Flanders Today * A table for 42, please door Alan Hope
A table for 42, please
Food has always been associated with art, from the entertainments of minstrels enjoyed by the peasants of Bruegel’s wedding feast to the still-lifes by Rembrandt and Cézanne. These days, it’s more associated with discreet piped-in music. But not where Multitude is concerned.
For six weeks, the arts and social platform has taken over the old coach house at Park Spoor Noord in Antwerp. It is bringing art and food together for 42 diners, all sitting at one long table. The company also features 18 artists, including dancers, musicians and a storyteller.
In charge is Els Debremaeker, a personal chef who also concocts recipes for kitchenware chain Dille & Kamille and does food styling for various clients. She spent time studying in China, where she became smitten by the food culture, much of which is still foreign to us despite the prevalence of “Chinese” restaurants and takeaways.
The first dinner will see Debremaeker preparing bruised cucumber with garlic dressing, chicken with Napa cabbage and hoisin sauce, lacquered pork belly and fried noodles with five-spice, among other dishes.
“Eating is an experience,” she says. “Feeling, smelling, tasting. The flavour of your memories. I want to share my love for authentic cuisine, for fresh products and for honest food. Meals are the basis of life in a group. Festive meals are there to mark important rituals and to bring people together.”
In China, she says, “food means love. And that’s what Multitude is all about: connecting with people.”
Park Spoor Noord was formerly railway property serving the Antwerp docks on the right bank of the Scheldt, but has now been converted into a leisure park with all sorts of activities. The dinners take place in the upper floor of the coach house, with some of the furniture provided by local recycling project Atelier Recup.
The first dinner takes place on 11 September, and the dinners thereafter are served on Wednesdays by other chefs, except 8 October when Debremaeker returns for a meal that’s already sold out. The series concludes on 15 October with a dinner by Smartmat, a home delivery service based in Antwerp.