Gert de Mangeleer and Joachim Boudens may have decided to close Hertog Jan to gain more flexibility but they will certainly be keeping themselves busy. They want to pursue other opportunities even if they want to do it on their terms.
“The decision to close Hertog Jan was not something we took yesterday. We had been discussing about the possibility of closing the restaurant for more than one and a half years,” Gert de Mangeleer said.
Chef Gert de Mangeleer and sommelier Joachim Boudens, the joint-owners of 3 Michelin star restaurant Hertog Jan announced early on Saturday morning in a press release sent at around 2am in the morning that they would be closing the restaurant in December this year.
“Since a year and a half ago, we found that the restaurant was constraining us from pursuing other opportunities. It is not an easy decision to close such a restaurant. We have been seriously thinking about our decision for the past 8 or 9 months,” De Mangeleer told Food and Wine Gazette soon after the decision.
The chef, probably the most internationally recognised Belgian chef today said that he and Joachim were already thinking about their next steps which include moving their bistro L.E.S.S. to central Bruges with the possibility of adding a wine bar and pastry shop next to it and also a second location in another city though the location is yet to be decided.
L.E.S.S. (Love. Eat. Share. Smile.) offers a warm ambience where guests can enjoy dishes that Gert eats at home with friends and family. His inspiration comes from all over the world: from Flemish white pudding via Spanish fideuà to dim sums from Hong Kong. L.E.S.S. by Hertog Jan is a concept that Gert and Joachim will continue to develop and expand, whilst giving opportunities to young people they believe in.
“We will still be cooking at the highest levels but it will be on our terms,” De Mangeleer said. “We have a secret location where we are working to have a very small and intimate table. It will be very exclusive and we aim to serve maybe 200 to 300 people a year. It is what we currently doing at Hertog Jan in 2 to 3 days. But we want to do it on our terms and when it is suits us,” he said.
De Mangeleer and Boudens will also be working on a ‘fast-food’ concept which they would like to launch in future.
De Mangeleer told Food and Wine Gazette they wanted the time to be able to travel to be inspired and to find new concepts they could create.
“With Hertog Jan we have fulfilled all our dreams. With Joachim, we had set ourselves the objective to open a restaurant, to get a Michelin star, to then get a third Michelin star and to be internationally recognised. We have achieved all this and another of our dreams was to quit when we are at the peak. We have had 15 beautiful years but we cannot grow Hertog Jan any more and there are so many more things that we want to do,” De Mangeleer said.
Both De Mangeleer and Boudens cited flexibility to organise their schedules and to work differently as one of the main reasons for the closure of Hertog Jan. “We have experienced unique moments, met inspiring people but we have also missed out on and sacrificed a lot. We would really, every now and then, simply like to enjoy the little things in life: picking up the kids from school, enjoy a family meal, a little more time to play tennis,” they both said.