The Visionary Kitchen was started when Jan Martin Ahlers, founder of Project 1 Million, went to buy a loaf of bread on one of his first few days in Denmark. He passed an open container and saw a many loaves of bread inside – just discarded. The bread seemed normal enough, so he helped himself to one. Later that evening he went down to the container again and found vegetables there. It wasn’t long before supermarkets were instructed to keep their containers under lock and key.
“We obviously still need food, and the food was the remains thrown out, so we got in touch with the supermarkets and asked if we had to decrease their surplus food – two of them said yes immediately. A few weeks after, we got an email from Spar, they had heard about our project and would also like to be with,” says Ahlers. Soon the amount of food they received was too much for Ahlers and his partner, Kristin so they extended regular invitations to their friends for dinners and before long The Visionary Kitchen was born.
Open to everyone, the weekly dinners – usually held on a Tuesday and Thursday – are healthy and nutritious two- or three-course meals created from surplus food that has reached its sell-by date. Presently most nights are booked out as the concept has really become popular and a one-dinner-a-month rule had to be implemented to accommodate guests. The aim of the project is to increase the focus on food waste so at these dinners the guests are taught about food waste – if a banana is brown on the outside it is usually fine on the inside, and even if it isn’t use it to make a comforting banana loaf. Dishes are created from any food that is at the chef’s disposal so it is indeed an ever-changing "menu" with the kitchen being a space of culinary experiments.
It’s not only about the food though. The Visionary Kitchen wants to create a framework for the Danish and the international community to meet and network – integration through gastronomy. For the disadvantaged and old-aged people as well as for the rich and poor to meet in a harmonious setting in the hopes of improving social issues.
Supermarkets and food chains currently involved in the Visionary Kitchen include Lovbjerg, Spar and SuperBrugsen in Stensballe. For the founders of this exciting food waste concept, there is a strong local focus and every step is taken to limit and reduce the project’s CO2 footprint hence the need for local produce. Although the focus is local the vision is global. The Visionary Kitchen hopes to unroll similar programmes to Germany and Scandinavia as food waste is not just a Danish problem but a broader European issue too.