Syncing all the senses
In an open-aired stadium filled with thousands of people in the middle of Boom, Belgium, EDM enthusiasts from around the world meet to celebrate Tomorrowland—an iconic music festival that hosts DJs from around the world. Here, festival designers challenge themselves to heighten the senses of nearly 180,000 attendees with stages emulating something out of a fantasy novel: lights and lasers competing with the starry night, pulsing bass that resonates throughout your entire body, and stage performers who come alive as characters from even the wildest imaginations. It’s all to offer the most well-rounded experience to people from around the world.
But even at a festival like this, food can still steal the show.
Street food was once the only option for Tomorrowland attendees, but in the last few years, Tomorrowland has branched out to accommodate the many food preferences its festival attracts—like vegan and gluten–free diets—in an initiative called “Tastes of the World.” On top of that, the festival also offers restaurant-style food: homemade Italian pasta, a flavorful salad bar, luxurious Belgian chocolate desserts, frozen yogurt, and a steak house providing visitors a much-needed break from sifting through crowded picnic benches to enjoy a meal. Many of the chefs at these restaurants are invited to cook for Tomorrowland to connect with attendees through food rather than music.
Of these connoisseurs is Belgian TV chef and Balls & Glory restaurant founder Will Ballieu, who has served at the Tomorrowland Festival since 2012. His Belgium-based shop is known for their “less is more” philosophy and he specializes in handcrafted meatballs with various fillings like mushroom truffle, sour cherries, pumpkin goat cheese, and red cabbage. His passion for using fresh food in his cooking stemmed from his childhood when his parents worked as butchers and his grandparents owned a pig farm. The year he joined Tomorrowland, he also started to raise his own pigs on his grandmother’s farm.
“We used our father’s recipe for the minced meat and made the balls by hand,” says Wim. “The secret behind our success are [the] pigs—their meat contains the perfect fat-to-meat ratio, which is key to creating great meatballs.”
Wim says he prefers to select the ingredients himself so he is assured they are locally-produced and of the highest quality. In addition to pork, the restaurant also boasts free-range chicken options with fillings including, masala, apple and cassonade brown sugar, spinach and sea water, and various other truffles and cheeses.
“We are a bunch of young guys and girls wanting to share our slow food/fast-served philosophy,” says Wim. “Of course, we want to have a lot of fun doing it—and that’s what we have in common with Tomorrowland. We share our passion for good comfort food and go back to the roots, no bling-bling!”
Wim plays music for the tastebuds, while the other artists appease the ears.
As one of the largest electronic music festivals in the world, Tomorrowland has spread from its humble Belgium beginnings in 2005 to Brazil and the United States. In 2005, the Belgian festival attracted 9,000 participants, growing to over 450,000 by 2016. With the vast expansion over the last ten years, Tomorrowland has increased its food offerings to include a rare side-by-side selection of American, Brazilian, Mexican, Italian, Belgian, and Asian bites.
Whether it’s a mid-afternoon snack or a post-concert pilsner, each stand lets EDM lovers explore with their tastebuds. Last year alone, Tomorrowland sold over 1 million pints of beer, 175,000 servings of Belgian fries, and 75,000 hamburgers, according to Debby Wilmsen, Tomorrowland spokesperson.
Showcasing local cuisine doesn’t just come in the form of Belgian delectables either. Antwerp-based restaurant, Umami, made its debut at last year’s festival mingling contemporary Asian cuisine with tapas. Their goal was to provide healthy meals to Tomorrowland festival goers while mixing a luxurious feel so they could taste the whole Umami experience.
The dishes served at Umami last year would make any Asian foodie’s mouth water: chicken tikka masala, Goa-style lamb curry, and vegetarian curry. But flavor doesn’t only apply to cuisine: With over 214 different nationalities served at Tomorrowland, flavor is an international concept and it comes as no surprise that the restaurant options emulate a unique EDM journey through food. From mixing tastes, nationalities, and sound, Tomorrowland lets festival-goers travel the world through food and music.
Allie Delury is a born-and-raised Wisconsinite pledging allegiance to the Packers, cheese curds, and beer. Allie started her travel, writing, and military career upon graduating from the University of Minnesota 2012. There, she double-majored in broadcast journalism and communication studies while working part-time for the Big Ten Network and interning at FOX Sports North and WCCO-TV. In September 2012, she began her active duty U.S. Air Force career and was selected as a public affairs officer for the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Base, Italy. She now leads and trains airmen to document combat operations at the 3rd Combat Camera Squadron in San Antonio, Texas. She recently deployed to East Africa and routinely backpacks around the world to blog and provides travel advice to other military members.