So, my culinary year 2014 slowly comes to an end… I invite you to take a look over my shoulder to what has made this year another excellent culinary millésimé…
Without any doubt, this was for me, the year of three great chefs that really reached the level of world class, exceptional cooking… In London, Brett Graham is cooking at his best level ever. Indeed, in the previous years, one or the other inconsistency had kept him away from that top level, but nothing like that this year. The meals we had at The Ledbury were precise, balanced and just f*ing perfect. In Belgium I really feel that Sang Hoon Degeimbre has found his bearings in his beautiful new location in Liernu. What I really love about his restaurant, l’Air du Temps is it’s unique combination of top level vegetable oriented cooking combined with the Korean influences that are perfectly mastered. Sanghoon’s foodpairing driven cooking style offered us our best dinner experience of the year… Of course, someone I certainly have to include here is Filip Claeys of De Jonkman in Bruges (B), Gault Millau made an excellent choice by awarding him the title of Chef of the Year 2015 for Belgium. Not only does he works pure magic with fish, he’s also a passionate defender and promotor of sustainable fishing through Northsea Chefs and Vissers.
It was also the year of the new chefs that…well…are actually not so new, so let’s speak about (relatively) new restaurants instead…David Toutain in Paris, bringing us his creations in his very own personal style, expressing his love for vegetables, without doubt shaped by his time at Alain Passard’s Arpège and his love for travelling, discovering cuisines all over the world and absorbing all those influences to translate them into his own dishes and of course, Mickael Jonsson at Hedone, London, a man with a passion for ingredients and precise cooking techniques second to only very few…so impressive that I visited him 4 times this year.
I have to admit that except for La Vie in Osnabruck, I did not have a clue about the earthmoving changes that took place in Germany over the last decade(s). This year brought me to some truly inspiring places. Chris Bau’s Schlossberg where I discovered a cooking style excelling in precision and search for perfection, inspired and influenced by Japan. A great chef, a dynamic wife in charge of Front of House and one hell of a sommelier….just wow…. I also had the pleasure of staying at the exceptional Traube Tonbach hotel, blessed with the institute of all culinary institutes in Germany, Harald Wohlfahrt’s Schwarzwaldstube… Always great to see how an experienced, much acclaimed chef as Harald manages to stay true to his cooking principles and philosophy without giving the impression of becoming outdated or oldfashioned. In the contrary…the plates he brings are more alive and kicking than ever!
After many years of ‘Facebook friendship’ this year also brought a long awaited visit to Edwin and Blanche Vinke’s Kromme Watergang in Hoofdplaat (NL). No nonsense approach, proud of their origins, in love with the local ingredients… great people…a solid and strong team .A superb meal and a fabulous stay in one of their suites with breathtaking views on the river Schelde delta…Edwin also made it possible for me to experience the Knuthenlund Native Cooking Award in Denmark…a fascinating cooking contest that gave me some unique insights into the way chefs work and into how their training and years of experience allows them to create incredible dishes with only very few resources. Being back in Denmark allowed me to discover another young talent who impersonates the Scandinavian cooking philosophy in the best possible way, Nicolai Norregaard at Kadeau…
Summer and autumn also brought some visits to Bruges. Discovering the new location of Hertog Jan was quite spectacular. I can’t wait to go back in 2015 to see how chef Gert will have settled in after this first very promising visit. Geert Vanhecke at De Karmeliet showed why there was no reason at all to even think about taking away his 3rd *… Bruges is still a favorite destination for me, with restaurants like Rock-Fort, Sans Cravate, Zeno and….the discovery for me of this year in Bruges, BRUUT.
Finally, I discovered that there is hope for Luxembourg! Cyril Molard at Ma Langue Sourit in Moutfort surprised me by delivering a meal that was a very worthy of a 2* restaurant in Paris or London…so we might be seeing a 2* in Luxembourg again soon…In 2015 I will certainly visit other Luxembourgish chefs but also restaurants around Luxembourg…and certainly a second visit to the very promising La Grappe d’Or in Torgny of chef Clément Petitjean.
Thank you to all these chefs and to all the other chefs I had the pleasure to visit this year. Thank you for your hospitality, for your warm welcome, for your passion, dedication and hard work, day after day to offer us, your clients an unforgettable experience!