Food designer Ralph Geerts will create typical Brabant dishes. Culinary innovation, sustainability and hospitality are his focal themes.
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In 2018, the year in which Brabant has been selected as the 'European Region of Gastronomy', food designer Ralph Geerts also faces new culinary challenges. Ralph owns a creative catering company called RAVANELLO. In December 2018, which will be devoted to the theme of 'Hospitality', he will help Brabant present itself even more explicitly as a province of innovative and sustainable gastronomy. But above all, as a hospitable province.
Brabant's selection for this award has led to many initiatives. To underline the leading role played by this province in making and preparing food, with a strong focus on innovation, health, sustainability and hospitality, the theme of 'We Are Food' has been chosen for 2018.
A unique promotion - unlike anything ever tried previously in the Netherlands - has been set up especially for this campaign. Ten ideas for sustainably improving the food sector in Brabant have been selected from more than one hundred submissions. Ten different 'Kitchens of Brabant' will each publicly present their innovative approach to food and hospitality for one month during 2018. Ralph Geerts and his company are responsible for presenting 'Hospitality’, the theme chosen for the month of December, in partnership with NHTV Breda.
“A concept which we will present in our own unique way, in the form of a pop-up restaurant”, says Ralph. “Our goal: to create greater awareness of regional foods. We show how you can give an area's local food culture a uniquely recognisable identity by collaborating with farmers, regional suppliers, chefs and consumers. We achieve this by telling a story, obviously in combination with tasting the dishes and a full-blown hospitality experience. In addition, we will organise five talk shows on hospitality at different locations in Brabant. Each show will focus on one of five secondary themes: 'Health', 'Education', 'Media', 'Society' and 'Producer’.’ In other words: Agrifood at its best.
This is perhaps the greatest accolade to date in Ralph's hectic career in the hospitality industry. Born and raised in Bavel, as a small boy, he used to accompany his parents to the local pub on Sundays. “I soon found myself washing up and rinsing glasses.” His love of bar work cooled when he came into contact with cooking and food during his vocational training. “The skills you need to cook well fascinated me. I felt truly at home in the kitchen.”
After completing his training, numerous culinary internships and (part-time) jobs followed at De Fazanterie in Ulvenhout, two hotels in Hungary, restaurant Van Ouds De Brouwers (Bavel) and Michelin star restaurants Inter Scaldes in Kruiningen, De Gieser Wildeman (Noordeloos) and Treeswijkhoeve in Waalre. “A long and tough apprenticeship, which is typical of the hospitality industry. Long hours and learning your profession by making mistakes and then doing things properly. New skills were added at every step: preparing food became preparing fresh food, the details started to matter, cooking became a passion and hospitality took on a new meaning. But most importantly: it kindled my creativity.”
Ralph first came into contact with food design during the Dutch Design Week. He enrolled for the Food Design & Innovation course at HAS University of Applied Sciences in 's-Hertogenbosch. “A new world opened up for me, particularly when I was offered a culinary internship at Katja Gruijters’ food design studio in Amsterdam. That was more art than cooking.” In 2010, Ralph successfully presented his first creative work during the Culture Night in Breda when he built an installation that visually showed how corn grows.
He founded RAVANELLO in that same year. The company's policy of using local produce to the greatest possible extent is one of its strengths. Sales are booming. According to Ralph, the business climate in the agrifood sector is one of the main factors behind that success. “We all know each other well in this industry and share ideas and expertise. You know who to contact in Brabant.”
When asked to sum up culinary Brabant pithily and concisely, Ralph immediately replies: “Booming like there is no tomorrow, and bursting with potential.” His description mainly relates to quality: ‘innovative’, ‘sustainable’ and ‘healthy’ increasingly go hand-in-hand in Brabant's restaurants. Cities that are traditionally known for their fine restaurants such as Breda, 's-Hertogenbosch and Bergen op Zoom continue to work hard to maintain that reputation, however, a new culinary dynamism has emerged in industrial cities such as Eindhoven and Tilburg, which are increasingly transforming themselves into trendy, urban environments. “EMMA in Eindhoven is a good example. The ingredients they serve are plucked from their own indoor greenhouse, which is lit by Philips LED lighting. What could be more trendy? In Tilburg, exciting things are happening in the Spoorzone. One of the restaurants there, De Houtloods, has based its menu on flavour types and that is also a memorable experience. The culinary scene in Brabant gets more exciting every year.”
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