If you want something done right, do it yourself.
Held over three days in April at the SMX Convention Center, the third edition of Madrid Fusión Manila Food attracted 1,400 local and international guests from China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Macau, Taiwan, Denmark, Kazakhstan, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA. Among this number were six Michelin-starred chefs. High Life sat down with Pedro Subijana, Paco Pérez, Jordi Roca, Julien Royer, Magnus Ek, and Gert De Mangeleer.
WORDS ZSARLENE B. CHUA
He was one of the youngest chefs ever awarded a Michelin star and at 34, Belgian Gert de Mangeleer already had a vision for what Hertog Jan—a restaurant he founded with Joachim Boudens, a celebrated sommelier—was going to be: a self-sustaining project with a garden hosting more than 600 varieties of produce from all around the world.
Located in the outskirts of the city of Bruges in Belgium, Hertog Jan—just one of two three-star Michelin establishments in that country—is housed in a 180-year-old barn. The focal point of the entire culinary destination, beyond its kitchens, is a three-hectare garden composed of two plots of land, one adjacent to the restaurant and the other a bit further down, from which they cultivate what they serve. The restaurant is 95% self-sufficient, a feat that very few establishments can claim. “In the first two years that we were in business, we didn’t have a garden,” he said in an interview with High Life, “I was always a little bit disappointed with the quality of the produce.”
Taking the “if you want something done right, do it yourself” route, Hertog Jan started growing its own micro-greens and micro-vegetables. There are also over a hundred varieties of cherry tomatoes, a favorite ingredient of Mr. De Mangeleer. “We have black ones, we have ones that look like pears. We have one which tastes like apricots or strawberry. They can be sweet or sour and come in any color you want. So it’s a big range of different tastes, textures and flavors that make it very interesting to work with,” he said.
In October, Hertog Jan starts looking for seeds, which are flown in from everywhere in the world. Of all the varieties growing in the garden, the black pear tomato from Canada was the most difficult to obtain. It was illegal to import but Mr. De Mangeleer found a way to get the seeds. Planting starts in February and by July, the restaurant is ready to offer a dish called Collection of Tomatoes, which is made of 150 grams of tomatoes of all kinds. Every day, tomatoes that are ready to eat are harvested. Seven people are required to prepare the dish.
Other notable creations include Langoustine, a raspberry and beetroot dish, and A Walk through the Gardens of Manila, a flowery dish dedicated to the Philippine capital that includes local ingredients such as coconut and mangoes. Despite this love for fruits and vegetables, Hertog Jan is not a vegetarian restaurant. It is known for combining meat, fish and other seafood alongside the produce from its gardens.
Asked if the pressure of being one of the youngest Michelin-starred chefs and running a three-star establishment ever gets to him, Mr. De Mangeleer replied: “The biggest pressure I have is not from Michelin. I put the pressure on myself,” he said.
8210 Zedelgem – Belgium
+32 50 67 34 46
Open Tuesday to Saturday
12 to 1:30 p.m.
7 to 9 p.m.
Closed Wednesday evening
The restaurant will be closed during the following periods:
Oct. 29 – Nov. 8, 2017
Dec. 24 – Jan. 10, 2018
April 8 – April 18, 2018
July 15 – Aug. 8, 2018