The Mechelen Hundred

Portraits of a city's people, today

Nestled between Brussels and Antwerp, Mechelen has often been overshadowed by its larger neighbours. Yet teaming up with the City of Mechelen, our line-up of 100 of the city’s most prominent people, places and projects proves the extent of its potential. From artists and creatives to critical thinkers and fighters, these are the powerhouses driving Mechelen forward one step at a time.

Steven Van der Stichelen

Steven Van der Stichelen

Baker at Broodbroeders (1972)

Can you describe what you do?

I was raised in the vicinity of Antwerp, and studied history in Brussels. I like a plate full of good food and a nice glass of (craft) beer. I think cycling is the coolest thing on earth, and I’m always looking for the right tune for the right moment.

A couple of years ago, I started “Broodbroeders” (Breadbrothers), a small bakery in the station district of Mechelen. At Broodbroeders, we only make sourdough bread in a pure, natural way. We work in an open atelier, which means whilst buying a bread you watch the bakers handcrafting the doughs. Unlike most bakeries we do not work during the night. We form and knead our breads during the day. We put them in the fridge, where they can slowly rise overnight. We start work at 7 o’clock in the morning, sliding the breads that have slept in the fridge into our oven. We sell our goods through a subscription system. Customers can have a weekly repeating order for one or more breads, which can be picked up at designated points spread across the city.

How do you perceive Mechelen? In your view, what kind of city is it? Its people, its cultural landscape, its vibe? How does it compare to other, similarly-sized cities?

Although there have been some major changes over the last decade (which have been initiated or supported by our current mayor and his team), Mechelen remains a small and quiet provincial city. The historical architectural heritage remains the biggest attraction to most people. But I think the current political climate is creating a lot of opportunities for progressive initiatives, which is also noticeable in the  mindset of the townsfolk.

What would you say is Mechelen’s main appeal as a city? What gives it its edge?

Mechelen has a great history, which is reflected in the architecture. It is a small city with a lot of highlights.

How has Mechelen contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?

To be honest, I feel that the environment and cultural heritage of Mechelen do not really contribute to our own specific story. I don’t think things would have been any different for us if we had started our bakery in another city of comparable size. However, our subscription system wouldn’t work in a smaller city. So it’s more the urban situation that works to our advantage.

On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city? What could it do better?

We need more bikes, less cars. And we need more inventive initiatives, we must try to do things in a different way, by thinking and acting sustainably to create a living environments on a human level. However, all of this is not only applicable to Mechelen, but to all Belgian cities, and by extension the whole country.