A journey on a plate
“De culinaire werkplaats” is an Amsterdam-based design studio offering a freshly new approach to what’s happening on your plate. It is linked to the very personal story of its founders, Marjolein Wintjes and Eric Meursing, and their struggle for inspirational food connections, contemporary dishes, bites, delicacies, new foods, and new ways to eat.
– Marjolein, you and Eric came from different backgrounds and ended up creating little magic together at “De culinaire werkplaats”. What is the story behind it?
– The story behind “De culinaire werkplaats” is a very personal story. We changed our personal lifestyles in 2002. One of our favorite hobbies, going out for dinner, turned into a struggle all of a sudden, as our perspective on food and taste had shifted. Most of the time the protein component is the star of the meal, while vegetables are reduced to artistic dots on your plate. We prefer having lots of tasty, well seasoned vegetables on our plate. In our view, most meals are out of balance. At that time we experienced that vegetables, fruits and grains (the vegetal components of a dish) were neglected, and their importance and versatility overlooked. Also, most outdoor or take away meals are far too salty, too sweet or too fatty. The moment came that we decided to become ambassadors for the neglected ingredients and tastes and share with the world how interesting cooking and eating with vegetal ingredients can be. It is all about health, sustainability and animal welfare. We travelled a lot and learned a lot about food, developed a concept, and step by step “De culinaire werkplaats” became what it is today: a design studio for contemporary food concepts, food narratives and eat’inspirations at the cutting edge of food, design and art. A place where Eric and I bring together all of our skills, talents and experience.
– I guess this place could also be called a design restaurant, an artistic studio, and a concept store, right? What kind of emotions do you want your clients to experience in here?
– We are food conceptualists. We are working on the dinner plate of the future, on which less dominant space will be left to the meat and fish component. Our “restaurant” section, which is only open on Fridays and Saturdays, compels our design studio to search for new tastes, new textures, new food pairings, and new ways to eat. We select a theme every 6 to 8 weeks, an inspirational source, and translate it into a so-called eat’inspiration, a themed edible journey in 5 dishes. We like our guests to very playfully rethink what’s happening on their personal plates. “de culinaire werkplaats” is not a restaurant in the traditional sense of the word, as we feel as more of a design studio and less restaurateurs. So we have changed several of the restaurant routines, also to create more awareness. The other days of the week we are designing food & beverage concepts for third parties and hosting groups that visit our venue for a tailor-made eat’inspiration. At this very moment we are developing a brand new food art concept, which we will be launching in the coming months. We are location hunting right now.
– Where do you look for inspiration for your fresh eat’inspirations?
– Most of the time we do not have to look for inspiration, as we always have far too many ideas. But to keep ourselves fresh we like visiting museums and art galleries, strolling through the city, or reading a book that is not about food. In other words, we like to expose ourselves to other opinions and perspectives to keep an open mind. The themes of eat’inspirations can be anything. A color, or something abstract like emotions, or something concrete like Dutch landscapes. Favorite themes are black, Dutch design, landscapes & architecture, fashion, water, and time.
– How do you envision modern cuisine? Is it difficult to be innovative and competitive in this field?
– All ways lead to Rome. But modern cuisine will be with less meat and fish, more vegetal ingredients, less salt, less sugar, and less saturated fats. We create theme-based inspirations, concepts, narratives, and edible installations. We offer a total experience. People from all over the world come to visit us for inspiration. We are not preoccupied with being innovative or with competition. What we do and how we do this is very much Eric and Marjolein, it is a very personal and therefore unique approach. Our dishes are inspirational stories about life, about food, about the theme we are exploring. We use traditional and modern techniques, traditional and modern ingredients. We feel more like pioneers. Our restaurant section and our vegetable cuisine functions as a showroom for our skills, ideas, and concepts. It is not our main activity. In the new concept that we will be launching in due course, food and eating will be put in the context of art.
– After a long day at work, do you still cook at home, or would you rather order something from a local restaurant?
– We are on 24/7. Most of the time Eric prepares us a fresh meal, even when we come home in the middle of the night. Every now and then we go out for a small meal.
– What do you think about the so-called ‘mom’s cuisine’?
– Eric and I were brought up with it. We always got fresh food and at least two-three different types of vegetables. We appreciate good home cooking, but with a modern twist (light). Eating and cooking is also about honest food. We still have some favorites our mothers used to cook. We like both home and professional, traditional and modern cuisine.
– What would be your most sincere food-related advice to a good friend?
– Follow no food guru. Listen to your own mind and body. Do not believe in quick diets. Eat as many different colors as possible: this is good for your health and for biodiversity.
Read the full interview about “De Culinaire Werkplaats” in Llamas’ Valley / The Aesthetics issue. Download the magazine on your iPad from the App Store.