Antwerp pop-up restaurant offers “rescued food” a home

Summary

Every week, Flanders Today surveys the world of local cuisine to fill you in on the best recipes, culinary events and special eateries. This week: rescued food

Would you eat at a restaurant serving food being thrown out by supermarkets?

Dan Smith on Flemish food and drink

Did you know that more than one-third of all the food produced in the world each year ends up in the rubbish? If you did, then you are probably already booked into Rekub – Flanders’ first pop-up restaurant dedicated to serving food that would otherwise go to waste.

Or as friends Ellien Stinissen and Marijke De Jongh prefer to call it: rescued food.

“We were having a drink, and the conversation turned to food waste,” says De Jongh. “We decided we wanted to do something. After brainstorming some ideas, the concept of Rekub came to us.”

The pair – one a teacher and one part of a family flooring business – had no experience in food service, but they knew they had a good idea. A friend suggested they approach the Felix Pakhuis, a former food warehouse converted in a restaurant, shop for local specialities and salon space to rent, which has arguably become the culinary heart of Antwerp.

They met with the venue’s owners who immediately came on board. “They provided us with space in the building, kitchen facilities and even the tables and chairs,” says Stinissen. Plates, cutlery and glassware were sourced from second-hand shops around Antwerp. “We are giving everything a second life,” says De Jongh. 

Food is collected from local organic farmers and Albert Heijn supermarkets using an electric vehicle to limit emissions, while meat is sourced from organic supermarket Bio-Planet. Albert Heijn was quick to partner with Rekub as they are testing out a similar project in Amsterdam. “We had the same enthusiastic response from the organic farmers,” says Stinissen.

A summer hit

All the food Rekub rescues is close to its absolute best, so it is critical that it is prepared quickly. Anything excess to the restaurant’s requirements is given to a local charity that distribute it to disadvantaged people in the community.

Rekub offers a simple menu consisting of a starter, a choice of main dishes and a dessert. One main option is always vegetarian, as is the starter. The dishes served depend on what Stinissen and De Jongh have received from their suppliers. A two-course meal costs €22, and the three-course option is €27. Drinks are supplied by Felix Pakhuis and charged separately.

Rekub is proving to be a summer hit, with places filling up quickly. “People come for the concept, but they leave loving the food,” De Jongh smiles.

At the end of August, the restaurant will disappear, and De Jongh  and Stinissen will return to their day jobs. “We’re going to rework things a little and see where that takes us. Who knows, we might pop-up again soon.”

Photo: Ellien Stinissen (left) and Marijke De Jongh are ready to serve throughout the summer