Belgian chef Peter Goossens is probably one of Belgium’s most internationally known chefs. He has been in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list for many years and is one of only three Belgian chefs to have three Michelin stars. Just before summer we spent time with this high-performing chef. We have already published the interview but here are the 10 lessons we learnt from that morning.
- Doing great work is not enough, you also need to promote it: Peter Goossens uses the example of how fries were invented in Belgium but lack of communication meant that they are internationally known as ‘French fries’. It is a bit mad to have allowed this to happen he tells us. And he is right. In many areas of life, many are shy to promote what they have done or are not good at communicating it. If you do not communicate, you cannot expect others to know what you are doing.
- To find the motivation you need to love what you do: How do you retain motivation when you have reached the top? Peter explains that you need to work at 300 per cent every day each day and try to always improve and create new things. You must not only motivate yourself but also those around you. Having a job you love helps. Otherwise it would be difficult to spend so many hours at work.
- Communication is essential: We’ve written about external communication. But there is no question that internal communication in any organisation is also essential. For everything to work well in a top-class restaurant you need to communicate constantly. This has to take place not only before service but also after service. If you let go for a few days, the level goes down immediately and this is what you need to avoid.
- Set yourself principles and follow them religiously: Principles are essential for most things in life. Without them we are lost. At Hof van Cleve, they have five principles when it comes to how they prepare and serve dishes and these are followed constantly. You may think that this may hinder your creativity or limit space for inspiration but when you have clear principles and processes you know that it is difficult to make mistakes. Every great organisation thrives because of its principles and processes. Remember that.
- Change is not always good: Change for the sake of it is not good. You need to experiment as much as you can if you are to do great things. But you also need to learn when to stop and recognise when things are not working. Not all change is good.
- Be a mentor to others: When you have talent or you have achieved great success, you need to also find the time to help others to reach their potential. Peter has passed on his knowledge to many chefs who have opened their own restaurants at every level. He told us that on the latest count, over 200 chefs have trained with him and he is extremely pleased that over 70 have gone to open their own restaurants.
- Look to the past to see what’s coming in future: They say history repeats itself. And that really is the case. When it comes to food, just like for design and art you need to look to the past to see what’s coming in future. Peter believes everything comes in cycles. 30 years ago, restaurant design was very baroque and the food was very heavy. He is sure that in 20 years time we will be back there even if he prefers today’s pure flavours.
- Creativity is everywhere: You can find creativity everywhere you look but remember that creativity is not just about presentation. You need to consider every aspect and make sure that the concept works globally.
- Simplicity is great: What makes Italian cuisine so great? It is the exceptional produce and simple treatment. According to Peter, nothing can be simpler than a risotto which just needs rice, stock and cheese. But when prepared well and with the right ingredients it is magnificent. There is no need to overcomplicate work in every sphere of life. Remember that simple can be exceptional.
- Lists and guides are important but remember that they also need change to thrive: Peter strives to keep his level even if he has nothing else to prove. However, he takes lists and guides philosophically telling me that they also need change to thrive. Going up and down is what keeps the guides interesting. So you need to remember this not only on the way up but also if you find yourself on the way down.
Read our full interview with Peter Goossens here.