Reclaim the Street; Eat!


This probably won’t happen in a city where safe and comfortable public spaces are available, where people can leisurely go out and enjoy the space. This probably won’t happen either in a place where rules are applied strictly, when a bit of disorder could quickly gain onlookers’ frowns or, worse, get a penalty by local law enforcers. This will not happen also in a dense urban area whose young inhabitants have no passion, nor creativity, to improve their urban environment in a fun and smart way. But, since Bandung is a city where comfortable public space and strict rules are absent and whose youths are passionate, KEUKEN happens!

Saparua Street, closed from motored vehicles for KEUKEN#2

KEUKEN, a Dutch word for “kitchen”, is a festival involving lots of (of course) food and cooking, but not only that. All kinds of urban communities gather along to enjoy an unusual ambiance of a pleasant public space. So far, KEUKEN has gone through their second festival, but in between, they also have a series of smaller events that serve as a kind of ‘teaser’ for the KEUKEN festival, called Surprise Stove.

In Surprise Stove, a public space is chosen, a set of stoves and cooking tools are brought over, then someone (not necessarily a professional) chef voluntarily cook and distribute the cooked food to passers by. All in a go. No permit gained prior to the event, then pack up and leave right after all the food is emptied out of the plates.

Cooking demo is among the main attractions of the event

Before the first festival, Surprise Stove was held for six times in different spots in Bandung. Among them were a huge intersection where extreme bike and soccer communities gather, an old part of town where a Harley Davidson headquarter resides (one of their members was the chef of the day), a busy shopping street, and a parcel of land used by urban farming community on a harvesting day (the veggies were cooked right after they were freshly picked!).

What is the purpose of this anarchy? The main aim is, as the catch phrase shows, to “reclaim the street”. Lack of adequate public space in the city to socialize and to express oneself becomes the main motivation. Why food? Since it’s easily the easiest thing that we, fellow human beings, have in common. We all eat. We all like to talk about food and eating activity also usually triggers conversations. Through food and cooking in a public space, warm interactions occur. People can feel that they belong to the urban open space again, that the space is actually theirs to activate, and that it is what makes a city pleasantly livable.

The ambiance of KEUKEN#2

[vimeo w=400&h=225]

KEUKEN #1: The Magnificent Cowbarn (Official video) from Keuken Bandung on Vimeo.

More about KEUKEN, who stands behind it and all, is currently being written as a paper for a conference. For now, please check out their website at and more of their videos at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *