„Here people don’t complain about a bug on their plate“

27.01.2015

In the Belgian coastal city of Ostend apart from the many nice shops and the beautiful beach, you can also find a little, inconspicuous hamburger restaurant. Inconspicuous, that is until you enter the place and take a look at the menu. You can have a regular cheeseburger too, but if you’re up for something special, maybe you’ll choose a zebra burger, or even a worm burger or a grasshopper sundae.

Manager and chef Jochen Verbeeke thought it a cool idea to surprise his costumers with insect dishes: „I never meant to become a real insect restaurant, but last year the media announced that 10 species of insects were approved for human consumption, so I really wanted to try something new with it".

A delicious, but expensive novelty?

And it was an immediate success! According to Verbeeke, in the beginning about 70% of all his sales were his new worm burger. People came from all across the country, or even further, just to taste this novelty. „I think I process about one or two kilos of bugs each month", he declares. Although the biggest hype is gone now, and proportions are getting back to normal, the chef still believes he wouldn’t have as many guests if he hadn’t jumped on the idea. „With the locals I already was quite known, so for them it’s not such a big deal. But with tourists or other visitors, I gained a lot of interest through the bugs, there still aren’t much competitors in that range".

On the other hand he says he has probably lost a few customers too, afraid that all of his food is insect related. „But that is definitely not the case!", he points out again. „It’s also very expensive to work with the insects. Not a lot of retailers offer them, so the price is still too high for me to do much different things with insects. Not that I intend to, but for a kilo of grasshoppers I paid 250 euros at first, just to give you an idea".

Government approves, now the public

To cook the insects, Verbeek had to buy them at a specialized distributor of exotic game, „but now you can even find them in some supermarkets. So we are acclimatizing to the idea of eating insects. Finally I’d say", the chef tells. That integration of the concept is the only thing stopping us from eating insects as it were a normal thing. Despite it being allowed and regulated by the European government, the general public still finds it weird, not to say disgusting, to eat the little animals. „Which is, if you think about it, a bit strange. In Africa and even more in Asia, it’s perfectly normal for children to eat a little grasshopper or cricket on the markets like it’s a piece of candy," tells Verbeek, „Europe is one of the only places on earth where people still repel insects in their meals, it’s time to change that".

Besides their nice, nutty taste, insects for dinner are not only very good for the environment, their exceptionally healthy too.

The ecological footprint of our food production is enormous. To produce 1 single kilo of beef for example, you need 10 kilos of feed for the animals, and liters and liters of water. For 1 kilo of bug meat, you need only 1.5 kilo of feed, and a lot less water. Furthermore our cattle needs a lot of space, and for example their methane emission is very damaging to the environment too. We have to cope with the problems of the always growing global population, and therefor with the always growing amount of food demands. Insects are the ideal solution to that problem. They’re small, not as demanding in care or food, and therefor way cheaper to produce. Bugs are also a very rich and healthy meal. They contain as much proteins and vitamins as regular meat, but almost no fat. So, what are we waiting for?

How does he do it?

The Worm Burger: watch the video!

„I mix my freshly minced meat with some mealworms and a tandoori paste for the flavour. Then I shape that into burgers and fry them in a pan. To finish it off, I make a sauce, also based on tandoori spices, and some deep-fried wax moth larvas. Put all that between a sandwich, some lettuce and tomato, and done!"

Dessert?

„I also serve a caramel sundae, finished with caramelized grasshoppers. They taste a bit like the sugared almonds on German Christmas markets." (Die Gebrannte Mandeln)

Belgian BugBurger

In the future we have to eat insects, in Belgium this chef has found a perfect stepping stone to introduce bugs in our meals.

Total votes: 294
 

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