Moments of Impact
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Moments of Impact

The Morning Breakfast: jumpstarting self-awareness with human connection & mindful eating

A conversation with Edwin Sander of The Morning Breakfast

When Edwin Sander started The Morning Breakfast three years ago, he wasn’t out to reinvent the wheel. Instead, he was interested in filling a void he felt in his own life. Sander’s concept is simple — a monthly breakfast event that brings together a gourmet three-course menu, artistic performances and inspirational talks, all organized around a theme. While the concept is simple, it’s Sander’s attention to detail that makes it special. Sander is a chef by training who’s worked for years across many parts of the food industry. Over the years, he’s fostered an understanding and appreciation for all things sustainability and wellness related. He’s woven these elements into the fabric of The Morning Breakfast, giving thoughtful consideration to everything from the location to the menu cards. Often impact projects are focused on lofty goals, but Sander is taking a more personal approach, embracing the age-old concept that making a difference starts with ourselves.

Where did the idea for The Morning Breakfast come from?

It started three years ago when I was organizing high-end events. People would come after work, mostly tired from their days, drink a lot, maybe have some talks and leave. That was all fine, but it was all very surface level, and I wanted to create something that motivated and inspired me. That’s when I looked at my own life and what was missing. I thought back to Sunday mornings as a kid with my family. My grandpa was a pastor, so we’d all go to church together and there was always this connection with a higher self, either with God or the universe, whatever you want to call it. After the service, we’d go to my grandparent’s house. My mother is from a family of ten children so there were around 35 to 40 people in the house at any given time. In the kitchen, there was a big table with a lot of Indonesian food and my grandpa was always there playing the synthesizer. We’d all sit around the table having fun and telling stupid jokes. It was about connection and real conversations. To me, as a child, and as I remember it now, I thought; “Okay, this is what it actually means to be connected and social: coming together without any expectations and just being.” After my grandpa and grandma passed away, that’s always been something I really missed. This is where the idea for The Morning Breakfast came from, to recreate that feeling of connection.

What is so inspiring about the project for you?

The inspiration doesn’t just come from the chefs involved or the food. It comes from these moments of coming together. The situations and people that actually make something real. It doesn’t matter if it’s nice or not nice, it’s just that pure expression. It’s something that I also experience with my family, a pureness. So while it can be very involved to create these events, this is my motivation to keep doing it, even though I don’t make any money from it yet. It’s something that I really want to create, and I believe that some day the money will come. For now, it gives me so much fulfillment and inspires me so I’m happy to create other work to support this project.

How do you create that real, authentic environment at your events?

When I did the first Morning Breakfast at the Hoxton Hotel back in 2017, I was thinking about how I could create this same “coming together” feeling and ability to connect people without forcing it because, in my family, no one was forced to sit at the table. I thought about how the secret to connecting is vulnerability, so I needed somebody or something to foster that vulnerability. That’s when I thought of bringing in musicians or artists. When musicians or artists are in their pure state of being, they create. It just comes out of them. If people see that, they start to open up. This is where connection comes from. Food is always an easy source too because there’s always peace around the table. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what your religion or skin color is, food is something very emotional, very primal. I know this isn’t a new idea or concept — it’s existed forever — but I use it because it inspires me.

I know this isn’t a new idea or concept — it’s existed forever — but I use it because it inspires me.

How do you come up with the concepts for your breakfasts?

It’s not something that I write down or come up with as a concept per say. There’s a theme that interests me because it’s something that I’m experiencing or have experienced in my own life. For example, for a recent breakfast, I chose to focus on mental health, which arose because a friend of mine was experiencing mental health issues. I wanted to inspire people to think about how they feel and give them tools to actually connect to themselves because we are so far away from that in these walls and cities that we create. We don’t often feel that connection, but it’s already inside of us — we only have to let it out. This is the first thing that I start with when I create these events. If I’m connected to my own wisdom, or my own source of creativity and authentic self, then all these ideas come to me. I know exactly which location, which kind of artist…it all comes naturally.

It just falls into place.

