Also, a lot of people don’t know how to cook any more.
You were saying that the standard of food in Rotterdam in particular is pretty low. Why is that?
It’s the whole of Holland and the reason is Calvinism. In the 1700s, Holland used to be very rich and wealthy and there was plenty of food, really exotic kinds of food, but then there was this guy called John Calvin. He had a hard Christian background and he taught everybody that it was sinful to enjoy and you shouldn’t eat too much, you should only eat a little bit and it shouldn’t be tasty [laughs].
And people followed this man?
Yeah, yeah, he was a big hit. In northern European countries the food is very bad, also in Britain; Germany is not so great either. What’s interesting is that northern European countries have a bad food culture, but they have a very high design culture, and southern European countries have a very high food culture, but a very low design culture. Italy does not agree with me, but I think so. I think that because we have this very low food culture and a high design culture, there is a big open space for us to discover eating design. We don’t have the tradition that we have to stick to.
Did you invent ‘eating design’?
I don’t know.
Do you know of anyone else who was doing it before you?
No. When I was a student, using food for designing was really something that wasn’t happening before. Back then if you saw designers working with food it would be like Philippe Stark making another shape out of pasta, it was never really about the real meaning of food. I wasn’t really considering that so much when I started, but later on I just thought, oh that’d be fun to do, let’s do something with food. It wasn’t really a conscious choice. There’s another girl that graduated around the same time, Katja Gruijters, who is also working on food. For some reason, ten years ago, people started to get interested. When I started, people were still saying to me, “You’re just a caterer” and I didn’t really mind because I was having fun. People think that if you combine food and design it will only be about styling the food and they think that the taste is submissive to the looks. For me it’s really important that the food tastes good and that there’s a story behind the food; that there’s a reason for doing these things.
So originally you were studying design, was it industrial design?
Yeah, I was at the Design Academy Eindhoven which is quite a famous academy now, but when I started it was just the Industrial Design academy, Eindhoven.
Did you just start experimenting with food there and it seemed to work for you?
Actually, my first project when I was a student was the funeral dinner where everything was white. It wasn’t my graduation project, but it was a big success and got featured in lots of magazines. We took it to Milan and showed it at the furniture fair and everything. I was really shocked because I never thought I would make something that would stir something up.
Then I had to graduate and everybody was telling me I should do something with food for my project, but I didn’t want to because I was afraid to specialise and eventually be the person that was only about food. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to design tables, or clothes, or chairs any more. Now I make tables because the food needs tables, and I make cutlery because the food needs things to help it go in, and I make clothes because we need aprons; it actually gives me everything I need. For me food is the very best material. I think it’s so interesting that what I make you put inside your body – I think that’s amazing.