A sustainable dream on your plate [Vooruit]

Vooruit cooks with LEF: local, ecological and fair. Kitchen manager, Tom De Vleesschauwer (41) explains why Vooruit, the art centre in Ghent, wants to set a good example. A conversation about the choice for quality, well-cared-for sheep and the meditating effects of a vegetable garden.

95 percent of the menu of the Vooruit Café consists of organic products. Local and fair-trade products are also on the list. Tom: “More and more people appreciate the added value of these products and are willing to pay a little more for them. By cooking with LEF, we want to show people that there is an alternative way. Vooruit is in a unique position to make the less obvious choice. Therefore, we like to be a bit more tolerant when a small, start-up business communicates to us that some products are out of stock or that the harvest was disappointing. While this would be very challenging for restaurants with a fixed menu, we have enough margin to say: ‘Don’t worry! We will choose another dish for the today’s menu.’”

2020 Tom Vooruit LQ 1

Vooruit’s LEFgozers campaign tells the stories of their suppliers. “This way, we want to show the origin of our products”, says Tom, who keeps close contact with the suppliers. “What strikes me the most is that these small and local producers are filled with passion for their job. Those people live a happier life because of what they do. They have a carefully considered concept and even the small businesses work as professionally as their conventional colleagues.

Willie Verhoysen, catering manager of Vooruit, has been passionate about organic and fair-trade products for a very long time. Many years ago, he had already taken the first crucial steps towards that direction. We saw the suppliers with whom Vooruit is cooperating for several years grow together with us. It just works.”

“LEF means more to us than working with organic products”, says Tom. “It is important to always look at things with a critical eye. Even at the labels, because the larger the organisations become, the more difficult it is to control everything. Money and power always play a role. We make a comparative assessment between organic and local products on a daily basis. The personal band that we have with our suppliers is therefore extremely important. I do not visit them every day, but I do know all of them. The story has to be right.

For some time now, we have been buying meat from a project run by Natuurpunt in Ghent, a non-profit organization for nature conservation. The meat comes from Herdwick sheep that graze on grass in the fields around floodplains of the Scheldt and the Leie region. These animals are not bred with the intention to be slaughtered, but every now and then, there are some sheep that are simply too old, or, as the shepherd once said: ‘no good mother for her lambs.’ These sheep are well cared for, and therefore, these people do not want their sheep’s meat to go the ordinary meat industry. This project may not be organic, but it certainly is beautiful.”

2020 Tom Vooruit LQ 10

Tom strongly believes in the principle of consuming less. “One third of the family budget used to go to food. Today, we cannot even imagine this because we also want to buy so many other things. Thinking more consciously about the products that we buy is a valuable principle. In our family, for example, we have chosen to eat less diary and meat. Whenever we do serve it, we choose for products with better quality.”

In a world where fruit and vegetables make more frequent and longer airplane journeys than the average Fleming, and where you can find a supermarket on each corner of the street, it can be difficult to not be overwhelmed by all these product choices. “We can add ingredients from all over the world to our shopping basket, but we can also choose for local and fair-trade products. A consumer who buys consciously, joins a story. By becoming a conscious consumer, I believe that I can help the producers to make their sustainable dream come true. You do not only choose for quality, but you also contribute to a better society.

2020 Tom Vooruit LQ 6

It is no coincidence that the world’s greatest chefs prepare their dishes with sustainable ingredients. Vegetables and meat that are cultivated and grown with love, do not only look better, but they taste better too. Just look at how people started to grow more food again in their garden. I do it too, although it is at odds with the fast pace of our society. I find that working in my garden almost has a meditating effect. (smiles) Of course, it would be a lot more productive to buy your vegetables elsewhere. But the tomato or broccoli from your own vegetable garden just taste amazing.”

We would love nothing more than to recommend you a Vooruit meal or a cosy evening at their outdoor café. However, since this is not possible for the moment, we recommend donating to this wonderful organisation. This way, you can support actors, musicians, directors, filmmakers, performers, mechanics, carpenters … and the wonderful chefs.

You can support the art centre Vooruit by clicking on this link


Melissa Janssens

Melissa works as a freelance journalist, and prefers to write about psychology, relationships and sustainability. Her heart beats a little faster for bouquets and local flower farmers, or when she finds gorgeous outfits in second-hand gold mines and fair fashion shops. She loves to live a sustainable and conscious life.

Foto's door Sarah Van Looy

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