In the first five minutes of talking to Lisette Kreischer (Founder of The Dutch Weed Burger, Food Stylist and author of vegan cookbooks), she has already given me tips on two cool places to visit in Rotterdam for food and drinks. This is my kind of person. After I’ve written the suggestions down in my notebook, we dive straight into the topic at hand – her famous Weed Burger.
“The Dutch Weed Burger is a 100% plant-based hamburger, with seaweed as THE tastemaker. Our innovative hamburger is unlike any other taste and bite you have ever experienced. Tasty, healthy and sustainable.”
How did the burger come into creation?
I’m a vegan and a cookbook writer. I’ve always had a dream that vegan food, that plant power food, would be more for everyone. It was going well but it wasn’t being picked up by the mainstream yet, so I felt it was time to come up with a way to inspire more people to eat in this way. I was asked by an organisation to write a cookbook about eating from the sea (non-fish). I did this and was working a lot with seaweed. I fell in love with the seaweed, which is a great source of Omega 3 and proteins, and realised how much we have around us here in the Netherlands.
I visited a seaweed farm in Oosterschelde and learned how great this product is – sustainable and an excellent meat replacer.
I then teamed up with a great filmmaker, Mark Kulsdom, and we created a film about seaweed and the burger. First we went to New York to meet with chefs that were already working in the vegan kitchen and from those meetings we came up with The Dutch Weed Burger. We worked with Burgers in The Hague and in 2012 we officially launched at a festival where in just a few hours we were totally sold out.
One year ago it became a proper business and now the burger is in 90 restaurants around the Netherlands and the documentary also went to the film festival circuit.
What’s your goal with the weed burger?
Our goal is to inspire people to eat more plant based products and make these available in both restaurants and the retail environment.
How would you describe the taste?
It was always our intention that the burger would be able to stand on its own. The burger is actually only made up of ten percent seaweed, because seaweed is very strong and contains many vitamins and minerals. You only need a little seaweed a day to get in your nutrients. The rest of the burger is made up of flavours you are familiar with and “plant meat”, so the burger has a proper firm bite to it. There is micro-algae in the bun and we top it off with some vegan mayo. Overall it doesn’t taste like you are eating the sea! We have found that vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike are a fan.
What has been the hardest thing about creating the weed burger?
The hardest thing has been running a business in this society. Of course there are the normal business struggles but as a business owner you play a role in being responsible for some of society’s problems – CO2 emissions for example. We are also very conscious of the moral obligations that come into play. If a big fast food chain wanted to work with us – that would bring in money, but the question would be…do we want to morally head down that route. It is a difficult balancing act.
What has been the most positive moment so far?
Seeing the documentary at the Environmental Film Festival in Washington DC, for sure. Although a close second, would be that The Dutch Weed Burger is now being sold by The Alternative Burger Collective on the World Expo in Milan.
Will you be expanding the range and/or the market?
We already get questions from the from all over and we do have an international aim but we are taking it one step at a time for the moment. As to new products, we are just focussing on The Dutch Weed Burger right now, although we have many ideas.
What’s next for the burger?
We have been super lucky because the popular bagel chain, Bagels & Beans, has agreed to serve The Dutch Weed Bagel in all their locations through the Netherlands from september 2015.
I’ve also got a new book coming out and inside is the recipe of the very first Weed Burger. It is called Ocean Greens/Groente uit Zee and will be all about seaweed, sea-plants, and microalgaes.
To get your hands on a Dutch Weed Burger, visit one of the many locations that has it on their menu.