Brussels Special Buzz

Brussels Special Buzz
Since 2008, the Bocuse d’Or Europe has been the global culinary reference, unrivalled for highlighting outstanding talent in young chefs, minimum age 23. It’s also a prestigious show, bringing together technical skills and creativity, a major step to reaching the world final of the Bocuse d’Or which takes place in Lyon on 29 and 30th January, 2013. This year, at Salon Horeca Life, 20 european countries were in competition, with the addition of, for the first time, Bulgaria. The nineteen competing countries (Russia cancelled this time) use set products supplied by Metro Cash and Carry, they have five hours 35 minutes to create a dish on specific themes, prepared in state-of-the-art kitchen booths, facing their audience, backed up by their commis. Each chef has a professional chef “coach”, read, personal trainer. For the meat course two “Label Rouge” Blue Foot chickens. A dish for 10 people must be served to the jury (including Pierre Wynants, Peter Goossens, and jury President Alex Atala from Brazil) and include at least three garnishes. For the fish: seven sole fillets, one kilo of shrimp used for a dish for 14, with three garnishes. Marks are awarded for simplicity, taste and presentation. It’s exciting and noisy, bit like a football match. Finally after two days of blood, sweat and tears it’s Orjan Johannessen from Norway taking first prize of 12,000€. 2nd is Sweden’s Adam Dahlberg winning 9,000€ and Denmark’s Jeppe Foldager (6,000€) third. There are special prizes for Iceland’s Sigurdur Haraldssaon (fish) and UK’s Adam Bennett for beef. Best commis prize to Julie Lhumeau, from France, who came 5th overall for her sterling work with chef Thibaut Ruggeri. So, the twelve countries you’ll see at Lyon are: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, France, UK, Switzerland, Belgium, Hungary, Finland, Estonia, Holland. And no, Bulgaria did not cut the mustard! Bocuse D’Or Europe 2014? See you in Sweden. Meanwhile, under a dazzling white bubble dome, the rock n’roll culinary circus that is Omnivore rolls on, headed by Luc Dubanchet. Combining “fucking dinners” in local restaurants and neo-bistros with Masterclasses by the likes of the Australian super-talent James Henry of Au Passage, Paris and Roman Tischenko at Le Galopin, Paris. Omnivore guests were invited to meet, greet and watch the crème de la crème of the new young generation of international chefs strut their stuff. Chocolatier Pierre Marcolini and superchef Bart de Pooter were quizzed by Sebastien Demorand as they created dishes that will be included on their Spring menus. Next stop on Omnivore’s World Tour, Moscow, followed by Copenhagen, Shanghai, NYC, Montreal, San Francisco, Istanbul and Sydney. Watch out world here they come! Landmarks of Brussels are the bronze statue of the weeing boy “Manneken Pis” (circa 1619) on the corner of rue de l’Etue and rue des Grands Carmes, the Atomium, beer, chips, sprouts, chocolate and the tram. How to see as much of Brussels as possible while eating a gastronomic dinner? Darling, take the “Tram Experience”. Electrolux spared no expense transforming a 1970’s tram to a contemporary conveyance for 34 passengers. Champagne awaits, followed by a 3-course lunch or dinner while cruising the city. Menus, by six top Belgian chefs, change every two weeks and showcase local produce and seasonal ingredients. 75€ per person. Tues-Thurs leaves at 20hrs from Place Poelaert. Friday-Saturday departures at 18.30 & 21.30 Sunday 12 noon.  Book well ahead. Unless you’re Ronald Reagan you probably love sprouts. “I’m President and nobody can make me eat them now”, he declared. Cultivated in Belgium in the 16th century, Brussels sprouts are in season from October-March. Also note that starting May 1st Brussels restaurants offer dishes whose ingredients are 100% Belgian, showcasing seasons, traditions, sustainable livestock farming and fisheries. Chocoholics should head straight to Laurent Gerbaud Chocolatier and take a private Masterclass from Laurent or Sammy, prepare to be up to your elbows in the delicious black, brown and white stuff.  Gerbaud, a choco-intello, lived, studied and worked in Asia, he uses spices, dried fruits and ginger for his unique, edgy chox. “Never leave them in the fridge”, he advises. “They’ll absorb bacteria and flavours”. Chips, moules, quiches, tartines, salads and superb raw milk cheeses to match a huge selection of beers at “Fontainas” where Jean Hummler gives tastings of 45 varieties of blond, bitter, strong or sweet and fruity beers, at night there’s live music and a DJ. Ze place to be. Fontainas,8 place Fontainas,1000 BruxellesT: +32 (0) 2 503 60 68 Ten minutes south of central Brussels, at the recently opened neo-bistro, Va/Doux/Vent, two young chefs Romain Mouton and Stefan Jacobs have joined with Gotran Buyst, former sommelier at the 2-star Michelin Comme Chez Soi, to form a culinary dream team. Va/Doux/Vent creates contemporary cuisine, with a nod and a wink to the molecular, often using the new “it” ingredient vadouvan (onions, shallots and garlic combined with Indian spices such as cardamom, and sometimes fresh curry leaves) to give a unique flavour to dishes such as: Goujon de Merlan, butternut citron confit, beurre yuzu. Bonbon de caille, olives, truffles, sauce au the vert, caviar d’aubergine. Pigeon cuit au malt, topinambours, choux de bruxelles, pommes souffles, with wine based sauce hypocras. Bavaoise au fromage blanc, jelly à la prune and dark chocolate sorbet with Guiberdon. Inspired by their time chez Roellinger, the chefs carefully grind their precious spices, kept in glass jars, like an apothecary. There’s about 25 covers, a few more outside on the terrace in warm weather. Va/Doux/Vent is 100% young cuisine, in true Omnivore style. The dream team don’t hesitate to recommend Friture René, place de la Resistance for the best frits and traditional Belgium dishes.  Biscuiterie Dandoy (since 1829) for hand-made pain à la grecque, spéculoos, almond bread, macarons, etc. and suggest…

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Born in Hampton, Middlesex, UK, Margaret Kemp is a lifestyle journalist, based between London, Paris and the world. Intensive cookery courses at The Cordon Bleu, London, a wedding gift from a very astute ex-husband, gave her the base that would take her travelling (leaving the astute one behind) in search of rare food and wine experiences, such as the vineyards of Thailand, 'gator hunting in South Florida, learning to make eye-watering spicy food in Kerala;pasta making in a tiny Tuscany trattoria. She has contributed to The Guardian, The Financial Times Weekend and FT. How To Spend, The Spectator, Condé Nast Traveller, Food & Travel, and Luxos Magazine. She also advises as consultant to luxury hotels and restaurants. Over the years, Kemp has amassed a faithful following on BonjourParis. If she were a dish she'd be Alain Passard's Millefeuille “Caprice d'Enfant”, as a painting: Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’herbe !