Some people are are able to fill entire rooms with their charisma. Antje de Vries is one such person. The 41-year-old exudes an irresistible fresh, infectious energy as she wields her pots, pans and ladles. Antje is a qualified chef, trend scout, consultant, author, nutritional economist – and, especially, a globetrotter. Born in East Frisia in the far north of Germany, she has no home of her own. Since 2016, she’s been sleeping in hostels, hotels and at friends’ houses and on trains. Her aim is not specific locations, but constant movement. Her vision: “I want to connect people through food.”
Exclusively for Mobility, the food nomad has created a vegan, seasonally inspired three-course meal that’s also perfect as a Christmas menu that you can cook at home (to the recipe). To realise this project, we meet Antje de Vries on a typical overcast November day at Zurich’s DasProvisorium. Carved out of former confectionery and bakery premises in recent years, DasProvisorium is a creative incubator and event venue focused on co-working and food production. She feels at home there. “That’s the fascinating thing about constantly being on the move: you’re always coming across inspiring people and places,” she says as she busies herself with the lamb’s lettuce and king trumpet mushrooms for the starter.
Ever since Antje embarked on her nomadic lifestyle, her view of life has changed: “I'm often on the move – but when I stop somewhere, I’m 100% there.” Her preferred way of getting around is by public transport. And she travels as light as possible, carrying only the bare essentials in her 18-litre rucksack. A change of clothes, cooking wear, a first aid kit, a compact blanket, a travel towel, a swimming costume (“I love the water!”), a small laptop – “but no trousers,” laughs Antje. “I never wear trousers. Not even when skiing.”
“Being mobile is a key part of my lifestyle,” declares Antje de Vries. Along with buses and trains, she’s a fan of car sharing. Owning a car, with its own parking space, having to arrange the servicing: she can’t think of anything worse! “I want a set of wheels to take me from A to B, otherwise I’ll have nothing to do with it.” But it’s also a fact that Antje de Vries flies, and often. “That's my weakness,” she admits. Cooking over an open fire in Sierra Leone or developing new food concepts with chefs in Bali are things that are only possible if you fly. “Of course it’s on my mind,” she says. That’s one reason why she tries to make her experiences accessible to others. Antje’s particularly passionate about her involvement with the NGO PfefferminzGreen. In partnership with people from Sierra Leone, she’s produced a cookbook for the organisation, the proceeds of which will are used to support a local organization that stops female genital mutilation (FGM). Her forays to faraway countries always open her eyes: “In Sierra Leone, you have to work so hard to provide your family with food and water,” she says. It throws a whole new perspective on our life of abundance here in the North.”
New perspectives also emerge in conversation with the cookery expert from East Frisia. “Nutrition is closely linked to mobility,” she says. A rethink is underway in both realms. “Sustainability looms large in both the food and the mobility sectors.” In the case of nutrition, changes can be tested and rolled out much more quickly than is the case for mobility. One example of this is Mobility’s plan to electrify all the bays where its vehicles are stationed – a project taking a number of years to roll out.
Antje de Vries says lasting change calls for input from champions: “What’s needed are trend translators.” In other words, people who set a good example – and are able to inspire others with their vision. “We have to be conscious of the fact that relatively few people and companies exert a disproportionate influence.” This is precisely why she’s a strong advocate for vegan cuisine. “We always start our food concepts with the plant, only adding an animal side dish at the end if it makes sense.”
Antje de Vries is careful not to wag a judgmental finger when broaching this topic: “People shouldn’t get the impression that something’s being taken away from them.” It’s far more effective to show them attractive alternatives to existing models. The success of plant-based substitutes proves that changes are possible, even where emotive issues are involved. The food nomad’s clear about one thing: “If we have to change something, then let's make it better for everyone!” And sometimes that means combining the best of two worlds. “Just to give you an example, if half of all the burgers sold by fast food outlets were made from lentils, the world would be a much better place.” Antje de Vries sets out to show that plant-based alternatives are at least as appealing as meat – not least with her exclusive Mobility Christmas menu.
We hope you enjoy trying it – as we say in Switzerland: bon appetit / en Guete!
Photos: Patrick Besch
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