I was recently in Bruges, Belgium (my 1st time!) for a special Flemish-Japanese collaboration lunch and dinner between host chef Gert De Mangeleer (Hertog Jan | 3 Michelin Stars, No. 61 on World’s Best Restaurants) with visiting Tokyo-based chefs Zaiyu Hasegawa (Den | No. 11 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, No. 45 on World’s 50 Best Restaurants) and Hiroyasu Kawate (Florilege | No. 14 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants), and Osaka-based Yusuke Takada (La Cime | 2 Michelin Stars), in partnership with Visit Flanders and Art Flanders Japan.
You guys might remember that Hertog Jan cooked with my events platform Cross Cultures alongside Toyo Eatery this April as part of Madrid Fusion Manila in the Philippines.(Read about here.) So traveling to their home in Bruges– okay, it’s a 30-minute drive from the city center– was like coming full circle for me.
While a lot of collaboration events have both sets of chefs showcase their own dishes, this series had that PLUS new dishes they collaborated on TOGETHER. It was an opportunity for the Japanese chefs and the international guests to get to know Flanders’ meats and produce, and for the Hertog Jan team and guests from Belgium to get to know Japanese influences and techniques– a crossing between Europe and Asia basically.
Both collaborations took place in one day. For lunch, it was Hertog Jan x La Cime. The reason for this is that “Chef Takada is the most Western-inspired among the Japanese chefs and uses a lot of French techniques,” explained Joachim Boudens, Hertog Jan co-owner and head sommelier. For dinner, it was Hertog Jan x Florilege x Den. “We then move to more typical Japanese flavors and techniques with Florilege somewhere in between, and Den being the most Japanese.” Apart from these, Gert maintains a great relationships with all chefs– having cooked at their kitchens (or is currently cooking– he’s in Japan at the moment!)– and their camaraderie shone both inside and outside the kitchen.
But before I move onto the collaborations, I need to highlight that as we were in Belgium– and the biggest welcome to this part of the world for me was Gert de Mangeleer’s take on the Belgian national dish, moules frites (mussels and fries). The mussels were lightly marinated and that one single fry had beautiful, intricate layers that I was really disappointed there was only one! (Why, Gert?! Lol.) This was the most dexterously crafted moules frites I’ve ever had, and I always love it when “fine dining” restaurants spin their techniques on their national dishes– a tribute to their country.
In this blog post, I am going to zero in on the collaborative dishes— new dishes the chefs did together specially for the event– as this really shows how food can truly bring different cultures and cuisines together seamlessly. (We know how our world could use more harmony right now!) They also happen to be my favorite dishes.
LA CIME x HERTOG JAN
Duck and eel was the finale collaboration between Yusuke Takada (La Cime) and Gert de Mangeleer (Hertog Jan). Yusuke served a gorgeous duck breast with a smoked eel sauce with burnt paprika while Gert complemented the dish with duck liver, eel and young radish. It was a great showcase of not only their melange of cultures but also their synergy.
FLORILEGE x DEN x HERTOG JAN
The first collaboration dish this evening was between Hiroyasu Kawate (Florilege) and Gert de Mangeleer (Hertog Jan). It was cod– a bycatch fish– with crab sauce and parsley oil and garnished with male zucchini flowers and fennel blossoms (parts that are normally thrown away). It was an emphasis that this dish was actually all about food waste.“The concept of sustainability is very important for me,” shared Hiroyasu. “I wanted to use fish which [most people] don’t eat. It is very important to cook the waste– fish and crown. Chef Mangeleer told me that sustainability is respect. Respect for food, people, culture and history.'”
The second collaboration dish was between Zaiyu Hasegawa (Den) and Gert de Mangeleer (Hertog Jan). It was eel grilled Japanese-style served with green herbs. (*Eel in green herbs sauce is a classic Flemish dish.) “Eel dishes are loved by both Japanese and Belgian, “Eel dishes are loved by both Japanese and Belgian, but the way eels are treated and cooked are totally different,’ shared Zaiyu. “I wanted to create a dish by mixing Belgian traditional styled eel dish with Japanese traditional styled eel, in order to create something new.'”
“This dish resonated with me the most because it was a dish done by all three chefs! This was Flemish pigeon from Steenvorde and Japanese rice with a dashi of bonito flakes and pigeon bones. And… guess who did what? It was actually Japanese chefs Zaiyu and Hiroyasu who chose the pigeon and they challenged Flemish Gert to do the rice! So Gert added snails, grilled bone marrow and their own harvested mushrooms and the result was phenomenal– a crossing of cultures not only of Flemish and Japanese, but of Europe and Asia. What a nice surprise, right!?
I also need to highlight that this was my first time to try juice-pairing (out of necessity really because I developed acidity earlier that day)…..I LOVED IT!!! I thought I was only capable of drinking water, coffee and alcohol but I surprised myself. Like wine, the acidity of the juices also cut through any richness but not without upholding their primary function of enhancing the dishes– even without even a drop of alcohol. Maybe I’ll start doing juice-pairing from now on…
This was such a wonderful event that brought together the beautiful Flemish/ Belgian and Japanese cultures– and Europe and Asia, basically. Thank you so much for having us Hertog Jan, Visit Flanders and Art Flanders Japan! xx
*Stay tuned for my next blog post on things you shouldn’t miss while in the Flanders area of Bruges!
For more information on Hertog Jan, visit their website here.
For more information on Visit Flanders, visit their website here.