Janet DeNeefe at the UFF Anggara Mahendra


A visit to Bali over thirty years ago changed Janet DeNeefe’s life course forever. From her guesthouse to her cafes and restaurants, as well as the world famous Ubud Writers and Readers Festival she has made an invaluable contribution to the Island and is one of its greatest promoters globally. I chat to Janet about how it all started, life on her Island home and her latest project which is not to be missed!

JC x

1. Janet, a visit to Indonesia many years ago changed your life’s course. Could you share with us your story about how you came to call Ubud home?

I first visited Bali in 1974 when I was 15 years old and was captivated by the food, the place and the people from the very first moment. I returned to Ubud in 1984 and met my husband, Ketut, the second day. I returned 6 months later and never really left. Four children and a few restaurants later, Ubud is my home.


2. You own several wonderful hospitality businesses from restaurants to guesthouses and cooking schools, could you tell us about them?

We opened Honeymoon Guesthouse in 1987, which is where we live. Casa Luna was opened 22 years ago, in 1992, along with the Cooking School.  Indus restaurant is 17 years old and Bar Luna, where we host a regular stream of film screenings and performances, is coming up to six years. They all reflect my own taste in food and home comfort. Casa Luna I call home, Indus I call heaven.


Kitchen sign at Casa Luna Ubud by Anggara MahendraThe Casa Luna Cooking School

3. As a business owner and entrepreneur, what advice would you give to people wanting to go out on their own?

Never underestimate the importance of your community in Bali! People often say “I envy your life”, they think it’s some kind of fantasy. But there’s also a lot that goes on behind the scenes; ceremonies, funerals, relationships. Running restaurants or hotels takes a lot of work and you need to have boundless energy. Always remember that success isn’t just about you; it’s about the contribution you make to your community and how you can work together to build something that everyone can not only be proud of but be a part of. Business is also built on the people who work alongside you, your staff and your customers. It’s important to treat them with compassion because they are, in the end, like family.

 Beautiful blossoms by Anggara MahendraBeautiful Blossoms

4. When you visit Jakarta, where are your go-to food spots?

Pasar Santa! I just love what they’re doing – great food and a great vibe. We’re so excited to be bringing down some of the guys to the Ubud Food Festival; I think it will surprise a lot of people in Bali just how cutting-edge and fun Jakarta really is. I really love Union too. When I have lunch there I feel like I am in Paris!


5. For visitors to Indonesia wanting to see more than just Bali where would you recommend? 

Every place in Indonesia is special and unique in its own way. Even places like Seminyak, that offers a different kind of holiday with world-class shopping. But I also love to go to quiet beaches, such as Sengkidu, and for a quiet dinner by the sea I often go to Sanur.

 Janet DeNeefe cooking by Matt OldfieldJanet during a cooking workshop at last year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival

6. Apart from your food businesses you are also the Founder of the world famous Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, could you tell us a bit about why you started it, and why it is an unmissable event?

The Ubud Writers & Readers Festival was created after the Bali bombings in 2002. Morale was low and the community needed rejuvenation. I also wanted to remind the world that Bali, and Ubud in particular, is a culturally vibrant and peaceful haven. Working with the support of the local, national and global community, we were able to build the UWRF into what it is today: Southeast Asia’s largest and most celebrated literary event.


Spices closeup by Matt OldfieldBeautiful Balinese ingredients

7. Your cookbook, Bali: The Food of My Island Home is a beautiful collection of Balinese recipes and images of island life. What are your favourite things about living on the Island? 

The abundance of fresh ingredients and beautiful food. Even in simple warung and markets, the food is exciting and vibrant. I also love the emphasis on family life here; the importance of children and community is so wonderful and heart-warming. Even ceremonies add something truly special to the life here. The fact that you have to stop everything for God is rather lovely.

8. Do you have any exciting projects on the horizon that you can share with us? 

At the moment, all our energy is focused on getting the Ubud Food Festival up and running for its first year. It’s such a great concept that everyone wants to be involved – the challenge is having the capacity to cater for it! So I think there’s a lot of potential for it to grow and evolve in the coming years. After that? Catch up on some well-overdue sleep and family-time!

(Images by Anggara Mahendra and Matt Oldfield)

Website: www.janetdeneefe.com

Twitter: @janetdeneefe

Instagram: @janetdeneefe

Notes: Stay tuned for more details on the Ubud Food Festival.



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Casa Luna Cooking School

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