Inside the Food Tent Teaching Music Festival-Goers How to Cook

Inside the Food Tent Teaching Music Festival-Goers How to Cook

At Denmark’s Roskilde festival, the FoodJam tent provides punters with organic vegetables, fresh fish, and dairy to cook any dish they choose. “There's nowhere else in the world at a festival where you can do this," says co-founder Thomas Laursen.
07 July 2016, 3:04pm

I'm standing in the middle of the camping area at Roskilde—a tearaway rock festival in Denmark, now in its 46th year—surrounded by the carnage of piss strewn fences, half eaten pizza crusts, toilet rolls, and discarded paper cups. To one side of me, boys huddle around sound systems. On the other, people gather quietly near a campfire, hustling for its glow to reach them.

People look worn, dead from partying after seven days on the trot, but there is a sign of hope under a huge canvas tent, just across from the mess of the campsite.

FoodJam co-founder Thomas Laursen (centre) instructs a group of festival-goers preparing dishes at Roskilde in Denmark. All photos by Mie Brinkmann.

Above the canvas, a huge logo bears down on the devastation: "FOODJAM: COOK YOUR OWN DISH."

As I wander inside, I'm confronted by a soup kitchen like no other. Filled with eager festival-goers, it's a place for the hungry to make a home-cooked meal, right in the middle of the festival.

READ MORE: How It Feels to Cook at Coachella and Serve a Bunch of Wasted Kids

Two volunteers stand guard at the entrance, explaining the concept to the bewildered who wander in. We're informed that for 65 Danish kroner (around £7), punters are given an hour to create any dish they choose using the fresh seasonal available, as well as a "culinary supervisor" to guide them through the cooking process. A giant larder tempts us inwards, packed with organic vegetables, herbs, fresh seafood, and all manner of creams, milks, and cheeses. In the middle of the tent, there are tables with chopping boards and temporary burners.

Organic vegetables available for cooks at FoodJam.

FoodJam started at Roskilde four years ago. It sees around 4,000 people cooking in the tent every year and trains over 100 volunteers in mentoring and facilitation. The brains behind the initiative are Simon Philipsen and Thomas Laursen, two food professionals contracted by Denmark's Environment and Food Ministry to support and advise on the food side of the nationwide Madkulturen project. Its aim is to bring Danish food into focus, offering vocational training across different age groups to help strengthen people's links between the food they eat, where it comes from, and how it's made.

"I think the main thing is there's nowhere else in the world at a festival where you can do this," says Laursen, a forager by trade, famed for finding wild ants and herbs for high-end Copenhagen restaurants. "The aim really is to do restaurant-standard cooking with everyday individuals by teaching people about food health, trying new flavours, and getting to know ingredients."

On my visit, he and Philipsen preside over the FoodJam tent, watching groups eagerly chop onions and supervisors demonstrate the best way to fillet fish. My group is soon paired up with Suzan, a hobby-cook whose usual employment is in clothing design. She brims with eagerness to try the new recipes she has helped people cook over the weekend.

"The other day, I saw these three European guys try pairing rhubarb with mussels," Suzan tells us. "It blew me away, so I wanted to give it a go with you guys."

We opt for beetroot instead of rhubarb, swapping in cabbage and other root vegetables to make a stew with fresh mussels and a purple cream that takes on the beetroot colour. For the vegetarian in the group, Suzan gushes at the idea of making a huge potato salad with a special Danish smoked cheese. For the third of our trio, there's fresh pan-fried plaice, served with foraged mushrooms and a peppery jus. I ask Laursen about the other dishes he has seen people attempt at FoodJam.

READ MORE: What to Eat and Drink at a Summer Music Festival

"We have people come in in the morning, completely hungover, and they'll do hash browns and eggs, and then people coming in to do mussels," he says. "There are so many lives and identities in here. People can do what they want in here, there is freedom—but it's about getting people to learn something new."

The author chopping spring onions.

Within an hour, we've got a feast on the table. As we sit down to eat, Suzan tells us that she became involved with FoodJam after a friend recommended her for it. After undergoing the two days of training, she was brought in to guide all manner of festival-goers in their culinary wants. For some, this was their first time cooking with fish, for others, it was a chance to make a much needed home-cooked meal.

FoodJam is far from the only food option at Roskilde. Unlike many greasy hot dog-serving British music festivals, the event sees its culinary offerings as the music line up. There are barbecues and fire pits for people to roast potatoes and make kebabs for supper, as well as a large "food court" of pop-ups from Copenhagen restaurants. I find experimental Korean cooking, buffet-style breakfasts, and horse meat sandwiches among the many f=stalls.

Dishes prepared by FoodJam attendees.

Which can only be a good thing. When partying and drinking takes its toll, it's often something as nourishingly simple as a homemade potato salad that'll brings you back from utter destitution.

All photos by Mie Brinkmann.