Learning the Dutch way: how hospitality students can hone their sustainability skills
Students benefit from continual research that brings them new skills, insight and knowledge

Learning the Dutch way: how hospitality students can hone their sustainability skills

Samantha Lster

PBUK sourcing spotlight_Holland

Hotelschool The Hague
 has been preparing students for the Dutch hospitality sector for more than 85 years and now welcomes trainees from around the world keen to take advantage of its unique approach which engenders ecological concern, enthusiasm and entrepreneurship in its graduates. Produce Business UK visited the Amsterdam campus to find out what the UK could learn

Gentle Ibizan chill-out music complements the tasteful interior of one of Amsterdam’s most sustainable restaurants. The view out of the floor-to-ceiling windows on one side of the room is of the entrance to Overtoomse Park, all lush and calm in the morning sunshine.

It’s testament to the management of Hotelschool The Hague that this restaurant, which is at the heart of its Amsterdam campus and staffed by students, could actually be located in any one of the city’s five star hotels.This year Hotelschool The Hague, which as the name suggests also has a campus in the seat of government of the Netherlands, was ranked number 12 in the global top 50 hospitality and hotel management schools by CEO World magazine.

Founded in 1929 by members of the Dutch hospitality industry, the guiding philosophy of the organisation has been to research and to share continually new insight, new skills and knowledge with students, who represent some 50 nationalities.

Hotelschool The Hague - smiling studentsHotelschool The Hague attracts students from some 50 countries worldwide

Green manifesto

“We educate the decision-makers of the future,” says Joost De Vos, a food and beverage instructor at the Amsterdam campus. “We are developing our green manifesto; a scheme that is important in terms of learning and creating awareness among students and customers on issues of sustainability.”

The manifesto is an on-going project, with some elements already embedded into the curriculum, especially on the procurement side, and other parts still being perfected. “It should be a document that you live by, rather than just something left on the shelf and only talked about but not used,” continues De Vos, who joined the team at Hotelschool The Hague in 2007.

“[We] want to give the produce a podium, and [believe] it should tell a story. We don’t want to say it’s the only way, but it is a way, and we want to show that. I was educated in Michelin-starred restaurants where it was always [that way] with the lobster, caviar and oysters. But [that’s changing], now the trend is for putting a whole celeriac in a salt crust for an hour, [for example].”

As well as keeping ahead of trends, in practice the green manifesto is in part the development of relationships with local suppliers. One of the principles of the manifesto is to “think globally, act locally”, and that goes beyond business transactions.

Hotel School The Hague - Joost de Vos
Joost de Vos (on the left) was trained in Michelin-starred restaurants

Suppliers add value for students

“As well as sourcing from suppliers we know and trust, we look for people that can give extra value by sharing [their] knowledge with students through workshops or classes,” explains De Vos.

“For example, we will meet with our fish supplier next week, and in the morning we’ll have a lecture on bycatch, and then after we will do two Ready, Steady, Cook sessions with bycatch.”

Waste reduction revival

Reducing waste is another of the core principles of the manifesto, not only as a means of helping an industry that traditionally operates on tight margins, but also as a way of inspiring students to think differently about food.

“It’s a way of reviving a lot of cooking techniques that we lost, possibly because of our wealth, such as using all parts of the produce,” adds De Vos. 
“The… root to stalk, nose to tail. Before chefs would have thrown away the stem of broccoli, but you can peel and blanch it, then mix it in with your florets or roast it.

“This is not new, if you talk with my father-in-law, a farmer, he’ll say that of course you use everything. One time you would have pickled or dried some [produce]. That way of thinking is [coming back], it starts with the supermarkets, now in France a store can’t throw away produce that’s left, it has to stay in the food chain as long as possible.”
De Vos mentions an Amsterdam restaurant/café called In Stock, which only uses ingredients that it has “rescued” from supermarkets. It was set up by former Albert Heijn supermarket managers that wanted to show that while produce may not be perfect, it could still taste great.

Leading by entrepreneurial example

It’s this entrepreneurism that Hotelschool The Hague likes to foster among its own students. Alongside training students to work in the global hospitality industry, including some of the biggest names such as the Ramada hotel chain, it also encourages and supports students in wanting to set up on their own.

One graduate who has become something of a hero on the Amsterdam food scene is Riad Farhat. Farhat is the co-founder of several cafes and bars, but started with one establishment in Amsterdam-Oost (East) called Maxwell. The area had a reputation as being deprived, and a little edgy, but Farhat as a resident knew that there were people living there that wanted a friendly, funky place to hang out in. Speaking at one of the regular city talks held at The Hoxton Hotel’s Amsterdam outpost, Farhat reiterated Hotelschool The Hague’s concept of acting locally. “We started out because we ourselves wanted somewhere nice to go to, and no one else was doing this, so we thought ‘why not give it a go?’ Now I’m getting calls from people in other neighbourhoods asking us to set up there.”

Hotelschool The Hague  - smiling chef
Hotelschool The Hague’s own restaurant – Le Debut

Experience enhanced by enthusiasm

It’s this enthusiasm and spirit that Hotelschool The Hague is rightly proud to be associated with, and something that it tries to communicate to the customers that patronise its restaurant and cafes.

PR & communication specialist Miriam Sperling says it all has to start with the food, and by respecting and thinking differently about the produce, the students can offer customers a great experience. “They [the students] have to come up with concepts, and you can see just how enthusiastic they are about it because it’s all their own work,” she says. “It makes food come alive, and you can see how that enthusiasm really lifts the food for customers when students are explaining that the honey in their tea comes from bees we have on the roof, or that the garlic is grown just outside the building.”

Hotelschool The Hague - in the glasshouse

De Vos is delighted to illustrate how all these practices and principles come together in one example from a student who wanted to put the North African staple falafel on the menu. The student put the ingredients into a sustainability checker, which suggested alternatives that could be sourced in the Netherlands, such as peas rather than chickpeas. “Apart from the cumin, all the ingredients can be sustainably sourced here, so we have a global dish, that is made with local ingredients,” he says. “And this thinking and training the students can take around the world, so wherever they are they can look to create dishes that might originate from say here in the Netherlands, but find the ingredients locally.”

With over 85 years of experience shaping and inspiring the minds and ideas of students, Hotelschool The Hague is now on another important journey; that of ensuring a new generation shares the responsibility of sustainability.

Holland is the Featured Nation at the London Produce Show and Conference (LPS16) this year, which runs from June 8 to June 10 at The Grosvenor House hotel in London.

Some of the students from Hotelschool The Hague, among other Dutch institutions, will travel from Holland to join the LPS16 culinary and horticultural student programme.

To take part, register here.   



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