Brenda Ritchmond, the brain behind Bali Buda, talks about a healthy lifestyle...
All she wanted to do was to start a healthier lifestyle for herself. But life is full of surprises. Brenda Ritchmond (BR) never thought that her desire to have a better lifestyle would result in Bali Buda, a healthy food shop and restaurant that now has six outlets in Bali. Bali & Beyond (BB) got the chance to chat with her.
BB: What brought you to Bali?
BR: I grew up with an extremely unhealthy diet. Ice cream for breakfast and no vegetables besides celery and no fruit but an apple. There was no information on health readily available – it was the days before the internet. And life in my teenage years seemed really empty. Sometimes I would look outside across the street to our neighbors and burst out crying at the banality of my culture, not being able to articulate it. My soul craved for more. I somehow sensed that life was more than just macaroni and cheese and TV. I remember one day while watching “Casper the Ghost”, I thought, “I have to spend time reading under a tree outside.” And so I did and I became an avid reader of fiction.
I knew I had to get out of the country, so in 1986 I applied as an AFS exchange student in high school. They promptly rejected me, because I couldn’t hang out with the other participants. They seemed deviant to me and so it was hard for me to fit in which made me look anti-social. I re-applied and eventually they sent me to Indonesia. I had to go to the library to find out where this place was, I’d never heard of it! I’ve been dancing since I was five years old, I was practicing and performing tap, jazz and ballet in the states. I studied Javanese dance in Java. Then I wanted to study Balinese dance in Bali. So I made my way to Bali in 1989 to study dance and I fell in love. And here I am today.
BB: And once you were in Bali, did you start practicing a healthy and organic lifestyle?
BR: I’ve been drawn to healthy living when I was a teenager. As a child, I was frequently ill and I grew to understand the philosophy of “let food be thy medicine”. When I came to Bali, my passion was dance. But when I started a family I had to choose organic healthy food for my family and community. Back in 1999 when we opened our first Bali Buda café in Ubud we used to have “You are what you eat – eat well, eat organic” written on the wall. It was a new concept at that time.
Eventually I also became a full-fledged practicing midwife and was able to directly observe the effects of a healthy diet on pregnancy and birth. So it has become my mission to spread healthy food and healthy eating habits to my community and Indonesia at large to make each generation as healthy as possible with real food as the main focus.
BB: When creating Bali Buda, what was your main purpose? Was it because of your deep interest in a healthy lifestyle or simply because you want to share its positive effect?
BR: I would definitely say both. And there is a third reason. I believe in long-term sustainable solutions for our planet and its people. I was inspired by Indonesia’s rich heritage of health giving foods. It’s natural, and for me healthy living is a way of life, not just a fad. My vision is to make healthy living accessible to all. When we first opened Bali Buda, there was virtually nothing available in the way of organic produce. I had to seek out small family farmers and I started buying produce from them. That was when I found Ibu Kartini and her family. She now leads Bali Organic Association and we are proud to say that via Bali Buda we have assisted her and her farmers to revert over 40,000 hectares of land here in Bali back to organic farming.
BB: How did you create the amazing Bali Buda menu? Are the menu items all organic and plant-based?
BR: First of all it needs to be real and authentic. Nothing can beat your mother’s home-cooking, right? Many of the dishes here have been passed down to us from family favorite recipes from around the world. It is also really important for me to adapt the recipes with the use of local, fresh organic ingredients. I also want to serve everyone, so we have quite a wide selection of foods. Whatever your dietary habit is, we can offer something delicious and wholesome.
BB: What’s your favorite menu item at Bali Buda?
BR: I love our Apple Crumble Pie, I never get enough of that. And right now I’m enjoying our new Hummus Sisters. It is a range of nine Mediterranean-inspired dishes including pumpkin hummus, beetroot hummus, roasted vegetables and fruity Moroccan Salad. Definitely my newest favorite!
BB: Why do people need to go to Bali Buda?
BR: We take care of our health very seriously, and this means we also take care of our customers’ health seriously too. I love to travel across Indonesia to find the best produce that can be brought to your kitchen table. For example, we use only high-quality coconut oil and real olive oil in our production and kitchens. There is absolutely no palm oil in food and soaps. We use sea salt, non-GMO rice, soy and corn, local and organic produce as much as possible. We also support cottage industries by buying from our staff or outsourcing to families that are trying to make a living or make additional income as long as what they do is in line with our vision. So when you shop at Bali Buda, you are supporting not only yourself but a larger healthier community as well.
By Suhartina Sindukusumo