Flemish Chef Returns Michelin Star
While many chefs dream of being included in a Michelin guidebook, Flemish chef Frederick Dhooge finds the rating system attracts the wrong kind of customer. His restaurant, ‘t Huis van Lede located in East Flanders, prides itself on the simplicity of the dishes it creates. As such, a typical plate consists of just a cut of meat and sides of potato and vegetables. The no-frills approach was honored by the Michelin guide with their award of one star and inclusion in the 2014 edition of its celebrated restaurant guide. However, it didn’t take long for Dhooge to return his star, citing the misguided expectations of guide readers.
Those who choose restaurants based on the Michelin star system, according to Dhooge, expect a meal prepared using the latest in contemporary techniques. The preponderance of what has come to be called “molecular gastronomy” over the past decade has had a profound impact on modern tastes. More and more, “fine dining” is being equated with notions of “deconstructed shrimp croquettes” and “honey-infused apple balloons.” The spectacle of these scientifically reimagined classics has become an integral part of the fine dining experience as prix fixe ten plate tasting menus are paraded by diners or artfully constructed tableside. It is this world of artfully constructed elaborate dishes to which Dhooge does not wish to associate his Flemish meat and potatoes approach.
Trusting his vision
In an interview with Flemish newspaper De Standaard, Dhooge expressed his concern that Michelin customers would be disappointed with his approach to cuisine. In an attempt to stave off the inevitable heartbreak that would result should a guide-toting gastronome expecting saffron creme anglais with coffee air receive instead of a rustic and simple braised rabbit leg, Dhooge has requested that his restaurant be removed from the guide. While being clear that he highly respects the guide and the restaurants found therein, Dhooge worried that the diners who choose where to eat based on a system of stars are not the restaurant’s target market. Ultimately, the decision was a branding move more than anything else.
Many who are engaged in online cooking school classes have some desire to become the head chef at their very own restaurant. As we see in the story of t’ Huis van Lede, that position requires not only culinary prowess, but a sharp business sense as well. It is important to have a strong enough sense of your own personal values and vision as a chef to be able to turn down those accolades that misalign with what you are trying to create.