Gert De Mangeleer isn’t the shy type, which is already apparent upon entering Hertog Jan: Large glass windows offer a direct view into the sanctum, i.e. the kitchen. He took over the restaurant with his good friend Joachim Boudens in 2005. At the time, Hertog Jan was still offering traditional cuisine, but De Mangeleer revolutionised the restaurant by focusing on creating flavours, textures and contrasts.
Completely in line with Nova Regio Cuisine, he mainly uses fresh, regional produce, which is then cleverly combined with specialities and other top produce from around the world. This mélange, the result of mas- tering both traditional and modern cooking techniques, helps give the dishes a diversity that has rarely been seen before. Similarly, De Mangeleer also likes to see his guests wearing jeans – as a tribute to the diversity of his work.
But despite all this diversity, he still manages to prevent his dishes from appearing overloaded. Instead, they delight the guest by intelligently reducing the dish to its essentials. At the same time, each dish has its own depth of flavours and could easily exist on its own. De Mangeleer’s greatest skill, however, lies in creating new combinations with which he offers a perfect taste experience.
“Driven by simplicity” is the motto at Hertog Jan. And it’s a truly fitting one that is also reflected in the restaurant’s interior. Very elegant but also down to earth, it provides a perfect metaphor for De Mangeleer’s creations made from regional produce and international highlights.
His highly successful combinations of regionality and internationality include the crispy potato strands with aubergine and miso, the goose liver ball with passion fruit and liquorice, and his “Salmon, Cucumber, Rice” – a reinterpretation of classic sushi, comprising marinated salmon, a piece of burnt cucumber and a slice of ginger, all served with soy- and rice-based creams and crunchy puffed rice.
At the end of each menu, we notice another interesting quirk from the patisserie of Hertog Jan: Almost all the desserts are very similar in terms of their form and structure and can only be distinguished visually by their colour.
The courage and intelligence that De Mangeleer shows when creating his dishes has not gone unnoticed in the gourmet world: He was awarded his first Michelin star just two years after taking over Hertog Jan. And he now has all three. What’s more, Gault Millau awarded the restaurant 18.5 points in 2012, and De Mangeleer was named “Best European Chef of 2014” at Madrid Fusion.
The experts were not just amazed by his culinary creations but by the speed with which the Belgian chef, born 1977, appeared from nowhere on the culinary scene and achieved the highest accolade of three stars within just five years.
Those wishing to experience De Mangeleer’s highly acclaimed, refined Nova Regio Cuisine can do so throug- hout the whole of March at Hangar-7. And they can even turn up in jeans!