Growing Ideas: Future-proof dining at Lowlands festival

Not your usual festival fare

Music lovers got a fresh culinary experience last week at the Netherlands’ popular Lowlands festival. Instead of hotdogs and hamburgers, festival-goers feasted on sustainable fare, thanks to the unique vision of catering outfit, The Food Line-up.

A version of this article was previously posted on Rabobank.com on August 6, 2018.

The Food Line-up founders Lotte Wouters and Maartje Nelissen met during a master class on sustainability in the food industry. It’s unsurprising, then, that sustainability plays a major role in their work catering for business and entertainment events. In the Netherlands and abroad, they’ve been connecting food specialists with hungry clients since 2013.

For English subtitles, please click on the closed captions icon.

In this video and interview, the duo speaks about their unique catering vision and designing a ‘future-proof’ restaurant – the Brasserie 2050 – for the Lowlands festival last week.

What is The Food Line-up?

We are a catering company that works together with more than 250 specialists. These range from chefs with a specific signature, to food truck operators, coffee roasters, farmers, bakers and brewers.

We do the catering for 80 events a year. For each, we create a unique line-up of specialists, specially tailored to the client, the type of guest and the nature of the event. We also buy in special drinks from local entrepreneurs, arrange staffing and take care of the furniture and décor.

What was your idea for Lowlands?

The Lowlands organizers and Rabobank asked us to develop a new catering concept: a future-proof restaurant. That was our Brasserie 2050. In 2050, the world population will probably be 10 billion people. That will have a huge impact on consumption, and therefore on food production.

On our menu, you’ll find classic dishes such as steak tartare, ravioli, boeuf bourguignon and crème brûlée. But every dish has a surprise in terms of its ingredients and the story it tells about food issues. Our steak tartare is called ‘meat me halfway’ and is half the size of a ‘normal’ dish.

“Every dish tells a story about one of the food issues”

- Maartje Nelissen, The Food Line-up

We don’t advocate completely removing meat from our diet, but eating less and better-quality meat. The production of meat has a heavy tax on the environment, both in terms of CO2 emissions and the use of agricultural land. Our meat came from cows on the Flevopolder, a nearby region of reclaimed land. The cows are allowed to roam freely in order to maintain the natural environment there. Their meat is actually a by-product.

We also served ‘Biddinghuizen Salad’ – named after the village where the festival is held. It’s hyper-local: some of the ingredients come from the land right next to the Lowlands site. The other ingredients come from the wider region. By eating more local products, less transportation is needed, and we can therefore reduce CO2 emissions.

Boeuf bourguignon à la Brasserie 2050

What problem are you solving?

We’re building a bridge between big corporate clients and small local entrepreneurs. We offer talented young chefs a prominent stage – like Lowlands. Because our specialists excel in a type of cookery or particular dish, we see them using their expertise to make sustainable choices more quickly. They choose to buy directly from the farmer or producer. That makes the chain shorter and more transparent.

By setting a new standard, we hope to inspire other companies to work sustainably – not only catering companies, but also other food retail and related businesses.

What tips do you have for other entrepreneurs?

A good team is the basis for everything. Employees are part of your company, a calling card both externally and in-house. Every new person you hire should share the same energy you started with.

We’ve grown organically, but in retrospect I would opt for an investment partner earlier in the process. Young entrepreneurs really feel the pressure when they do everything themselves. I’ve been close to burning myself out. That’s not sustainable. We have to learn to be a bit kinder to ourselves.