In these waning days of austerity, even the act of dining out is a luxury for some of us. As diners and restaurateurs alike tighten their belts, an alternative appetizer is emerging that money can’t buy: exclusivity. ‘It’s interesting that the sole priority of most restaurants is providing luxury,’ says Thomas Steigenga of Wilddineren (Dutch for ‘wild dining’). ‘We focus on the luxury found not only in material elements but also in intangible features like uniqueness, mystery and the unknown.’
Wilddineren provides the type of luxury he refers to in guerrilla dining events across the Netherlands, each of which takes place in a different location that is revealed only on the day of the event. Previous escapades have been hosted in the toilets of a music venue, in a public train during rush hour and in the boiler room of the former Amsterdam Stock Exchange.
While the food laid on is nothing less than excellent, Steigenga sees the clandestine nature of Wilddineren as a more important part of an evening to remember. ‘If your guests don’t know what to expect, you stimulate a state of heightened awareness. Their experience is much more intense than it would be normally, and they behave differently.’
The thrill of dining in a secret location is further enhanced by the novelty of the situation. ‘Each of these dinners is just for one night,’ says Steigenga. ‘No one except for those present will ever experience something similar.’ This is really where the added value of such an evening kicks in, especially as guests are asked to pay only what they feel is appropriate and not a penny more.
Steigenga believes that the excitement of embarking into the unknown builds a communal atmosphere that can transcend boundaries. ‘The shared adventure increases bonding among our guests, an aspect of the dinner that they tell us is important.’ As Wilddineren inevitably grows more popular, the question remains: will such events enjoy the same appeal when shared by 1,000 people instead of the current 50?
Just don’t tell too many of your friends, okay?
Photos Adriaan de Groot
This article debuted in Frame #106 alongside a host of inspirational interviews and projects. Find your copy in the online Frame store.