010 Spotlight: Vegan Pizza Bar
written by Mara Foerster
Get ready: We would like to introduce you to our newest blog series… 010 Spotlight! A series in which we want to get to know the faces behind all Rotterdam’s conscious entrepreneurs. Think about restaurants, cafes, projects, initiatives, companies and much more! Explore Rotterdam, also known as “010”, with us and get to truly know the ins and outs of our glorious frontrunner city.
No one ever gives pizza a second thought. We’re all here for it, want it, need it, love it, crave it. Comforting, satisfying, pleasing dough, with an indulgent, flavourful marinara sauce and a ginormous pile of… wait. Cheese? The masterminds behind the Vegan Pizza Bar in Rotterdam took exactly this component that is meant to make a pizza a, well, pizza – the cheese – and rearranged our outdated conceptual cravings around it.
As people become more eclectic in their culinary choices, the notion of meat-eating as society’s default position is unsustainable. But what about the cheese? Going cold (non) turkey on cheese is a struggle many of us have experienced. You might say: Plant-based alternatives don’t give me the feeling! The comfort! The ooze! Well, we’re onto something good here.
If you haven’t heard about it yet as a vegan – you’re missing out. More so, omnivores and vegetarians should prick up their ears. The Vegan Pizza Bar has arrived in Rotterdam, and it’s about to take over the take-away sphere.
GOING COLD (NON)TURKEY ON CHEESE
As the Vegan Student Association Rotterdam, we were obviously intrigued by getting to know the ins and outs of steadfast vegan institutions in our frontrunner city. While there’s a good amount of already established restaurants and cafes, a pizza bar that is fully vegan elevated R’dams vegan scene to another level. The other week, we got to know Pim. He’s not only a great person, but also (one of) the brains behind the Vegan Pizza Bar. With a background in selling art, design thinking, innovation methods and coaching start-ups, he quickly realised that – guess what – the future is vegan. At the end of 2019 the idea for a vegan pizza place was born, coinciding with a period where he himself wanted to become vegan. As with most people, he ran into obstacles. Giving up meat is easy, especially if you think about the thousands of plant-based meat alternatives on the market that are much tastier than any dead animal could ever be. But what do we do with the cheese?
Vegetarianism got him thinking. “Why aren’t vegetarians vegan?” Replacing meat is easy, but what withholds a lot of vegetarians are the big ones: Cheese and dairy.
On the quest to gather all genius knowledge on vegan cheese, they set out to explore and taste all the vegan cheeses from Berlin to London. Bottom line of the adventures: “Why is this so gross?”. What all those vegan alternatives had in common was trying to replicate the taste, usually with weird aromas, flavours, and additives that made the substitute inedible and overly sweet. There’s just been no substitute for cheese with that characteristic stringiness and satisfying melt - they just couldn’t find the one. “This is a problem”. So, what’s left? Pim and his cousin Thijs, a professional chef for more than 15 years, decided to start making their own. They spent months working on the ultimate vegan cheese, ran several test days where they let vegans, vegetarians, but also conscious consumers who do eat animal products taste their creations. Ultimately, the vegan cheese wasn’t about replicating taste, but the experience. And that’s what makes it so good.
How do you get people to choose vegan options when hunger and cravings overcome them? Pizza, one of the biggest categories of food where cheese plays a major role, turned out to be the A-player for lowering the threshold to choosing plant-based alternatives. As a versatile comfort food for snuggle-on-the-couch-nights, a hangover cure, or just because - it caters to the need in the delivery realm. This is where the target audience comes in: You don’t need to convince no vegans – we’re already here for it – but it’s the low-hanging fruit Pim and his team want to harvest. The vegetarians, those who want to lessen their meat consumption or still think that switching to a vegan diet is difficult.
Whether you want to go for traditional Margherita, indulge in some sexy veggies, envelop your taste buds in funky mushrooms, karma shoarma, or munch on some artichokes – they have it all. Yet, Pim and Thijs work towards rethinking food instead of replicating it by coming up with experimental and progressive combinations. However, they see that most people go for the “replicate” pizzas. While their pizzas doused in parsnip and pumpkin crème or bechamel have the same richness to it like any cheesy dough UFO – people often want what they’re used to. And sometimes that’s a good ol’ margherita. Reinventing food and letting people adapt to it is a long-time process, but they certainly set the bar high with forward-thinking combinations (and you should give them a go!!).
While they work with the delivery services UberEats and Deliveroo, take-away is the option of choice (and you get a free drink with your pizza!).
AND THE INGREDIENTS?
Veganism is sustainable – if done right, and both Pim and Thijs care a lot about it. If they can, they get their ingredients from local farmers and their boxes and packaging are biodegradable. As an example, their newest addition to the pizza charter, the BBQ Chickie, uses European soy. While sustainable options are plentiful, this also poses a big challenge: if you want to find and use all sustainable local ingredients, you pay more, and the pizzas get more expensive. Their first-tier ambition is to bring pizzas at the right price points to the consumers – and get local sustainable ingredients where possible and fit to the model. Pim phrases it as this: “What people want first, sustainability second”. Underlying this is the critical assumption that scaling up plant-based has more impact than them buying local. Essentially, scaling up on veganism first will foster the transition to sustainability quite naturally. And we agree.
The Vegan Pizza Bar is going well and growing wildly. Actively looking for a second and third location, potentially in Amsterdam and Utrecht, the masterminds have another ace up their sleeve. Their new concept “Big Drip” is going to roll out soon: Expect mouth-watering vegan Kapsalon and appetizing sandwiches. To stay up to date, make sure to follow them on Instagram!
We sincerely hope you enjoyed this first part of our 010 Spotlight and are eager for more, we sure are. Stay tuned for more and make sure to stay up to date! If you haven’t yet, follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our newsletter down below. In the meantime, whether you want to get to know your city better or are generally interested in what R’dam has on offer, ensure to also catch up on our post about the Rotterdamse Oogstmarkt - where local makers and DIY craft meet sustainability.