Belgian national Dirk Puymbroeck, 44, owner and manager of Utopia restaurant in Kuta, shared his day with The Bali Times

I have everything I need here, and even if I was offered a plane ticket to Hawaii, I would say no.

I wake up around 8am, and go straight to my restaurant, which is close to where I live. I have breakfast and relax with a newspaper for about an hour and a half. I say hello to the first customers and take care of the flowers.

After I eat I go for a swim in the ocean. I’m really lucky to have the biggest swimming pool in the world right in front of me all day, so I like to go there and enjoy it.

After I’ve been for a swim, I ride my bicycle to Jimbaran to buy fish for the restaurant. I do it every day, because I know my customers want quality, and we offer them the freshest fish, homemade yogurt and homemade brown bread.

At my restaurant, everything is environmentally friendly. We don’t have furniture made from precious rainforest trees; we use energy-saving lamps; have a homemade solar panel to heat water; and we give all our used paper to poor people who collect it and earn money from it. I want my customers to eat in peace, knowing the place they are eating in is ecofriendly.

After lunch, I spend my whole afternoon in the restaurant. A lot of people think Bali is only for holidays, but that’s not true; to earn money here, you have to work hard. When I first came here, I built the kitchen of the restaurant myself, because I wanted it to be equal to European standards, but I also saved some money doing it myself. There are a lot of different rules for expats on the island. We have to pay a lot of taxes, get visas and extend them and pay taxes that Indonesians don’t have to pay. Every year I spend 8,000 euros on taxes, so all we can do is rent a place and hope it works out.

I spend a lot of time at my restaurant. If I want customers to come and keep coming, I have to offer them more than any other restaurant. To do so, I try to fix every problem as fast as possible, which is not always easy. Every day there is something wrong. Sometimes we don’t have electricity for 12 hours, which makes it difficult to keep the food fresh. But I have to find a solution, whatever the problem is. For example, if there is no electricity, the toilets don’t work, so my staff and I have to go to the beach and carry back seawater for customers to use to flush the toilet. It’s impossible to foresee what’s going to go wrong, or what we might run out off. It’s difficult to find wine in Bali right now and my customers sometimes complain, but I can’t do anything about it.

But I’m lucky, because customers often come back after eating in the restaurant. I’m always there to talk to them and answer their questions, and I think they feel better knowing there is someone Western running the place. To please people, I try to make their lives easier. I offer them free lockers, a free shower and free wifi. They don’t even have to eat at the restaurant to use the free shower, but sometimes after using it, they come in because they think it is nice to be offered things without expecting a return.

I want them to enjoy Bali as much as I do. I left Belgium because of health issues, but Bali was not my first goal. First I took my van, The Romantica, across Europe for 18 months, but I had to stop at the Iranian border. Then I realized I wanted to go to Asia and went back to Belgium to catch a plane to Bangkok. From there I traveled to Bali by train, bus and boat. I settled down here in January 2006, opened Utopia the next October and have not been back to my country. I have everything I need here, and even if I was offered a plane ticket to Hawaii, I would say no.

I work a lot, and during the evening I’m usually still in the restaurant, ready to solve any problem. I don’t get home until around 12am, and I am usually exhausted, but I’m lucky because my staff help me a lot, and tell me what they think about the place. I don’t try to make them work like they would in Europe; I don’t want them to be stressed or pressured. I’m the one who came to their country, so I respect them, and I am the one who has to adapt. All I want them to do is respect each other regardless of religion or origin. I would actually like the place to be a little utopia.

Filed under: One Day

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