living things?’ One of the things we do is we use sustainable fish as it doesn’t harm the environment. By doing that, it’s a choice that I make as a citizen of the world for not damaging it.
Tell us about the food ingredients and the favourite dishes.
We avoid using palm oil as we are aware how massive the damage is and the devastating impact of unsustainable products, so the ingredients are taken from sustainable fisheries or markets. We also use as many local ingredients as possible. Our favourite dishes include Chayote Shoots Stir Fry (Tumis Pucuk Labu) and Heart of the Banana (Jantung Pisang), Meat in Black Gravy (Nasi Rawon), Dabu dabu Grilled Fish in a form of sandwich and Nasi Panggang Kebun.
SELATAN Cafe and Restaurant
Jl. Benda Raya No. 89
Kemang, South Jakarta
E: [email protected]
This article is originally from paper. Read NOW!Jakarta Magazine October 2018 issue“A Jakarta Smorgasbord”. Available at selected bookstore or SUBSCRIBE here.