Can cuisine be minimalistic and complex at the same time? Yes it can. At least when the Belgian starred chef has his brilliant fingers in the pie. On the one hand, his degustation menus are minima- listic but precisely cooked and prepared. On the other hand, the harmony between the fresh, pure and local ingredients and the different textures and flavours results in a depth and complexity that initially comes as a surprise.
But the career that (born 1980) can look back on so far was also somewhat unexpected. Although he was exposed to gastronomy and cuisine as a 12-year-old while helping out in his mother’s In de Wulf brasserie, he had not yet developed a real passion for it. “I liked being in the kitchen, but I wasn’t interested in becoming a chef,” says when asked about his beginnings. So what was he interested in at the time, apart from skateboarding? Definitely not school, which he changed nearly ten times. At the age of 18 came the turning point in ‘ life: His mother sent him on an internship at the small restaurant Picasso. Although he initially found it difficult to integrate, it was there where his love for cuisine began to blossom.
The rest, as they say, is history: He switched to ‘s three-star restaurant Oud Sluis, where he disco- vered creative cuisine. He then moved to Comerc 24 in Barcelona. Its head chef, who had enjoyed a long-standing partnership with , introduced to the secrets of molecular cuisine. Meanwhile back in Ghent, his mother was struggling: She could no longer run In de Wulf on her own and make a profit. To avoid his mother having to sell the brasserie, decided to return to Belgium to take over the restaurant – at the tender age of 23.
He created a new menu and used his experience of molecular cuisine in his dishes. In 2005, became Belgium’s youngest Michelin-starred chef, at the age of just 25. But just two years later, after several visits to the restaurants of and , he discovered his real passion: working with local produce and searching for their culinary essence. Since then, has spent a great deal of time building up a network of local growers and farmers to supply his restaurant with the freshest and purest local ingredients. Whether tuna from the North Sea or meat from Cassel cows – he only ever serves up what is fresh and available.
then transforms all ingredients into puristic creations that leave the main ingredient room to unfurl. Unnecessary extravagance? Not in his case. But anyone who thinks his degustation menus are too simple couldn’t be more wrong: He is a master of experimenting with different textures and flavours to turn a minima- listic meal into a complex experience. This is something that the guests can taste for themselves – in creations such as his heather-smoked mackerel tartare with grated lime, his turbot with split-pea miso and pealed snap peas, or his meringue filled with meadowsweet cream, served with a dash of forest honey with elderflower blos- som vinegar and garnished with meadowsweet blossoms. The reward for his culinary skills? Delighted gourmets and countless awards such as 2013 Belgian Chef of the Year.Since 2011, has also been applying his culinary philosophy in his bistro de Vitrine in Ghent.
is a purist, who likes his pure local ingredients to speak for themselves. And what they tell us is so delicious that gourmets are queuing up to taste his minimalistic but complex creations. The result? Happy faces all round!
A different top chef each month. It doesn‘t matter which continent or country they come from or whether they serve traditional, fusion or molecular cuisine. What matters most is the variety. And, of course, the high quality of the dishes.
Eckart Witzigmann, Chef of the Century and patron of Restaurant Ikarus, implemented the concept successfully from 2003 to 2013, together with Executive Chef Roland Trettl. Since January 2014, the Ikarus Concept has been continued under the patronage of Eckart Witzigmann and guidance of Martin Klein, who for many years was the partner and Chef de Cuisine of former Executive Chef Roland Trettl. Unique instead of mainstream, multi-faceted instead of simplistic, bold instead of boring, and cosmopolitan instead of narrow-minded will continue to be the motto under Martin. The result? Satisfied bons vivants who relish fine cuisine.
For the chefs of Restaurant Ikarus, the guest chef concept means adapting to a new menu, a new top chef and a new philosophy each and every month. This demands a high degree of talent, versatility and team spirit.
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Images© Helge Kirchberger / Red Bull Hangar-7