Marije Vogelzang is considered a pioneer in the field of eating design. Her work ranges from working with restaurants on concepts to helping hospitals make food more appealing and healthy for patients. She designs art installations and has curated some well-perceived exhibitions about eating and design. She recently became head of a new undergraduate department about food at the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands. Here, Marije discusses how meeting planners can join in on the food revolution and engage attendees in the process.
You have said we need a “food revolution.” What would that look like, and what would that mean?
We are living in a time that we always dreamed of throughout history: the land of plenty. Each day, our stores are magically filled with fresh food. The meals that our forefathers might have eaten once a year at a wedding or special celebration are meals that are now easy for us to eat every week. Yet, we often don’t know how these products are grown, who has produced them or from where they have been transported.
What’s more, people are growing up without knowing how to cook. Many people eat alone, sitting in front of a computer screen. We see this scenario alongside the enormous quantity of food photos being posted on Instagram and other social media sites, as part of a growing focus on the origin of food, a whole host of slow-food enthusiasts and a growing market share of organic products.
We are faced with a very pressing set of problems. The topics vary from overfishing and loss of biodiversity to food waste, bee mortality on a massive scale, animal exploitation and a growing world population. This combination of food abundance and food problems increases the need for creative spirits now more than ever. So, we need to think about food in a revolutionary way.
Food in the world of meetings and events is all about networking. Even when food presentation is top-notch, people are usually jammed together trying to connect with each other. Food is an afterthought, consumed barely consciously in bits and bites here and there. How would you disrupt that pattern in a positive way?
Sometimes the purpose of food is to connect people, so it’s not always a problem if that happens. I have done events where food needed to be shared and would in that way connect people that were unfamiliar before, but that only works if the group needs an icebreaker. Either way, designing the food to be easily edible is a good choice.
What’s more, things can be presented in a fabulous way, but I think to be impressed you need something unexpected. People doing business have seen a lot of impressive food presentations. I think it is much more valuable to be original—perhaps strange and humorous—than to try and be impressive. And the food must be good!
What is your favorite food or one of your favorite foods, and why?
That depends. I love Asian, tangy, spicy and zesty food. I would rather have lots of starters than lots of desserts.