The word ‘unique’ is often used in marketing the world of gastronomy. However, it seldom accurately depicts the way food experiences are delivered. This is not the case with the Trendtable*, a culinary concept like no other: evocative courses on moving tabletops combined with storytelling that delivers transformational food experiences. In November 2022, the Trendtable premiered. 

* The Trendtable is a project of Food Inspiration, Spijsbereiders, Hutten Catering, Taylor Made Catering, Foodservice Network and Shoot my food. It’s premiere was made possible with help from De Fruitmotor in Culemborg, the Verspillingsfabriek Veghel, the Pastryclub from Eindhoven, het Smaakpark Ede, the Vegetarian Butcher, Kipster, Koppert Cress and Wine Domain Thorn. 

Imagine you want to convince a group of food professionals about the importance of the protein shift. To do so, you share a story about the necessity of eating less meat, given that industrial meat production has a negative impact on the climate. You are the speaker, you write a text, you design slides and you deliver your lines in the best way you can. Everybody in the audience understands the importance of your message; you receive applause, and the work is done.

But what has changed? Does your presentation lead to behavioral change? Will your audience start to source more plant based ingredients? Will they actually serve less meat in their businesses? Probably not. Because the message was not persuasive enough, the storyline was – perhaps – too theoretical or failed to connect on an emotional level. So what’s next? How do we get the message across? 

This question became the starting point for an exciting new culinary project, a collaboration between food concept developers De Spijsbereiders, catering company Hutten and media brand and trend agency, Food Inspiration. Managing partner of Food Inspiration Arjan de Boer: “The initiators form a team of experts in storytelling, creators of food experiences and masters in hospitality. Thirty years of experience came together. We found in each other the urge to contribute to making the food system healthier and more sustainable.”

“It's a combination of experts in storytelling, creators of food experiences and masters in hospitality”

100 meter table

The heart of this culinary project is the Trendtable. A communal table of 50 meters, with a moving wooden tabletop that runs over a steel chassis with train tracks that are 100 meters long. The tabletop moves back and forth between courses. When the tabletop is pulled to ‘the back of the house,’ the chefs and their staff prepare the course and set the table. When it’s ready, the set tabletop is pushed through a curtain to the ‘front of the house’ where guests are seated, waiting for their culinary surprise. Every course is connected to a food trend that is presented as a multisensory experience and introduced with special lightning, visuals, music and an introduction by a trendwatcher and an explanation by the chef. 

For every course the tabletop is decorated in a completely different style, in order to express an overarching message about food. The unique and thoughtful combination of ingredients, preparation, plating, table decoration and the chef’s explanation at the table results in a memorable experience. Guests are invited to share their thoughts with their table companions, who they often meet for the first time. The Trendtable offers the ultimate conversation starter, and a new way to connect. It creates an experience that will linger in visitors minds for days, weeks and even months to come. It encourages them to think, talk and share the topics discussed. The aim is that this will ultimately evoke much needed change.

Special menu

For the Trendtables premiere in November 2022, the table was split into two tables of fifty meters long. Every course had a special theme. It started with the No Waste Amuse: a vichyssoise from no waste - potatoes with onions and hash. The ingredients came from De Verspillingsfabriek (No Waste Factory) a production plant that upcycled food waste streams in Veghel, The Netherlands. The theme for the first course was centered around the revaluation of local products with ‘Dutch here to stay’ vegetables. The course was accompanied by pumpkin bread and kefir made from unripe greenhouse tomatoes. Holland is well known for their export of vegetables; during  this course the chefs decided to keep the best available vegetables, rather than sending them off. 

“The tabletop was set in a provocative way with living chickens in a coop”

The main dish focused on the protein revolution. Guests were served local chicken breast with a crust of seeds (chicken feed) with sprouted soybeans, a cream of corn, barley and a gravy of dark beer. The tabletop was set in a provocative way with living chickens in coops.  With this approach, guests were confronted with the fact that their food wasn’t just some anonymous filet, but actually comes from a whole living  animal. All too often, consumers refuse to acknowledge that an animal perished for them to eat meat. The dish also accentuated the connection between the input needed (chicken feed) to generate meat and the output (the chicken breast). The chefs emphasized that – if you choose to eat meat – it is better to choose locally grown poultry, as it is the best option from an environmental footprint perspective. Some guests visibly struggled with this confronting table setting. 

The dessert was ‘delivery’ themed; food delivery couriers came into the dining room riding their bicycles, serving a stewed pear pie with ice cream of Dutch vanilla and every guest was served their dessert instantly. The creators of the Trendtable wanted to express their deep concern about growing food inequality; during a bingo act – aptly named the Happy Few bingo – only five people ‘won’ their desserts while the rest didn’t receive anything. 

“That moment of feeling awkward at the table was very important for us”

Chefs Peter Derks and Roland van Balen of the Spijsbereiders: “That moment of feeling awkward at the table was very important for us. Both for the people who ‘won’ their dessert, and for the people that didn’t get any desert. Food, certainly healthy food, must be affordable for everyone. Especially at our Trendtable, a place where everybody is equal, the experience of a moment of inequality goes deep. It touches and contributes to increased empathy and positive change.”

Food and design

The culinary project began with two chefs-food designers from the Dutch town of Den Bosch, one of the most gastronomical towns of The Netherlands. In 2016, Roland van Balen and Peter Derks introduced the first moving tabletop restaurant for twenty guests. They served several courses in a very experiential way, full of bold statements and expressive design. The creative team of Food Inspiration was so impressed by the concept and the food experiences offered that it featured the concept during their annual foodtrend summit, the Food Inspiration Days, the biggest business-to-business food conference in the Netherlands and Belgium. The response of the guests at the table was so significant that Food Inspiration decided that a bigger table would help create more impact. What if there was a moving table where 100 guests could attend? Food Inspiration found a furniture designer who  could create such a table, and the result is impressive. The Trendtable was ready for launch in 2020, but Covid-19 delayed its debuts. It wasn’t until  November 2022 that the Trendtable launched, with a week of lunches and dinners served for an audience of 700 participants.

The future

Looking to the near future, this project will continue in 2023. Guests reviewed the food experience as very positive; reviews scored a 9 and a 100% net promoter score. “We think we can do even better,” says Arjan de Boer. “It’s hard to change someone’s opinion, even harder to change behavior. But with the experience the Trendtable offers, we combine taste with storytelling and hospitality with a multisensory experience. Both lead to a change in attitude and a willingness and openness among guests; hopefully the important message of the need to transform the food system resonates in a positive way.”