Identity Crisis? – Not in Flanders!

Crisis – what crisis? Sure, there still is something like a financial crisis which hit also the fine dining world quite significantly…

But an identity crisis? Hmm.

The so-called ‘new naturals’ have left their own footprint by continuing the tradition of Michel Bras and Marc Veyrat to fully embrace the regional produce and its distinct character. Important protagonists are Antonio Aduriz (Mugaritz), David Kinch (Manresa), and, most importantly, Rene Redzepi of noma. Basically, he managed to put Scandinavia on every foodie’s map. It represents a re-focus on regional products (here Scandinavian) in a modern and authentic way. Having dined at noma, MR and Geranium I must say that this a quite distinct and unique approach to the fine dining experience as it clearly abandons with the usual suspects of luxury ingredients which I find more and more boring.

The interesting question for me is: can the Scandinavian new naturals model be transferred to other regions?

After the dinner ‘Service a 6 mains‘ at In de Wulf the answer is undoubtedly yes. There is no identity crisis, at least not for Kobe Desramaults (In de Wulf, 1*), Filip Claeys (De Jonkman, 1*) and Alexandre Gauthier (La Grenouillère, 1*) who joined forces to present a cuisine rooted in Flanders focusing on their regional products.

Filip Claeys, Alexandre Gauthier and Kobe Desramaults (left to right)

Filip Claeys, Alexandre Gauthier and Kobe Desramaults (left to right)

But not only the approach to cooking was novel but also the way of bringing their message across. To disseminate their agenda they invited bloggers from all over the world (Trine, Laurent, Bruno, FoodSnob, Bernhard, and Stephen Harris (the owner/chef at The Sportsman, representing Steve P from Opinionated About)) along with traditional food journalists. Not to forget the one and only Piet de Kersgieter who took those brilliant photos (however, most of the photos on this post are mine unless indicated).

And here it links up to the financial crisis – both a clear differentiating profile and new ways of ‘marketing’ are good answers…

Sundown in Flanders

A special evening in Flanders

To cut a long story short, the dishes, the presentation, the vibrant atmosphere of this very special evening were unique and very much authentic. It lived and breathed the spirit behind the concept and dishes as well as the pride for their local produce. A pride, I have to admit, I had only seen at noma before… And, most importantly, the dishes of the three different chefs integrated seamlessly in one menu even though each has his own handwriting…

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Off to Belgium (again): Service à 6 Mains at In de Wulf

Well, Belgium and the Netherlands have emerged to a culinary hotspot not only due to Peter Goossens, Sergio Herman and Jonnie Boer ranking among the best chefs in the world. Interestingly, there are many young, very talented chefs who have developed a modern yet distinct culinary style, especially in the Flanders region. At my recent visit there I had fantastic diners at De Jonkman (Filip Claeys has even more emancipated from Sergio compared to last year) and In de Wulf (Kobe Desramaults has created a very unique interpretation of his region – a kind of continental noma but Flanders-style) among others (reviews to come;-) )

Now, Kobe and Filip have joined forces with Alexandre Gauthier from Le Grenouillère in the French part of former Flanders county to show how “their” regional products can be elevated to the culinary high-end. This approach was already very visible at both De Jonkman and In de Wulf when I ate there. But to go the next step, namely to rely mostly on regional produce, it is necessary to cooperate to have synergies in sourcing and logistics. I recall my conversation with René Redzepi when he told war stories from his initial sourcing endeavors…

Filip Claeys, Alexandre Gauthier and Kobe Desramaults (left to right)

Filip Claeys, Alexandre Gauthier and Kobe Desramaults (left to right)

Tonight, a service à 6 mains will take place at In de Wulf to present their approach. So I will be off to In de Wulf again and will report back about the fine details. You can also be there – well, virtually at least: the whole evening is broadcasted live on the net by Cuisiner En Ligne (starting at 4 p.m. CET to present the chefs and their products and then again from 8 p.m. onwards). Watch, enjoy, indulge…