Surabaya's Food & Rhyme Festival
by Ken Jenie
Whiteboard Journal’s experience with Food Kartel began about a month before the actual event. Receiving a phone call from Anitha Silvia, one of the organizers in Surabaya, we were excited as she explained Soledad & The Sister’s Company new project for Surabaya Town Square and asked us to collaborate. She mentioned that they were planning a weekend market that focused primarily on food, and wanted to collaborate in making a journal/newspaper titled Food Journal to be distributed during the event. We, of course, agreed to.
As the deadline was approaching, our designer conducted the necessary revisions for the journal as the rest of Whiteboard Journal prepared to visit the very first Food Kartel. Although the event officially started on Saturday 11th, Whiteboard Journal’s editorial team flew to Surabaya for the second and final day of the event.
As we were driven by Food Kartel’s liaison, Ivan, from Juanda International Airport to the event, we asked him about the first day – what we missed. He explained that Ayren Mayden, Faux, and Mocca performed for the inaugural day, and Mocca’s performance was particularly special as it was the release of their new album, “Home”, and with friends performed a whopping 20-song set for about two hours to the delight of fans and visitors. Just as we were approaching Surabaya Town Square, there was a sudden knock on the passenger window. Alek Kowalski, owner of Soledad and the Sisters Company and organizer of Food Kartel, was in a vehicle behind us and decided to join us in our short ride to the event.
During our brief moment in the car, Kowalski explained some of the reasons he wanted to create Food Kartel. Alek Kowalski is the founder of Sunday Market Surabaya, a quarterly youth pop up market in Surabaya Town Square that has gone into its 9th event earlier this year. He explained how Sunday Market Surabaya has had continued success, but wanted to create something new and more focused – which ended up being Food Kartel, which is (obviously) focused towards food, and also a bit of home and living. He also mentioned that with this new event he experimented with a new layout for the market.
Our conversation was cut short as we arrived in the mall and went on our way to see Food Kartel. Entering the event area, we were greeted by our friends and organizers in Surabaya at their booth, where visitors were welcomed with Sarsaparilla and our collaborative Food Journal. After exchanging greetings, our team began exploring the festival grounds.
Surabaya Town Square is oval-shaped with a large open area on the street-end where the heart of Food Kartel’s market is. Having been to one of the Sunday Markets last year, we saw a few noticeable changes to the lay out. The stage now faced the center of the mall, and the booths (which all sold food) were concentrated in the middle of the open area, while the home and living section were spread out indoors. Even with the noticeable differences, the layout wasn’t too different from Sunday Market, as the architecture of Surabaya Town Square is really centered towards its open area, and we are sure that the organizers knew this as well.
Weaving through the rows of food stalls, we noticed the variety of food and drinks around us, with places such as Jam and Jar offering pastries, Curry Joy (of course) selling curry, Toripan Cakery having everything from jelly, chicken buns, to sushi, and Artcofie specializing in coffee. Desserts seems to dominate the Food Kartel, as we saw everything from waffles, cronuts, cupcakes, to pudding, lollypops and cakes. There were a few hearty meals to be had, though, but consisting mostly of burger and sandwich-types of food. The mobility of most of the items was convenient for the visitors as they were always on the move, only stopping briefly to order or take a closer look at the menus they were attracted to.
During our browsing of the market we also noticed that there weren’t many stalls that sold Indonesian food. Two that stood out were Ramayana, where our team had a taste of crispy-fried wader named “Wader Brader” on the menu, before buying a bowl of Mie Celor, a Palembang Delicacy. The other stand out was Celicub, who sold Kue Cubit (a dessert that has apparently gained popularity recently according to some of our colleagues).
In a casual conversation over dinner, we asked the organizers if they would consider having local street food, since Surabaya is well known for its cuisine. They explained the selection process for the tenants was through social media (Instagram) – with home businesses in mind, and that street food was best when had on the street, as going to a particular place is part of the experience. They also mentioned that for many of the tenants, it was their first time selling their products in a physical retail space. Looking back, the booths had quite a lot of personality, with most having a good amount of decoration and good presentation, probably translating their Instagram personas into their physical space.
In the wings of the Food Kartel market were the home and living sections, which had an array of different sellers specializing in everything from vintage furniture, custom pillowcases, to ornaments and tableware. Some of the booths, such as the barbershop, digital caricature, was stretching the theme of home and living a little bit, but did add a refreshing variety to the mostly-food market. One of the booths had Celcea, a local artist, who was making chalk art of clever food-related phrases live during the event. With phrases such as “Bacon of My Life”, “Long Live Taco”, and “Surabaya Needs Ice Cream” chalk drawn on blackboard displays, it made for an entertaining display.
Hours passed, our stomachs were full, and at about 7PM we heard the sound of a piano coming from the main stage, so we curiously made our way to see who was performing. Malang’s Christabel Annora was singing and performing her tunes on the piano accompanied by a xylophone and a cello player. A light drizzle deterred a few concertgoers from filling the concert grounds, but over all, the sweet-tinged piano pop of Christabel was well received, with the audience generously applauding after every song.
A few moments passed after Christabel Annora finished her set, and more than a few of the visitors seemed anxious, checking their watches and filling the concert floor waiting for the music headliner Payung Teduh to take to the stage. A few ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ can occasionally be heard from various Surabaya Town Square pockets as they were airing a football match between Manchester United and Manchester City, but were soon eclipsed by the roar and applause from the concert audience as Payung Teduh performed. The band has quickly garnered a legion of fans in recent years with their slow-romantic Indonesian pop music, and it was quite apparent that there were many fans based in Surabaya and its neighboring cities. The stage area was packed with people singing along to almost every single song, and even with a light drizzle coming and going the energy continued to be high.
Payung Teduh finished their set and the event started to wind down as two DJs spun a set of mostly funky jazz-inspired hip hop and reggae. Our team was tired as well, and as the market-goers began to exit the grounds and the tenants started to pack their belongings we sat and people-watched until Food Kartel officially concluded. Waiting for the Surabaya Town Square parking lot traffic to subside, we hung out with the event organizers, their faces tired but surprisingly calm, perhaps relieved to have finish their new project after three days of work and weeks of preparation, and the calmness definitely from the experience they have had organizing previous events.
Looking back at Food Kartel, it felt like the organizers at Soledad and the Sisters Company achieved their goal as the inaugural food market gathered people to have a taste of what the youth has been cooking up (pun intended), and ended the event smoothly with a happy audience coming home with full stomachs and music ringing in their ears. What Food Kartel will offer in the future only time will tell, but this first event set a good platform for the organizers’ next innovation.