Frites museum in Brussels turned down

Frites museum in Brussels turned down
Credit: Creative Commons

A proposal to open a frites museum in Brussels has not been met with quite the enthusiasm that initiators had hoped for.

The Van Belle family, responsible for the Choco-Story chocolate museum not far from the Manneken Pis, has called the Brussels consultation committee’s hesitancy “unfortunate,” according to Bruzz.

“Belgium is known abroad for its beers, chocolate and fries,” said Eddy Van Belle, chairman of the international bakery group Puratos who has been working for years with his sons on the development of various museums in Belgium and abroad.

“Brussels has a chocolate museum and soon also a beer museum. Then there must also be a museum of frites.”

A family affair

The Van Belle family began with three museums in Bruges: a lamp museum, the first Choco Story (there are now ten worldwide) and a museum for Belgium’s famous frites that they would like to replicate in Brussels. Prior to the pandemic, the Bruges frites museum attracted some 90,000 visitors a year.

“It is our intention to do something similar to Bruges. There we show the entire history of potatoes, which started thousands of years ago in the Andes,” said Van Belle.

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“We also give an overview of the peeling and cutting methods and of the frying kettles and other machines. There will also be an exhibition on the art of fries and, especially for the children, a shooting gallery with the harmful Colorado beetle as the target.”

The museum for Brussels wouldn’t be an exact copy, Van Belle says.

Modelled after success in Bruges

“In Brussels, we also want to pay attention to the big frituur families and the museum will look different: at the back, we want to create a lift in the shape of a fry which will take visitors directly to the third floor,” explained Van Belle. “From there, they descend, walking from one expo area to the next.”

A big difference would be that the Brussels museum wouldn’t have a frituur on the bottom floor, as Van Belle said there are plenty of fry stands in the area already. They would instead offer a tasting area for visitors to sample fries from different types of potatoes or other vegetables.

In celebration of Belgium’s “Week of the Friet” paying homage to the country’s famous fries, a statue called De Frieteters (the fry eater) was unveiled in Bruges at the start of December. Photo from VILT.

No green light yet

The committee withheld its approval largely on account of the fry-shaped lift and the tasting centre. Another stumbling block is the proposed location in a former brewery called De Valck on the Rue de la Tête d’Or, which is a protected historical building.

“A project in such a building is not easy,” conceded Van Belle. “But a museum is a lot less drastic than, say, a hotel or a restaurant. And the advantage is that a listed building becomes accessible to the public this way.”

Despite the negative reaction from the committee, Van Belle isn’t giving up yet.

“Our architects will adjust the plans. Hopefully, they will be approved then. If not, we’ll have to find another solution.”

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