Homegrown & Well Known: GUSKY SUARSANA

One of the most successful local restaurateurs in Bali, the low profile Gusky commenced with his love of food from his youth. Now own five restaurants and a catering company later, he makes sure that he always serves the freshest vegetables from his own farm. Bali should be thankful to Gusky—he pioneered the movement to upgrade Indonesian food status from warung-class to restaurant worthy.

What’s the history of your interest in food?

My interest in food started as a childhood thing. I grew up in both Denpasar and Mas, Ubud, and there were times in Denpasar when food was very limited for my family. However, when we were in Ubud, we used to go to the rice fields or rivers to find our food and vegetables for the day. When I was in high school, SMA 3 Denpasar, and college, Udayana University, majoring in economics, I began supplying 5 star hotels in Sanur area with bebek tutu (smoked duck) and babi guling (suckling pig) for their buffet dinners. So from those experiences, I grew to appreciate and love food from early on.

My love affair with food got better when I met my wife Karen who also loves food as much as I do. Now as we all know, that she is the Chef behind all our Bali Good Food (BGF) Restaurants and Catering .

How did you get further involved in the culinary business?

I became formally involved in the culinary industry in 1997, when I started with Kafe Batan Waru in Ubud. I opened it because I wanted to have a place to hang out with my friends. When I told my friends that I wanted to open an Indonesian restaurant, most of them did not believe me because at that time, Indonesian food was only served in small warungs. Needless to say, Batan Waru was a success and give me the motivation to open Terazo restaurant.

Previously when I had lived in California, we used to cater for small parties (whenever we had time). At the time in California I had an import/export and contracting company, so although there was not much time to do catering, we took jobs when we can. I suppose my point is that I’ve always been drawn to the food industry.

How many restos do you own now?

We have 5 restaurants and a catering company. The restaurants are Kafe Batan Waru, both in Kuta and Ubud, Terazo, Siam Sally, Cinta Grill and Inn, and BGF catering.

I was a big fan of now-defunct Fuel bar and resto. It was totally chic, had a glam nuance, and helped smooth out the rough edges of Kuta-Legian. But it didn’t seem to work—and closed pretty quickly. What happened?

It went well for a while, until we suffered the now-famous gang fight (of course, there have been many in the areas since). After that, I realized that I am not up for having that sort of stress in my life, and there are things I can better focus my energy on. The night life was just not me at all. So, when someone came and wanted to buy it from me, I gladly sold it on.

Do you plan to expand, say, by opening a resto in Jakarta?

When it comes to expanding, I am one of those people who never plan. I just go with the flow. When a good opportunity comes, then I take it. I keep things in my life quite simple. I like to use the KISS concept (Keep It Simple Stupid, haha…). As it is, our farmers are quite busy up in the mountains, producing organic vegetables for all the BGF Restaurants and Catering group. We want to serve fresh and healthy food from our farms to all our customers. Yes, it is our priority to be able to continue to grow enough produce to service all parts of our business.

How do you find the food industry in Bali and in Indonesia? Do you have enough support from the government?

The food industry in Bali is growing fast and getting very competitive. The quality is getting better and we now are spoiled by the amount of choices we have. As for the support from the government, well…, I think it’s ok, but there’s always room for improvement!

Now let’s get personal, please name three of your all-time favourite records and why?

When it comes to music, I love any kind. I used to play in a band. But the albums that I still love to listen to, and bring me vivid memories are The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and David Bowie .

Three of your all-time favourite books and why?

I like books about philosophy like Tao Te Ching, The Art of War and also I like poetry by E.E. Cummings.

Any last nagging words?

Nope. I am not a nag and I don’t want to start now hehe…

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*This interview was also published on The Beat (Bali) #310, Apr 27-May 10, 2012

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