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Cooking the conference#4 – Mariette Wennmacher

Bouneshlupp, a Luxemburgish bean soup
Mariette Wennmacher wearing the scarf a grateful conference participant gave herMariette and her dish

Meet Mariette, our guide for this month’s behind-the-scenes tour of the Ecsite Annual Conference. As an Administrative Executive at the Ecsite office, she plays a crucial role in the smooth running of the conference registration process – she is the smiling face behind the info@ecsite.eu email.

Mariette, what are you up to at the moment?

Online registration will be opening on 25 February – a lot of work is needed to make it happen!

First, we need to send membership fees invoices to Ecsite members as early as possible in the year so they have ample time to pay before the conference registration opens – that allows their staff to take advantage of the members’ discount.

Then, we set up what we call the “back office”: a log linked to our accountancy system that will allow us to track in great detail each participant’s registration and payment history. Keeping it “clean” is crucial: every year I help people who registered twice by mistakes, who need to change pre-conference workshops, who want to add a social event to their registration, who need to comply to special national VAT rules… I’ve learnt quite a lot about accountancy and various European tax legislations along the way!

My aim is that everybody arrives at the conference with a perfectly in order e-ticket to speed up on-site registration and limit queues. Last year on the conference’s first day we only had 43 outstanding or unresolved registration processes out of 1,000 attendees – I dare say this is pretty good! To achieve this, 4,374 emails were exchanged.

This year there is a particularly rich pre-conference workshop offer: I’m expecting quite a lot of registrations for these.

There will of course be the usual peak the last two days before the early bird rate ends (24 March will be the very last day to take advantage!). Fees then go up more or less each month until online registration closes on 21 May (see calendar and prices p.23 of the first announcement).

What do you then do during the conference?

My colleague Anne Urger and myself work very closely with the local team to run the welcome desk. We register participants, deal with enquiries… and sometimes spend our nights charging credit cards from our hotel rooms. I particularly like meeting a new bunch of colleagues each year. We work together for 5 days only, but the bounds we create are fantastic! Last year we even had the 14-year-old son of Reem Sabry from Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Egypt) volunteer at the welcome desk.

I like the challenge of working and organisational culture each year, of servicing an incredibly diverse crowd… amongst which I’m starting to recognize quite a few faces, after two years at Ecsite.

What are you particularly looking forward this year?

I love the fact that each conference has a local flavour – and I get to practice my languages. I speak seven of them. I’m looking forward to speaking (and eating!) Italian this year.

The human touch counts a lot for me: nothing makes me happier than a participant greeting me by my name! I go a long way to help people. Two years ago in Gothenburg a lady forgot her purse at the registration desk. I remembered her face perfectly and I went on a big round of the lunch area to find her – she was so relieved! She gave me her beautifully colourful scarf as a thank you present – I’m wearing it in the picture above.

I’m also hoping to be able to attend one or two sessions this year: we have become so efficient with the welcome desk that I might be able to escape for an hour or two and get inspired.

What does the “Food for curious minds” theme mean to you?

Open-mindedness is a crucial value to me. When I got my first association job at the European Metal Union after more than 19 years spent behind a desk, the world opened up for me! I love travelling for work, meeting people, making connections… The Ecsite network is a particularly welcoming one, probably because we stand for very positive values: who can be against science engagement? Last year when I came back from The Hague I thought to myself: “I now know so many people all around the globe – there will always be someone ready to help, be it in Cairo or Saint Petersburg.”

Curiosity is such a precious drive in life! Not to be confused with nosiness of course. I have many passions: besides my job at Ecsite, I also give knitting classes, sell my own production and sit on my town’s city council. Patience and passions: that’s me!

“Patience and passions”… Does this motto extend to your cooking?

I can certainly give you a recipe that is best cooked slowly… It’s called “bouneschlupp”, a typical soup from Luxemburg where I come from. “Boune” means “beans” and “schlupp” means “slurps”! I love the taste of savory, a herb that smells of sun and summer even in the heart of winter…


  • 1 onion
  • 500-750 green beans
  • 3-4 potatoes
  • 1.5-2L of stock
  • 40g flour
  • 40g butter
  • Seasoning: savory, salt, pepper
  • Optional: bacon or smoked sausage


Cut the onion in small pieces and the beans in 1.5cm long oblique chunks.

Gently fry the onion, then add the beans and stock and let simmer for 30 minutes.

Dice the potatoes in 1cm wide cubes and add them to the soup, together with salt, pepper and savory. Cook for another 15 minutes.

Towards the end, make a sauce with the butter, flour and a little broth from the soup: melt the butter, add the flour and very slowly pour liquid in, taking care of not letting lumps form. Put on gentle heat and stir constantly until the sauce thickens. Mix with the soup.

Ready to serve! If you want you can also make “bouneschlupp” richer with bacon or smoked sausage (in this case add them to the soup together with the potatoes).


  • #ecsite2015


2015 Ecsite Conference

The 2015 Ecsite Conference took place in Trento, Italy, on 11-13 June. It gathered 1,101 participants from 52 different countries, breaking an attendance record. Look back on the appetizing “Food for curious minds” edition cooked up by conference host MUSE.