Chef Name: Gert De Mangeleer
Title: Chef/Owner of restaurant Hertog Jan and L.E.S.S. Bistro by Hertog Jan.
Three Michelin stars.
19/20 Gault Millau.
#61 on the World’s 50 best.
European chef of the year 2014 at Madrid Fusion.
Culinary Personality of the Year, 2012.
How old were you when you started cooking professionally?
I started cooking in a professional way when I was 20 years old. My first working experience was at Den Gouden Harynck (one Michelin star) where I started as a commis. Philippe Serruys gave me the opportunity to learn skills for one year and after that I had to leave to obtain other cooking skills in different restaurants.
After that I started in the restaurant ‘t Molentje (two Michelin stars), where I developed my skills. I worked there for five years. In that period, I gained more responsibilities and also got the space to experiment and try new things. All this has made it possible for me to discover my own cooking style and expand my knowledge.
What’s your earliest and fondest first memory of food?
The food my mother prepared for us. She was a very good cook. One of my favourites was a regional dish – meat bread with cherries.
Which chefs inspire you most and why?
Michel Bras inspires me a lot, because he serves a very natural cuisine where vegetables and herbs are the centrepiece of the dish. Japanese chefs also inspire me with their enormous dedication.
What are your two favourite cookbooks and why?
Essential Cuisine by Michel Bras. He’s a real iconic chef with iconic dishes.
Thai Food by David Thompson. It offers a good overview of what Thai cuisine is and it inspires me for my kitchen in my bistro L.E.S.S.
Which two ingredients could you not live without?
Green anise seeds, because of their rich and fresh flavour and vegetables from our own vegetable garden.
What is your favourite comfort food to cook at home?
Barbecue. On my days off I love to cook for my family. Barbecue is a lovely way to do this, by grilling some sea bass or a nice piece of meat, for example. My new cookery book is all about food to share and combine.
If you could eat at any Michelin star restaurant in the world of your choosing today, where would it be and why?
Benu (three Michelin stars). It is a restaurant that attracts me because of the Asiatic background of the chef.
And who would you take as your guest?
My lovely wife Annelies, because she supports me so hard in everything I do and she is such a good mum to our four precious children.
What do you look for in a good chef?
A good chef is someone who is proud to practise his profession and who leaves his own mark on his dishes and does not just copy them from other chefs. Sometimes the simplest things are very complicated. That’s why I have a great amount of respect for Japanese chefs.
What advice would you give to chefs starting their career paths now?
To create and discover their own style.
To question themselves every day, to gain more knowledge and be a better chef.
To persevere – every creation has to be as good as the last one.
Chef Gert De Mangeleer is Chef/Owner at restaurant Hertog Jan and L.E.S.S. Bistro by Hertog Jan.