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010 Spotlight: Jack Bean

written by Gautam

And we’re back! For the third installment of our 010 Spotlight series, we had a chat with Mathijs of Jack Bean. Founded in 2018, they now run a pair of restaurants in Rotterdam. Jack Bean is 100% plant-based, serving food that’s fast, affordable, planet-conscious and healthy.

We have all heard the tale of Jack and his famous beanstalk. Much like Jack, Mathijs and Pepijn (the founders of Jack Bean) want to plant a seed: To inspire everyone to eat more plant-based foods.

Back in 2017, although unbeknownst to each other at the time, Mathijs and Pepijn discovered the huge impact that meat and dairy have on our planet. Animal agriculture turned out to be an even bigger driver of climate change than cars and planes. Heh? Why weren’t more people talking about it? Through some networking and a bit of luck, they found each other, and their shared passion and complementary skill sets made for the perfect pairing. In 2018, Jack Bean was born.

Their vision was and still is for Jack Bean to kick-start a conversation about the way we eat, by making vegan food options accessible to a wider audience and normalizing the availability of vegan options in restaurants in The Netherlands. They take the ‘fast’ from fast-food and leave out all the bits that are no good for us.

Fast-food, but not in the conventional sense

Even as people become more conscious of the impact of our food habits, we still prioritize price, convenience and those familiar tastes. Jack Bean wants to check all those boxes, with friendly prices and quick service, while steering away from the typical fast food concept of greasy, ultra-processed finger food. Here, nearly all the ingredients are locally sourced, and everything is prepared in house.

2020 saw the ‘beyond burger’ revolution, with meat replacements grabbing hold of the spotlight. The approach at JB is different, with Pepijn developing, tweaking and perfecting a variety of recipes to keep things interesting and tickle the right taste buds. Ultimately, the aim is not to replicate all of the aspects of traditional meaty dishes, but to create a new and enjoyable experience.

Location, location, location! Another huge part of the strategy is choosing their sites carefully. The flagship is located right across from Rotterdam Centraal and our very own Mara recalls chancing upon their original location when she first set foot in Rotterdam, jumping off her train only to be greeted by the aromas of the JB kitchen. Since then, they moved down the street to a shiny new location on Kruisplein, situated perfectly for a workday lunch, or for a quick bite for commuters. The second location is closer to home for many of us, smack band in the middle of our campus at the food plaza. Mathijs points out that the majority of customers are unfamiliar with eating vegan and by making the locations more accessible and less preachy-vegan, we encourage them to give it a try. While it might be a dream come true to see our grandparents eating more plant-based meals, we also need to see change in the young population who ultimately set the food trends of the future, and the location on campus definitely helps with that.

To sustainability and beyond

Eating plant-based cuts our impact on the planet drastically, so Jack Bean definitely has that nailed. End of story? No, far from it!

Mathijs and Pepijn never stop looking for ways to do better. They have managed to ensure that nearly 90% of their ingredients are sourced locally, and recipes are constantly being updated to help push that number even higher. Somewhat of a fermenting wizard, Pepijn uses his expertise there to develop new techniques and flavors to bring more of the ingredients prep in-house. They increasingly support farmers using regenerative practices and carbon-neutral greenhouse growing (Landzicht Organic Farms, Duijvestein Tomaten, and Klompe Agri). Food scraps are redirected back to these farmers who turn what many call rubbish into rich compost that goes back into the veggies and legumes that they grow. The wraps and bread are sourced from a Rotterdam favourite, Das Brot.

Another side of sustainability that many often overlook is the people side of things. While plant-based alternatives (mostly) win as far as the planet is concerned, they are not always necessarily healthy to eat. Vegan junk food and replica dishes are great for helping people transition to plant-based diets, but much like their meat and dairy counterparts, they are still not great for us. The philosophy at Jack Bean is to help change eating habits to include more healthy dishes containing greens, beans and legumes, and to move away from the meat and potato-centric cuisine we have here in Europe. Bottom line is: We need to create a diet that is sustainable for our planet, but also for those who are eating it.

What’s next?

First things first: Reopening! The Kruisplein location has been open for takeaway and as of yesterday (good timing!), the location on campus has also reopened for you to take the goodies home. Of course, Mathijs and the team hope that the situation will permit them to reopen for dining-in soon.

A third location in another city in Holland is in the pipeline for when restaurants are back in business. Eventually, the dream is to expand to neighboring countries to spread the message and make vegan food accessible to everyone!

In the meantime, you can check out their tasty burger, wraps, bowls and more at the Rotterdam locations. Stay up to date by following them over on their Instagram.

We hope you are enjoying this series, as we shine the spotlight on the many vegan establishments in Rotterdam and beyond! Check out the previous editions in which we discover the Rotterdamse Oogstmarkt, the Vegan Pizza Bar and Main Cookies. Keep your eyes peeled for the next edition, soon to be up on our blog! And if you haven’t already, follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our newsletter down below.

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