How did you become an Embassy Chef?
After 10 years of working in restaurants in many different countries, I wanted to find an excellent job abroad as an Executive Chef and gain international experience and expertise. It is my dream to one day own my own restaurant business.
My father works for the Belgian government. Without my knowledge, he e-mailed friends and acquaintances all over the world and was informed of an opening in Washington, DC. I started working for the Ambassador of Belgium to the United States in February of 2009.
Where did you train?
My Grandmother is the first person who taught me cooking. My Uncle had a huge catering company and my Grandparents were living next door to his business. My Grandmother helped him and was busy every day cleaning vegetables (cleaning carrots and beans is still vivid in my mind). I was the only one of the family who liked to help.
When I was 14 years old, I decided to go to the ‘Spermalie’ Culinary School in Bruges. I learned a lot of skills there. From the first day of school, I realized this was the place for me. After completing my studies, I started to work for the Belgian Royal Palace, for Her Majesty Queen Fabiola. Two years later I was hired by the ‘Marquette’ restaurant to be a chef de party for the Belgian Master Chef. I learned much and became used to the hotline. I worked briefly for a higher rated restaurant called ‘De Weinebrugge’. I was only 24 and together with a good friend and fellow food lover I decided to take a break for about a year. We went on a ten-month culinary trip around the world. I liked traveling a lot and decided to go to Australia. I worked for ‘Vue de monde’ in Melbourne. I was also hired as a sous-chef to prepare the food for the national day celebration at the Belgian Embassy in Canberra.
When I returned home, I worked for the best restaurant in Belgium, the Michelin 3-star ‘Hof van Cleve’. I was responsible for the fish, meat and sauce section. During these two years, I also went for a month to Tokyo, Japan, to learn the basics of Japanese cuisine. In Tokyo, I worked for a Michelin 2-star restaurant called ‘Ryu Gin.’
What is your favorite dish to make?
I don’t really have a favorite dish. I love to work in ‘fine dining’ cuisine. I like to use local products and follow the four seasons.
What was the most difficult part of the March 7th Challenge?
A kitchen that I was unfamiliar with. The time limit as well.
Why do you think you made the winning dish?
I like a modern touch on a dish. Art meets food. Before I create a dish I think about the different tastes, textures and colors. But the competitors were skilled so we will see …
What is your favorite restaurant in DC?
I still have many local restaurants to try but at this time it is ‘Belga café’ on Capitol Hill. I hope to go soon to Minibar by Jose Andres. I have heard a lot of good comments.