October 2022 we were invited to Food Inspiration Days. We took the opportunity to plan a whole trip around the Netherlands to meet various stakeholders in the food and black industry. Our goal? To put Ghana on the map by showing people the richness of our food culture.
Last October, a delegation of five food movers travelled to Amsterdam to represent Ghana Food Movement at the Food Inspiration days: A two-day expo and conference that gathered the Dutch food industry. We decided to expand the program and take over the Netherlands for ten days of promotion, inspiration and networking. After some unfortunate Visa complications, our team comprised Aimée Wallin (Program coordinator), Lydia Kekeli Amenyaglo (Communications Manager), Pauline Lingg (Programs Manager), Lotte Wouters (Partner engagement) and Jamie Saleeby (GFM Builder and owner of Sankofa Snacks). We also had the pleasure to be joined by Samuel Adentu from Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA).
So, when we arrived in Amsterdam, the first thing we did was record a cooking show with Sharon de Miranda and Nicholas Aquaa. Sharon has origins in Surinam and works at Food Forum, a learning space and kitchen, where she hosts cooking shows that focus on local ingredients, and Nicholas is a Dutch chef with Ghanaian and Nigerian roots. For the show, Jamie Saleeby joined the two locals to create an innovative version of a popular West African snack. Suya beef became Suya beet - a vegetarian version of the popular meat snack. Suya spice is made from peanut, onion and ginger, and it worked perfectly with the grilled beetroots, picked right outside the Food Forum where the show was filmed.
On the second day, we visited the city center of Amsterdam with its beautiful canals and slightly tilting houses. We also visited a famous food market and got loads of cheese, bread, mushrooms, and oysters. From there, Pauline's dad picked us up on his boat and took us around the canals. It was such an amazing experience; we felt like royals!
After the tour, we went home and prepared for a very important event. We had invited a group of people within the Dutch media and food culture scene to join us for dinner. We were nervous to see if everyone would show up and if they would like the gathering. The evening turned out great, even beyond our expectations. Chefs, culture project managers, artists, actors, human rights activists, and entrepreneurs were all represented around the table. Ghanaians as well as other black communities. They were all pioneers in their space, and it was very cool to have them all in our kitchen. ( Eg: Lelani, Akwesi, Moon Cake, ...)
During the dinner, we shared our GFM journey and mission, and Aimée talked about why we do what we do in Ghana. She explained how colonialism has disrupted our food system and how we have to fight to get back to safe and fair production systems that can sustain us with nutritious food. Because so many actors in our food system are there to exploit and extract, we who want to strengthen it have to unite and work together. She also talked about our potential to produce all the food we need right here in Ghana and the need to realize that opportunity. This led to an even more interesting conversation about how the diaspora and the continent can work together to achieve these goals.
After the serious conversations, we enjoyed a pepper snail starter made by Chef Nicholas, followed by banku, kontomire stew, boiled yam, palm nut soup, fried plantain and much more from Gold Coast Restaurant. At the end of the night, we had made 20 new friends, all of whom got a GFM t-shirt to rock!
The following day, our delegation took the train to Veghel where Food Inspiration Days was about to take off. We spent several hours preparing the GFM stall and practicing for the stage interview, together with Samuel Adentu from GEPA. When all spices, products and flags were in place, we went back to our hotel to rest up for the event.
Food Inspiration Day 1 | Stage time
Day 1 of Food Inspiration went great, and Lotte, Jamie and Samuel did great on stage. Lotte talked about her journey with the Dutch food movement and her catering business, and how it led her to co-found Ghana Food Movement. She also addressed the incredible ingredients we have and why they should be given more attention. Jamie talked about the importance of experiencing different food cultures to understand each other better across the world. His Sankofa Snacks does this by reinventing our popular plantain chips by adding West African flavors.
“Everyone loves chips, so this is a great way of sharing our culture.”
Samuel also explained how GEPA supports Ghanaian entrepreneurs to become export-ready. GEPA organizes shared container shipments for Ghanaian products to cut costs for individual entrepreneurs. We were excited to have Samuel with us on this trip, and we see many points of collaboration in the future.
Lotte ended the talk by presenting our newest and biggest project: The Link-Up kitchen – a learning and meeting place in Accra with a community and innovation kitchen. But more about that another time… Stay tuned!
After our stage time, our stall was flooded with people. They smelled, touched and tasted the prekese, African nutmeg, egusi seeds, dawadawa, fonio, millet, tiger nut and other things we had on display. They also got to taste the Sankofa chips and the Kumasi drink we had brought. Chef Nelson joined us and made tiger nut kebabs that we served at the stall and they were very appreciated. In between the many conversations, we took breaks to talk to the other vendors and especially taste their food. There were so many innovative and tasty foods and drinks like seaweed burgers, plant-based tuna, banana beer, coffee free coffee and many more.
On that same day, our Communications Manager, Lydia Kekeli Aményaglo was invited to join a panel discussion for the national premiere of The Future of Food (2022), a movie exploring two conflicting perspectives of Joris Lohman and Hidde Boersma, PhD - that of 'the Wizard' and 'the Prophet'.
During the World Food Day Show, they reflected on hunger and food shortage, in the context of World Food Day, and explored ways in which solutions can be devised. Should we continue to produce food locally and on a small scale of the right scale? Or go back to pure nature by embracing technology?
Thanks to Lotte Sluiter, for the invitation and great organisation!
Food Inspiration Day 2
Day 2 of the conference was even better. Lotte, Jamie and Samuel rocked it on stage, and the great conversations continued.
During the two days, we connected with KLM’s Catering, Google Food Lab, Hello Fresh, Verstegen and many more. We are excited to see where these connections will lead us.
After two very successful days, we returned to Amsterdam filled with impressions and inspiration and it was time for some rest.
Our last program in Amsterdam was a food tour organized by the Food Inspiration team. We started at Toney Chocolonley, a popular chocolate brand that works to prevent child labor in their cocoa value chains in Ivory Coast and Ghana. From there, we went to the Kitchen Republic, a shared kitchen for small food entrepreneurs who pay a monthly fee to produce food and food products in the facilities, and it was really cool to see the entrepreneurs in action.
We were also introduced to a very cool tea brand, Dutch Harvest, which started its production at the Kitchen Republic. Esther Molenwijk, who started the business, realized the potential of hemp flowers and decided to innovate a hemp tea. Hemp is already grown in the Netherlands as a building material, but the flowers used to go to waste till Esther came to the rescue. Now, Esther buys the flowers from Dutch hemp farmers and makes tasty tea products with them. We love to see it and of course, took some home.
We continued the tour to Instock, a company that saves fruits and vegetables that are not considered good enough for supermarkets. In some cases, the produce does not have the right shape, but in many cases, the reasons for not being accepted were impossible to detect. We were shocked when we entered the storage and saw carton after carton with PERFECT veggies and fruits. We could not understand how they could be considered WASTE. One example they told us was that online food markets that sold bananas 5-per bundle considered bundles with more or fewer bananas not good enough and threw them away. Fortunately, Instock has set up a system to save such produce. They repack and store them in their facilities and sell them to restaurants. Great initiative!
The tour ended at Soil, a vegan restaurant owned by Brazilian chef Gustavo Bottino. We had amazing food and great conversations. Our meat eaters didn't miss meat once. A great way to end an insightful tour.
We celebrated our successful trip to the Netherlands with a dinner at Cornerstore, a three-Michelin star restaurant, which we were invited to by the owner. Each course was a highlight of its own.
GFM would like to say a big medaase to everyone that made this trip possible; Food Inspiration, Fleur, KLM, GEPA, and everyone else!