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Peter Goossens is one of the top Belgian chefs. He earned three Michelin stars for his restaurant Hof Van Cleve, and is also known in his home country for his many television appearances (My Restaurant Rules, La Cuisine du Maître).
His credo? "Finesse", alongside "respect for the product" and "cuisine with character". His goal in life? To see guests leave with a big smile after their experience at his restaurant, thanks to not only his hard work but also that of his team, of which his wife Lieve is a part.
Eating at Hof Van Cleve so means experiencing Belgium in all of its aspects: culinary, of course, with local products, but the country is also reflected in the interior of the restaurant, where "[Belgian] decorators and artists worked to create a unique and enchanting atmosphere, revealing uniqueness, character and delicate emotions."
At the beginning of March, Peter Goossens visited Gastronotrends in Brussels to discuss the future of gastronomy with approximately one hundred other Michelin-starred European chefs. Fine Dining Lovers had the chance to meet with him to talk about food.
How would you define your cuisine to a client who comes into your restaurant for the first time?
It is primarily a cuisine made of highly flavoured seasonal products. I try to work with Belgian products as much as possible, but there are a few items that I can better find elsewhere.
You worked for 4 years in Paris at Pré Catelan, alongside Patrick Lenôtre. Why did you want to gain experience in France?
In reality, I initially went there for a mandatory internship at the end of my studies. Things went so well that Patrick Lenôtre asked me to stay, and I worked my way up little by little. I ended up as a pastry chef, and it was an amazing experience!
You have three Michelin stars. What importance do you give to this kind of distinction?
I always do the best I can to satisfy the requirements for the highest number. Beforehand, the Michelin Guide was mainly in France; today it plays an international role and invites people to discover restaurants that they would normally never visit. And that is the real goal, as I do not work for the Michelin Guide, I work for my clients.
Why you choose to establish your restaurant in Kruishoutem, in the Belgian countryside, rather than a big city like Brussels?
I was born in this region, and I truly love the Flemish Ardennes. When you are a chef, you know that you have two options: either you establish yourself in the city or the countryside, but if you choose the second option, you have to think about it very carefully. We are two minutes from the motorway exit, on major routes between Paris and Amsterdam. There is a lot of traffic as well as a nice view, so it brings two very important aspects together. The choice of location must be strategic.
In your opinion, where does Belgium currently stand in terms of international gastronomy?
Belgian cuisine is traditional, made with great respect for products and tradition. But we are increasingly open to other cuisines. For example, the majority of my entrées have an Asian touch, with juices and herbs, because I find it very fresh and perfect for a mis en bouche.
You participate in many cooking shows in Belgium. Did you learn unexpected things during these experiences?
There is intense pressure. Working in television also requires patience, as there is a lot of waiting while filming takes place. This is the opposite of a restaurant, where there is never a free moment!
What has made the biggest impression on you in your professional life?
My third Michelin star, it is a dream come true!