On Saturday 16 February, 25 chefs from 4 continents around the world cooked in three different Brussels restaurants simultaneously for a unique charity dinner in aid of Isabelo, Feeding Hungry Minds, a charity set up by South Africa based chef Margot Janse with the aim of feeding young children.
The three Belgian restaurants that hosted the 25 chefs were Le Chalet de La Foret, Bozar Restaurant and Bon Bon. All proceeds from the evening, including spontaneous donations after the dinner went towards Janse’s charity which feeds poor school children nursery and primary school children.
Each chef was asked to create one original dish inspired by a specific South African indigenous ingredient that was selected by Janse.
The ingredients used
- Baleni salt used by Joris Bijdendijk, Isabelle Arpin and Ana Ros
- Buchu used by Pascal Barbot, Mauro Colagreco and Alain Passard
- Baobab powder used by Rodolfo Guzman, Heinz Reitbauer and Christophe Hardiquest
- Honeybush tea used by Christophe Pele, Virgilio Martinez, Pia Leon and Willem Hiele
- Marula Nuts used by David Martin, Vilhjalmur Sigurdarson and Maksut Askar
- Sorghum used by Emma Bengtsson, May Chow and Chiho Kanzaki
- Samp used by Karen Torosyan, Pascal Devalkeneer and Christophe Hardiquest
- Sour Figs used by JP McMahon, Manu Buffara and Sang-Hoon Degeimbre
Christophe Hardiquest of Bon Bon Restaurant together with Margot Janse hosted Maksut Askar of Neolokal, Istanbul, Manu Buffara of Manu in Curitiba, Brazil, Williem Hiele, Coxyde, Chiho Kanzaki of Virtus Paris, Alain Passard of L’Arpege, Paris, and Ana Ros of Hisa Franko, Slovenia.
Karen Torosyan of Bozar Restaurant together with Margot Janse hosted Brussels chef Isabelle Arpin, Pascal Barbot of L’Astrance, Paris, Emma Bengstton of Aquavit, New York, Belgian based chefs Sang Hoon Degeimbre of L’Air du Temps and David Martin of La Paix, Christophe Pele of Le Clarence Paris and Heinz Reitbauer of Steirereck in Vienna.
At Le Chalet de La Foret, Pascal Devalkeneer and Margot Janse welcomed Joris Bijdendijk of Rijks, Amsterdam, May Chow of Little Bao in Hong Kong, Mauro Colagreco of Mirazur in Menton, Rodolfo Guzman of Borago, Santiago, JP McMahon of Aniar in Galway, Virgilio Martinez and Pia Leon of Central Lima and Viljhjalmur Sigurdarson of Souvenir in Gent.
At Bozar Restaurant
I was at the Bozar restaurant giving a helping hand to the organisers. My job was that of explaining the South African ingredients to the guests present for the charity dinner.
Preparations had been in full swing since the morning to prepare the dinner and by 7pm most of the preparatory work had been finalised. Pascal Barbot had roasted the duck in the oven and was getting ready to finalise his dish, Heinz Reitbauer and his team were painstakingly creating the BaoBab venison heart salad in the form of a rose petal. It was therapeutic watching them create this work of art.
I arrived just before 7pm when most of the preparations in the kitchen had already been finalised. The rest of the chefs were in conversation or relaxing before the service was set to start.
At all three restaurants, Margot Janse and Gregory Caci prepared Lucky Star. This as followed by Heinz’s Reitbauer’s salad with Venison heart and baobab. Baobab leaves are harvested and dried before use and can be used in the same way as spinach or as a basis for a sauce. It is also sometimes dissolved in water or milk and can be used as a drink.
Isabelle Arpin, the Brussels based chef used the Baleni salt together with fois gras, egg and jerusalem artichoke. The baleni salt is collected using a 2000 year old technique. The Tsonga people collect salt-encrusted sand and leach it with water through Xinjhava filters made with clay and leaves. The filtered water is boiled to evaporation leaving pure crystals of Baleni Sacred salt. At Bon Bon, Ana Ros used the baleni salt to cook a potato encrusted in it.
Christophe Pelé, who would go on to win the Original Thinking Award at the World Restaurant Awards two days later prepared an oyster dish with pig ear and a honeybush tea risotto. He lightly poached the oyster and served it with the rice that was cooked with the honeybush tea. The sweetness of the tea was balanced by the saltiness of the oyster and pig ear.
Sang Hoon Degeimbre used the sour figs to accompany a scallop ravioli stuffed with salsify and served together with an intense broth.
It was then Pascal Barbot of Restaurant L’Astrance who perfectly cooked a duck and served it with Buchu, a very intene and medicinal herb that used to be recognised as a miracle herb because of its potent natural anti-inflammatory properties and anti-infective, antifungal and antibacterial properties.
Karen Torosyan used Samp, dried corn kernels as a replacement to rice in his salmon pate en croute. He told the guests that he had been working to try and come up with the right consistency and texture for the past month and was finally pleased with the result.
It was Emma Bengtsson’s turn. She had to prepare the cheese course which was not something she looked forward too. Her ingredient was sorghum which is a grain that is used in flatbreads and can also be popped in a similar way to popcorn. She decided to play with this fact and served an amazing cheese dish with an ice-cream and goat’s cheese coated in the sorghum ‘popcorn’.
David Martin told the guests that when he received the marula nuts he was really pleased because it was like ‘Father Christmas’ had arrived at the restaurant. He created a passion fruit sorbet with a souffle and topped it with the Marula nuts which was the perfect finale after the previous courses.
There was time for Margot Janse and Diego Cervantes’ final dish which was Buchu with black currant.
The charity dinner at Bozar was over by chefs from the other two restaurants, Bon Bon and Le Chalet de la Foret arrived at the central Brussels restaurant for the after party.
The day before, the chefs convened at the Cantillon brewery for a visit of the iconic beer producer in Anderlecht, Brussels.