Editor’s note: Lovefood HQ celebrated its first and last birthday on June 22nd, 2013. The restaurant is now unfortunately closed.
Jason Hartley has taken his passion for food and turned it into Lovefood HQ; a place to see, be seen, and most of all, appreciate great food.
Lovefood has come a long way since its early days as a monthly pop-up restaurant in Amsterdam. Jason’s devout fans used to patiently wait for but eagerly anticipate that one Sunday a month, longing to tuck into The Full Mikey or a plate of fluffy Yancakes, but as of last year, the need to wait was over. In June 2012, Lovefood HQ opened at Koggestraat 1 in Amsterdam, and it’s been off and running ever since.
Owner and Chef Jason Hartley is refreshingly honest. When asked for his thoughts on the latest food trends he replied, “I don’t know and I don’t care; I could care less about trends. We need to celebrate what we’ve got instead of reinventing because classic is what’s in vogue.” And this makes sense when you consider that Jason has set the following rules for Lovefood:
- Pick a dish at the heart of a culture
- Find its story
- Find the best ingredients
- Don’t mess with it
- Make it look pretty
For Jason, enjoying a meal isn’t just about the food, it’s about the experience. From the moment you walk in the door at Lovefood HQ to the moment you leave, Jason and his staff will give you every reason to love your experience, and chances are you will leave happier than when you arrived. Reservations aren’t necessary to drop into the Lounge, a laid-back yet lively space with mismatched tables and chairs and a busy bar, but they’re highly recommended to get a coveted space for brunch or dinner in Lovefood HQ’s Dining Room.
Running a hotspot like Lovefood doesn’t leave Jason with the luxury of free time, and vacations are mostly taken in his head. His top three destinations are Portland, Chicago and New York City. It’s no wonder that Portland, Oregon tops his list, as it’s considered by those in-the-know to be the foodie capital of the United States.
The foundations for Portland’s obsession with all things food and drink were laid with the influx of hippies to the area in the 1960s. These were people who grew their own food, did their own preserving, and stimulated a greater and sincere awareness in the development of a food culture. Today in Portland, there are several hundred registered food carts, more than 60 microbreweries, and dining opportunities to suit every taste and budget.
Portland offers a breath of fresh air with its abundance of parks and gardens, giving you the opportunity to stretch your legs in between all those meals. There are also festivals held year round, meaning that no matter what season you visit, you’ll find yourself immersed in the culture, the food and the drinks of the city.
While travel to Portland is on Jason’s back-burner for the time being, he continues to throw himself wholeheartedly into Lovefood HQ. In order to best excite the palates of his diners, he’s sourced top-quality ingredients from local suppliers, and uses MRIJ (Maas-Rijn-Ijssel) beef, a breed originating in the Netherlands and Germany, and Bonte Bentheimer pork. His fish supplier, Henry, grew up in the smokehouses and supplies Lovefood HQ with its delicious smoked salmon.
Keeping things in perspective are Jason’s worst and his best Lovefood memories. The worst comes from his pop-up days, about one year into his Lovefood adventure, when everything that could possibly go wrong did. As if reliving a bad dream, Jason recalled how neither the serving staff nor the kitchen staff that day were fully trained, and one server didn’t bother to show up. Needless to say, the front house and kitchen both fell apart, and when the owner of the space Jason was popping-up at came with his family for brunch, there was no table to offer them.
But for every nightmare there is the ideal of a dream, and in hindsight, Jason’s best memory was the very first day of Lovefood. On this day there was nothing more than dreams, innocence, and a naivety that everything was going to be alright. He now recognizes that it takes a lot more than dreams to make Lovefood HQ the best it can be. However, it isn’t just his career, it’s his passion and that gives him the fuel to keep this dream going.