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‘A cafeteria sounded like a great idea’

The queue for food grows ever longer. In Bed’s small kitchen, located in De Gym in the Oosterstraat, four young chefs try to keep a cool head every Friday evening. And they are succeeding: for a pittance, around 80 guests eat up whatever is on the menu that day. New life is being breathed into the once popular cafeteria concept.

It was the spring of 1995 when the RUG decided to stop subsidising the cafeteria. Day in and day out, the restaurant – located at the live music venue Vera – had served cheap meals for students. ‘Our parents often went there and they were very enthusiastic about it’, Lisa Havinga recalls. The prospective medicine student, along with her brother Jesse (masters in philosophy), Tjesse Riemersma (artificial intelligence), Robin Kramer (masters in psychology and philosophy) and Matthijs Snijder, is a co-founder of Kruimels (crumbs) in bed.

‘It’s a kind of soup kitchen, but with good food’
Part of the group has already been cooking for artists playing gigs at De Gym for a while. When Karina Bakx, owner of the coffee bar Bed, proposed that they cook for guests one night per week, they accepted her offer without hesitation. In return for a voluntary shift behind the bar in the daytime, the group of five is allowed to do their own thing every Friday evening. The pilot evening was a great success from the word go. Tonight, the lime coriander soup and chickpea curry are attracting a lot of rumbling tummies to De Gym.

Eating in bed

Upon entry, the first guests get settled in. Some are sat at the long canteen table, which is ideal for starting a conversation with a stranger. Others have climbed up into a bunkbed and are literally eating in bed. Luckily, the queue is moving pretty fast. I end up next to philosophy student Remco van der Meer, who feels completely at home: ‘There is an authentic atmosphere here, and you can get a good meal for a good price. I would definitely give it four stars. I think that half of the philosophy faculty is here – hipsters, the lot of them. There are also a lot of people from the Minerva art academy and from the music scene.’

Students are not the only ones who are welcome at Kruimels in bed, which is the biggest difference between it and the old restaurant/cafeteria. As the last remnants of food are being scraped out of the chafing dishes, Riemersma lets out a sigh: ‘I thought the queue would never end!’ He gives his fellow chefs a high five. Lisa beams: ‘There is a feeling of relief you get when everything goes well. But at the same time, I’m not really worried when everyone is eating. You can eat here for 3 euros and 50 cents, and there are no waiters. It is a kind of soup kitchen, but with good food. We have deliberately chosen to keep the threshold low.’

‘‘We are pretty surprised by the response’
Cooking for such a large group does require the necessary preparations, says Kramer: ‘We already have quite a few recipes ready for the coming period. We start buying in the ingredients the Tuesday before. On Friday afternoon we cook together, relaxed and very homey. But when the queue forms in the evening, there is also the realisation that all those people are coming for your food and they are going to pay to eat it.’

Vegetarian

Jesse pipes up: ‘We are pretty surprised by the response to the cafeteria. I don’t know what the biggest attractor is.’ Obviously there is a demand for cheap food for a fair price. ‘Everything we make is vegetarian’, he continues. ‘Not so much to promote that particular ideal, even though we are all vegetarian. Cooking vegetarian meals is particularly cheap and it means that everyone can eat dinner here.’

The goal is to keep on organising Kruimels in bed every Friday evening. ‘Having it on more days would be difficult, we are all still students and have other activities’, says Kramer. ‘In addition to this, people often stay and wait until the gig begins on Friday evening. That is ideal’, adds Riemersma. ‘Furthermore, you can eat at the Minerva art academy for one euro on Thursday and you also have the Free Café.’ Kramer: ‘With all these other options, organising Kruimels in bed on one fixed day, and doing so consistently, is preferable.’

After the food has disappeared from the plates, some of the guests go out to the corridor and the roof terrace for a beer. The kitchen staff takes a breather, even though they still have a mountain of dishes to wash. Still, there is something to be proud of: Kruimels in bed is already more successful than the DWDD (a popular Dutch TV programme) pop-up restaurant. The plans for the next dinner this Friday, have been unwrapped. ‘Wraps. Isn’t that a good idea?’

16-06-2016