For Lara Van Cauwenberghe, co-founder of Bambino (the new name of the Compagnons restaurants), the lightbulb moment came when she passed a poster that said ‘to be 21 in 2021 is to be alone and hungry’. She was so moved by this message that she decided to come to the aid of students facing a difficult situation following the pandemic.
Since the first lockdown, both SQ Delta and Bailli’s Bambino restaurants have been closed. ‘We had a lot of students working in our kitchens, many of whom have lost their jobs and are now struggling,’ she says.
It Takes Three Ingredients to Bring Everything Together!
Leonor de Palacio, founder of Liaisons Délicieuses, joins Lara on this project. As someone who offers cooking classes and is already involved in other social projects, Leonor knows the score. Together, they are raising money from their nearest and dearest to purchase the ingredients to create dishes in SQ’s Bambino restaurants’ closed kitchens.
The final ingredient was meeting with As Bean, a collective established by food engineers and cooks (linked to and supported by the ULB), who would provide them with a distribution channel. As Bean’s mission is to make sustainable food accessible, providing low-cost meals at the ULB’s Turbean eco-friendly canteen once a week. On a second day each week, Leo and Lara are using the canteen to provide free organic and healthy meals to struggling students.
Only €9 to Feed Three Students
On the plate, you will find organic, eco-friendly and sustainable ingredients. Students order their meal using the online platform, bring along a reusable container (as it’s better for the environment) and leave with a free full meal (including dessert). Thanks to the team's level of inventiveness, meals can be made for as little as €3/person.
Last week’s hachis Parmentier (similar to cottage pie), for example, contained a small amount of meat and lots of lentils, making it more nutritious and better for the environment. Lara recalls seeing one student being bowled over by the dish’s melted cheese, a luxury she had not been able to afford for several months.
By word of mouth, several students also began lending a helping hand in the kitchen. Every Thursday, the teams manage to prepare up to 100 meals at the ULB’s Solbosch campus.
Today, Lara and Leo have exhausted their kitty and are appealing to people’s generosity to help them buy ingredients for these charitable meals.
Sustainable food can be expensive...
According to Lara, ‘sustainable food is more difficult to deliver, especially on a large scale. The costs are higher, and the cooking requires more creativity’. In focusing her attention on the nutritional aspects, she is maintaining the healthy habits she picked up at Bambino. She sources organic produce, is careful not to overcook vegetables and uses natural flavours, including lemon juice, fresh herbs and lemon zest. Nothing goes to waste!
For Lara, this sustainable approach has become a real way of life. She gets around by bicycle, is mostly vegetarian, buys second-hand clothes and tends a vegetable garden.
Throughout the months of closure, the team at Bambino has been working on several new projects. While both their SQ Bailli and Delta restaurants are set to gradually reopen, the team is preparing to open in two new locations: SQ Europe (once lockdown has eased) and the soon-to-be-opened SQ Central. The latter will operate a new schedule, open from dawn till dusk!
A creative twist on sustainable cooking:
- Sauté the finely chopped cauliflower in olive oil with garlic and add them to an omelette.
- Save the tops of carrots, turnips and radishes to make pesto.
- Make vegetable stock using any waste vegetable trimmings (when organic, nothing is wasted!)
- Cook several dishes simultaneously when using the oven.
- Turn your oven off shortly before the full cooking time as there is always residual heat.
- Replace up to 50% of flour with old breadcrumbs (whether baked or not).
With the equivalent of a food voucher, you can provide a healthy, well-balanced, complete meal for around four students... Even a small donation via the leetchi platform will help.
A Trio Bringing a Little Joy to Struggling Students
The As Bean collective wants to inform and inspire sustainable food production in Brussels and beyond. Based on their belief that our food choices can serve as a means for change, the meals they offer at the ULB’s Solbosch campus focus on affordable, sustainable food, incorporating local and eco-friendly seasonal vegetables and plant proteins. They organise events and provide tangible tools to help people make the switch in their daily lives.
Leonor de Palacio established Liaisons Délicieuses, online and in-person cooking classes for individuals or businesses as a fun teambuilding activity. For years, the business has been engaged at a social level.
Lara Van Cauwenberghe, who made the most of lockdown by using her food innovation talents, has developed new projects for Bambino, creating recipes and developing a new nutritional approach. On her Instagram page, she shares simple daily recipes. We are licking our lips!
article written by Muriel Van Severen, SQ Louise