DESIRE by Sergio Herman

23 Jun 2014
3 min read
We give you exclusive snippets from DESIRE – the limited edition sell-out book by Chef Herman – and Sergio’s interviews with Mara Grimm after service…

23.11.12 |6.05 am

We’re speeding through the dark from Cadzand to Kane’s clubhouse in Delft for the launch of their new album in Giel Beelen’s morning show. Sergio curses his route planner and pushes down harder on the accelerator.

“I have always said that I would stop when I was forty. I wanted to quit while I was ahead. But when I got to forty I was in no way ready: I hadn’t yet reached my peak. I wanted to achieve perfection. Have I achieved it now? I don’t know, that is up to others to decide. What I do know is: Oud Sluis has reached its limit. We can’t do any better, we can’t go any higher. We just don’t have the space. My kitchen is bursting out of its seams, we cannot expand left or right. We are getting the absolute maximum out of every square inch… Everybody is giving their all every single minute of the day. Some of the lads are working 19 hours a day, they can’t do any more than that. The deal that I’m offering now, the experience that I want to give my lads… is how it should be. If I wanted to do more than that I would have to move to other premises and that’s not on: Oud Sluis and Beestenmarkt are inextricably linked. I grew up here, I came in early every morning for 25 years and didn’t leave until late at night. Every day I set the bar higher, for myself but especially for my customers. Because it doesn’t matter whether they have saved a year to come here or eat here every week: they expect the best. So we have to provide that: that is why we play the final twice a day.”

“And I don’t mean a semi-final in the amateur league but a fucking world championship. That gnaws at me, it eats me up inside. The feeling has become so bad in recent years that it has started to overshadow the good aspects of thejob. So I began to add things up. You start to think about what you want from life. How you’re going to organise it, what is important and how you’re doing. What do I really want? Do I want to spend ten more years behind the stove at Beestenmarkt? Or will I choose another direction? I’ve had tunnel vision for twenty-five years, doing what I did, to get the most out of it. I did it in a very focussed way, often until I literally dropped. I don’t want to do that any more: crossing that line over and over again. My head is still buzzing with ideas but, fuck, I have had enough of it!”

We stay in Delft for precisely half an hour and listen to Kane’s show, then drive back to Sluis via Antwerp. Sergio has to do the lunch and dinner services.

“Hey, we’re not always going to have these deep talks, are we? I feel totally drained already. Stopping is a difficult subject for me to talk about. I talked to a lot of people who at some point left their jobs. Business people who quit at the top of their game and continued in some other way. Sometimes you have to re-invent yourself. But when the moment is almost there doubts always start to creep in, you want to avoid it. I have doubts too. I’m always thinking about it. But I am not someone who wants to do this for another ten years. I want to use my creativity in another way, regain my freedom. I can only do Oud Sluis the way I do it now. There’s no way back. And the way I do it now is too demanding for me.”

“My biggest fear at this point? That I don’t yet know how the future will turn out. And that, when I announce this news, people will think that I’m going to stop cooking. But I cannot do. But I do want a more normal life, that’s what I want. Not just for me but for my nearest and dearest. Right now, I go too far every day. I want to get out of this routine, as well: I clock in at nine am and at that moment I know that I won’t be leaving before three o’clock at night. And I want to see more of the world. I mean: I haven’t seen shit. All I have done is stay in my kitchen.”

Read more about Sergio .

The bad news: the book was sold out 24 hours after the release.

The good news: there will be a re-edition of the small book (the one with all the interviews), which will be released mid august in both Dutch and English.