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Brothers In Arms

The Yak meets Jordie and Pablo of the Good Food Brotherhood to talk family, food and having fun in business. Photos: Saskia Koerner.

The past, present and future melted together with the opening of Watercress Café in 2012.

Jordie Strybos and Pablo Fourcard grew up together in Byron Bay. Both from families that embraced food, professionally and at home, they went to school together, wooed the girls as teenagers with their cooking skills and eventually made Bali their home. The Good Food Brotherhood is the result.

“We basically put a name to something that was there forever,” explains Pablo as we sit together in their Berawa Café, the gorgeous Milk and Madu.

Pablo spent a lot of time in Bali growing up, his mother created some of the earliest restaurants on the island including the famous Krakatoa Café, a lifeline for early expats.

“I’ve been coming here since I was a kid and suddenly everything came together, it was the perfect time to do Watercress. Jordie had just sold his business in Byron Bay and came to visit Bali. After some deliberating we decided to go ahead with it and it’s continued to grow since then. “

Watercress Café, with their famous lunch showcase, opened in 2012. Almost every year since the ‘brothers’ have opened something new. Milk and Madu opened in 2014 followed by Watercress Ubud in 2015. Another Milk and Madu is due to open in Ubud in July. 2016 saw three new openings; the pop ups Bangkok Hustle and Schmurger Burger at Berawa Kitchen, along with Ulekan, their homage to the food of Indonesia.

“We are lucky that we never felt boxed in, we did it our way. Everything we’ve done is an expression of the food we love, the culture we grew up with, the hospitality that has always been a part of our lives,” Pablo continues.

Another Byron boy joined the Brotherhood in 2015 when Josh Job took on the role of Executive Chef. All in their mid 30s, married with kids, they form a community of their own and the businesses are a natural extension of that sense of family.

“We’re at a place where if we want to do something, we just do it. We love the creativity, the challenges, and we have a lot of fun,” Pablo laughs.

Being conscientious in their business extends to their staff, who now number around 250, as well as the food they serve and their business philosophy.

“We introduced a five-day week for our team, yet we still pay them for six. As people, we value time with our families and time off and we’ve noticed a significant change in attitude and productivity. There’s no plastic used in any of our businesses, we don’t use palm oil or msg, our deliveries come in crates not plastic. We’re conscious in what we do. They’re small things which matter to us and we hope we can be an example to others,” they explain.

Being together much of the time could be a challenge but these two spend a lot of time with each other, clearly enjoy each other’s company and they celebrate their differences.
“We are different people, our personalities are quite different but we understand each other so well. We sometimes come from two directions on something but that can be a good thing,” they explain.

They’re also avid foodies themselves. Both cook and when they start a new venture, they research it first. This, they explain, is the fun part.

“When we decided to add pizzas to the Milk and Madu menu, we went to Italy. When we decided to open Bangkok Hustle, Pablo and Josh went to study Thai cooking in Bangkok for a week. We get to do what we love and call it business, “ laughs Jordie.

Jordie is also involved with an eco-retreat in the Solomon Islands, Driftwood Lodge. On their last trip they toured the local markets looking at fresh ingredients for the menus of the resort.

The Good Food Brotherhood is now crossing borders and having the time of their lives. Providing meals and consulting on the menus for the luxury charter yacht, Rascal, is another venture that sprang from the kitchens of Watercress and undoubtedly more will come. Also on the books is the Better Juice lab, which will be an extension of their cafes.

“If we can think of it, we can do it,” they laugh. “Our lives are all about what we love to do, food is in our blood. We also give our staff great autonomy and they respond really well to that, which gives us time to focus on what we enjoy.”

Ulekan grew out of their shared passion for local food, as they often find themselves craving it when they’re on the road.

“There’s a bit of a stigma around Indonesian food. There’s a perception that many local restaurants lack proper hygiene or it’s loaded with MSG. We wanted to elevate the experience for people with better quality ingredients in a nice setting, yet still based on authentic recipes,” they explain.

Close as brothers, with a shared history and love of food, these guys are enjoying life. Both Jordie and Pablo’s wives are involved in the business and their children are a natural part of the community they have created.

“We work, eat and play in our business. We’re a young team and we’re having a great time. Our wives play a huge part in this and in realizing our dreams. Without  Candice and Paz and their support, it wouldn’t be possible. Having them involved is a big part of the success we enjoy,” says Jordie.

Their philosophy is simple. Firstly, the food has to be delicious. The culture of each of their cafes comes naturally. It has to be fun, excellent quality, healthy and a place they themselves would love to hang out in.

They are their own target audience. They’re riding the wave right now and changing the game in their own small way. Right now the Brotherhood has never been stronger and in a sense they are repeating history, as their own children grow up together, share experiences, enjoy generous hospitality and celebrate  food. Perhaps the Good Food Brotherhood may well extend to generations.