Do you Culinaria? The Belgium effect…

S. Pellegrino Chef taster

What?

Culinaria
is at its 7th edition and continues to make every foodies dreams come
true. This year’s theme is: Belgium effect, celebrating
Belgian gastronomy. 37 Belgian and 5 international Chefs, a total of 34
Michelin stars amongst them, give us a taste of their best and a peak behind
the scenes. Belgian and international products are happy to show off and
sponsors compete for your attention with all kinds of shiny things. However one
really needs strong time management skills in order to get the maximum out of
the event. One small distraction and you miss out on yummy tastings of products
or chefs showing off their tricks. Your menu choice is vital as well; so I go
by which chefs I want to try, not by the dish nor ingredients.
Also book a VIP passport, please…, it is €30 more for many, many free drinks
quenching your thirst.

Asparagus and mozzarella by Chef Petitjean
Cabbage by Chef Sigurdarson

Art?
I loved
the art work of the students of the Executive Master in Food Design at the
Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Brussels, they gave a new and inventive
interpretation to dining a la belge . I loved the blue and
crystal table. We
can be proud of the Belgium effect …

Sit?
I was not
so keen on the layout; splitting up in several halls was confusing and simple
too far and away. I needed the map to be able to find my dishes and because of
that didn’t follow the order as I gave up when I realized the next dish was
again on the other side of the hall. It was not conducive to a great atmosphere
either, it felt like having a BBQ in a garage, not really a great culinary
experience.  However I was happy to see more seating and the VIP lounge
had a great outdoor space with live music… and plenty of perfectly chilled champagne.

FOOD?

fish and carrots by Chef Bouchery
Bacon and foie gras by Chef Elias

Having
said all this,  what really matters is the food. One is pleasantly
surprised by some, excited by others and licking the plate over and over again
while plotting how to get an extra plate without a ticket.  I certainly
would have loved eating Chef Kobe Desramaults main course of potatoes again and
again, actually he was the reason I selected that menu anyway. I did have Chef Sang-Hoon Degeimbre ‘s dessert of pain
perdu
with potato mousse and caramelized salsify twice, it was out of this
world.

potato by Chef Desramaults

I
followed a presentation by Petrossian caviar and learned about variety and flavor. On my shoping list: tarama and a dried caviar grinder, simply FAB. I tasted Vranken and Pommery Champagne while the speaker shared his
misogynistic opinions. It was a buzz kill for me but regardless I drank his free
champagne but none of them made it to my shortlist of favorites.

€€€?
Another
observation I had was about product endorsing, the new livelihood of Chefs.
Today you have made as a Michelin star chef, you sell your name to a product
and you cook when they say go.

So we had
the honor of having Chefs Michel and Cesar Troisgros come all the way from
Roanne, France to show us how to cook salmon in the Samsung kitchen. You spend
30 minutes watching him cook and then trying a little yourself. You can ask
questions, but only the brave would interrupt a 3 Michelin star chef, so no one
does except the moderator/interviewer. I feel this is an outdated and
uninspiring concept.

Chef Sang-Hoon Degeimbre used Magimix blenders, ice cream maker and whatnot to make
his dessert. It seems people are eager, even, very eager to get up and cook
with the Chefs. I prefer to watch but when the Chef asks you for
the 2nd time if I really don’t want to help, you get up and
help dress the plates of course.


I did a
little barter of my own, as I didn’t sign up for the workshop, a gentleman gave
up his seat for me and in exchange I offered him my leftover beer and gin
coupons. He was happy to watch from the back with a big GT grin. 
So at the end of
the workshop, you end up with a great tasting dish you helped make, a
charismatic chef posing for photos and … well yes, sticky fingers. A better
concept, obviously popular but I can’t imagine this is how Chefs prefer to
spend their time. Is this how chefs make a living now? A necessary evil? Or is
the public demanding this type of exposure and wanting to bridge the gap
between gastronomy and cook-it-yourself?

French toast with potato and salsify 
It does remind
me of an interview my dad gave some 25 years ago where he said: “The future of
fine dining lays in the hands of the house wife and the food-education she
gives her children.” Right you were, daddy!

Now what?
Will I go
again next year? but of course.
Can it be
better? but of course.
Can we be
proud of the Belgium Effect ? …
absolutely!

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