Exactly. I never have to work that hard. Physically yes, but never emotionally. That’s something that I find really interesting: I don’t believe we always have to work very hard. We only have to align with ourselves and do what we have to do, and if we tap into that, everything comes to us easily. But before we get there, we first have to be aware. We have to say; “Okay, what is actually happening? Am I doing the right things for myself?”. It basically comes down to taking responsibility for your own life. I say this because I’ve also been on the other side, being lazy and thinking I had everything, until I hit a wall. So now spreading this awareness is something I really believe in. It could be the future, because if we take care of ourselves and look at ourselves with awareness, then we can heal the world. Our inner world is a reflection of our outer world. Maybe it sounds spiritual or woo woo, but this is what I really believe in, and it’s this inner faith that guides these events for me.

“It could be the future, because if we take care of ourselves and look at ourselves with awareness, then we can heal the world. Our inner world is a reflection of our outer world.”

What impact do you hope to make with The Morning Breakfast?

I hope people feel, experience and become a little more aware. I cannot change people. They have to change themselves, but I can create a set of circumstances that can help people live better. That’s why the events are in the morning. It’s about looking with new eyes to the day. I have more impact on the rest of someone’s day if I start in the morning. People are fresh and open to soak up new information. If they get inspired, then they walk out with a lot of energy, energy to perhaps make healthier choices, more sustainable choices.

How does sustainability factor into your events?

Well, to me, sustainability is a normal thing, because I work with biodynamic farmers and have been for years. They believe in permaculture and healthy soil because all food starts from healthy soil. Good food is not an avocado with tomato and that kind of salad — you have to look at the soil. Where does the food come from? How does it grow? What kind of attention does it get? And if the soil is healthy, then the food is healthy, and the people are healthy. It’s a very easy system. It’s a holistic circle. This isn’t something new that I’m saying. It’s something that nature invented millions of years ago, and it works. This is one part of it. The other piece is that I believe real sustainability comes more from all of us healing ourselves and taking responsibility for ourselves. If we do that, then we naturally become a more conscious and healthier person who makes healthy, conscious choices, which in the end is not only good for ourselves, but also for other people and for the world. This is where sustainability comes from. If we start at the source, then the rest will reflect that. But, of course, it’s very hard to do, because not everybody’s aware, and not everybody wants to change. It’s complex.

What’s next for The Morning Breakfast?

This year I want to focus on creating events outside of Amsterdam, because I feel there is a need for this in other cities as well. In February, we’re going to The Hague, and in April we’ll be hosting an event in Utrecht.

Do you eventually want branches?

No, I’d like to become big but stay small. It’s not that I want to be exclusive, but more that I want this business to inspire other businesses, not to do exactly the same thing, but to take hold of the motivation, the awareness, the connection — I’d love for people to use those concepts in their own businesses. The other plan is to establish a viable financial model so that this project runs by itself. Currently, I take money from my other work and put it into this, but that’s not healthy or sustainable. One avenue that I’m exploring is hosting these events in corporate offices in order to help employees connect. This will also be a challenge for me because I don’t speak the language of the corporate world and they don’t speak my language. So now I am talking to some people who can help me bridge this gap, to help me find their needs, and actually fulfill them. Instead of me just creating stuff, it becomes more of a collaboration. The goal is to help these corporations create a more positive working environment, a safe environment with more connection and awareness.

“I want this business to inspire other businesses, not to do exactly the same thing, but to take hold of the motivation, the awareness, the connection — I’d love for people to use those concepts in their own businesses.”

When did you personally start to gain more self-awareness?

It’s been a slow process of learning to take responsibility because now I realize that I used to think I knew a lot, but actually I don’t know shit.

The more you know, the more you don’t know.

Exactly. For me, it’s about being in contact with what people call your “authentic self” and letting that reflect in everything I do or create — in my job, with my friends, even the parties I attend. Is there something that fulfills me or feeds me? I guess that’s what I hope to spread with The Morning Breakfast — that when we start living from that place of intention and awareness, hopefully, we can create a ripple effect.

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> Learn more about The Morning Breakfast.

> Learn more about this project at moments-of-impact.com.

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This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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Moments of Impact is an interview series exploring what it means to be a responsible company today. We are peeking into the minds of entrepreneurs and getting a behind-the-scenes look at how companies are taking their impact into consideration.

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Elizabeth Sensky

Elizabeth Sensky

Elizabeth Sensky is a writer based in Amsterdam focused on sustainability, personal development and culture.

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