Never a dull moment as a Food Curator for Program

Sanne Smeets
Posted by

Sanne Smeets

on November 24, 2021
Interview with @Sander Uitdehaag – Food Curator

First things first: What is a Food Curator?

“An art curator’s job is to acquire, select and catalogue works of art. They carefully research and choose which pieces should be part of an exhibit to ensure their story is told correctly. Similarly, a food curator acquires seasonal ingredients and creates healthy and surprising menus. For me personally, it is also important to work efficiently, so I can help reduce waste streams.”

Meet Sander Uitdehaag. In 2019 he joined the new catering concept Program (Future Focused Catering). His passions for food, travel and creating beautiful things are a great foundation for his work.

Can you explain the work that you do with your team?

 “We developed a large database of products and recipes. Each recipe meets the following criteria:

  • great taste (wow factor, look & feel)
  • nutritious / healthy
  • local and seasonal products
  • diverse and authentic recipes
  • minimal footprint (sustainable, waste reduction)
  • inclusive or alternative and new food models
  • fair price for supplier and client
Sander Uitdehaag Food Curator

With our Program app, clients can order from different categories (hot meals, salads, soups, sandwiches, drinks and desserts). Per category we offer two options per day. It is my job to figure out the best selection of recipes for each day, keeping in mind our pledge to reduce food waste. Not one day looks the same. You might see certain products come back, but they will be used differently in each recipe. Some favorite dishes will be put in rotation as well, but always with improvements or slightly different elements.

Our daily menu schedule is limited to two options per category, but if you look at our menus per week, season or even per year, you see very diverse cuisines and ingredients. We’re proud of Program’s flexible ordering options which make it easy to request an add-on or alternative to the recipe.”

This sounds pretty challenging. How do you keep all the plates spinning?

“Nice reference to the world of catering ;). It certainly is a challenge, but we love solving problems at Program. It gives me energy! I also work with a great team of international food experts and diverse chefs who all help curate the best selection of menus on a daily basis. Before we launch a new recipe, we need to fully understand it. Otherwise, it cannot be authentic. That is why I am collaborating closely with my team, the chefs in the production kitchen and on location, the suppliers of our ingredients and products, my back office colleagues, our account managers, the kitchen staff, and of course the clients themselves.”

Program aims to be the most healthy, inclusive and sustainable solution for workplace catering. Can you explain how?

“We are plant-based at our core, which is practically the most environmentally friendly diet. One can choose for optional responsible animal side-dishes and toppings. When it comes to inclusivity in food, I draw from my experience as a chef at Pakhuis de Zwijger. There, I learned how to create a selection of dishes that fit a wide variety of needs, such as allergies and intolerances. Throughout my career, I’ve come to realize that most people like to eat a varied diet They don’t want to eat the same thing every day, which also happens to be healthier.

Our pledge to reduce food waste is anchored in our thoughtful use of ingredients. We often incorporate leftover ingredients in dishes for the next day, we use whatever pickles we have on hand on our sandwiches and we offer a ‘Rescue Salad Friday’ when clients can order leftover salads from our No Waste Fridge.” 

How does the Program app work

“Our weekly Program menu can be found in our app, which we developed for our clients. Employees can choose which days they want to sign up for lunch, pay for their lunch, and fill out their allergies if applicable. We are constantly improving the app based on client feedback. We can see, for example, how popular the salad was, or how many times the hot meal was preferred over our cold options. This feedback helps us a lot. Personally, I can’t wait to get more detailed feedback data. We can use this information to make our menu better and come up with more and more environmentally friendly solutions in the future. I want to evolve constantly, and in the end I think it’s a shared effort to work towards a better future.”

Infographic about the proces of Program