It’s one thing to get rid of the plastic straws, but Seasalt at Alila Seminyak in Bali has gone much further, introducing a dynamic sustainable menu and cocktail concept. F&B director Helmut Roessler shares the recipe for this outstanding initiative with Joezer Mandagi.
These days, when you go restaurant hopping around Bali, you will definitely notice a near total absence of plastic straws. Or Styrofoam packaging. Yes, the island’s hospitality industry has rallied together for a green earth and blue seas. Helmut Roessler, Director of Food and Beverage at Alila Seminyak, has taken things a step further at one of the establishment’s most celebrated eateries, Seasalt.
Essentially, Seasalt has introduced a new refined dinner menu featuring creative ocean-inspired dishes by Chef Vivian Vitalis, as well as a new wave of cocktails concocted by mixologist duo Ayip Dzuhri and Daniel Gerves. The twist: these new culinary creations were fashioned with sustainability in mind. For the dinner menu, this means wild-caught seafood and partnerships with small, community-based vendors. For the cocktails, a zero-waste concept where ingredients are reused, recycled and upcycled to minimise waste.
We chatted with Roessler to learn more about Seasalt’s next-level going green concept.
What motivated you and Alila Seminyak to create a sustainable F&B concept?
Being sustainable is a key focus for the entire Alila brand. In line with this, the overall concept of our F&B has always been to be as sustainable as we can, using local ingredients before importing them from the other side of the world. But yes, we were eager this year to take it a bit further.
What has been the biggest challenge you encountered while planning the new menu?
The biggest challenge was consistency. It was not easy to create all the cocktails with a story and a sustainable fact.
Conversely, what are some of the things that came naturally to you and your teams at Alila?
We all just love what we do, so things just fall into place sometimes. I would say we all have a small environmentalist in us.
Can you walk us through one or two of the highlights of Seasalt’s sustainable menu and explain what makes the dishes more environmentally friendly?
After juicing a pineapple, the leftover pineapple meat is dried, hydrated and made into a candy to be used as a cocktail decoration. The leftover pineapple skin and leaves are fermented twice to create our own liquid cocktail base. We make syrup out of avocado seeds, which gives a very nice flavour to our drinks. We use chickpea water in our drinks instead of egg white for a light, creamy body. Leftover oyster shells are cleaned, crushed and then infused into vermouth, which we create a spectacular Martini with.
Our food menu is 85 percent made with local ingredients and all our seafood comes from waters around Indonesia. We also work together with Sustainable Seafood Bali to ensure the fish is properly harvested.
We noticed an emphasis on wild-caught seafood in Seasalt’s new menu. There’s still a lot of misunderstanding out there about wild-caught vs. farm-raised seafood. Can you tell us a bit about why the former is considered more sustainable?
This is a common question. Simply put, wild-caught seafood is caught from a natural habitat—lakes, the ocean, rivers—whereas farmed seafood is raised in large tanks. The nutritional quality of the seafood largely depends on what the fish eats. Fish in the wild eat a natural diet and tend to be slightly lower in saturated fat than farm-raised varieties.
During the conception phase of Seasalt’s new menu and as you started collaborating with Bali Sustainable Seafood, did you learn any other new ideas about how the F&B business can be run in a more sustainable manner?
In general, I think we need to support what is available in our local surroundings. Why would I fly in, for example, salmon from Norway when I have in Indonesia the best barramundi and tuna? Do I really need to have Norwegian salmon on the menu that was flown in from thousands of kilometres away? In creating concepts and menus, this is a major point to think of now and we should all put a little more thought into it.
We’ve heard that you’re collaborating with small-scale, community-based suppliers – such as the farmers in Kusumba who make traditional organic salt. Who else do you work with?
As much as we can, we work together with a small oyster farmer from Sumbawa, organic vegetable farmers from Bedugul and local fruit suppliers. Not to mention all our ceramics come from Bali-based Kevala Ceramics.
Back to the zero-waste cocktail concept, reusing and recycling things like leftover fruit juices, fruit rinds and seeds might sound a bit disconcerting for some people. How do you present this concept as something that’s not only environmentally-responsible but also safe, enjoyable and impressive?
So far, the response from our guests has been amazing and most people are very interested to know more about it. I think I get asked twice a week for the recipe of our avocado pit syrup. Basically, we are a bar with great cocktails but we also look into producing as little waste as possible. This is a standard practice in any kitchen, so people should not be afraid when we do it behind the bar.
Looking ahead, are there any other sustainable concepts that you would like to incorporate into Seasalt?
I think we are on a good path at the moment and everyone in the team is very eager to create an amazing product in the most sustainable way possible. We would also like to educate others, so we are working currently on a sustainable bar workshop.