Bart de Pooter has no problem with clients taking photos in restaurants. He says he has got a collection of thousands of photos of food he has eaten in restaurants.
Bart is in many ways a pioneer. He was the first Belgian chef to put his name to two Michelin starred restaurants in the country, he was one of the first chefs to venture to Asia when it was still not on the radar screen of world gastronomy like it is today.
This is the second part of our interview in Q&A format.
Who are the chefs that have inspired you most?
Pierre Gagnaire, Albert Adria and his brother Ferran were all important.
What is your best ever meal?
That is a very difficult question because I don’t have one. For me it is all about the experience. Sometimes, a dining experience can be so overwhelming that I will not go a second time because I fear that I will lose that experience. But I still remember my first experience in a three Michelin star restaurant at Alain Ducasse in Paris and I also have fresh memories of René Redzepi’s noma 10 years ago.
Then there was my dinner at el Bulli which was very confrontational. (Read the interview with Bart here to see what impact it had on his cuisine) I cannot say I enjoyed the meal but it was a shock for me. One of my shocks was eating at Hard Rock Cafe 30 years ago. I was asking myself what was this, is this food? But ultimately it has survived but it was also confrontational as an impact. I enjoy things that are well done. I was in New York and had a salad which was chopped in a particular way which brought about an explosion of flavours. It was the best salad I’ve ever eaten. For the best fillet, I remember being in Kyoto and there was a chef who was brushing and cooking one steak on the fire for 30 minutes. It was so good, I could go back just for the experience. For me, it is about the moments, about the people you are with, about how you are received in the restaurant. This is what makes a difference.
Is there something you don’t eat?
Do you cook at home?
Yes. My favourites at home are one pot dishes, starting from raw, cooking and it is one big bowl, meat, vegetables, spices herbs, warm, savoury.
Photos in restaurants?
I have collection of 20,000 photos on my iPhone. For me it is a memory. It is logical you store them. You don’t need to share them all.
What is an item that you have in your professional kitchen that should be in everyone’s kitchen.
I think it would be a Thermomix but a good knife is also essential.
Your favourite places to eat in Belgium
There is a restaurant in Antwerp called Bun. I love the people behind it, I love how they cook. It is tasty and cooked on the spot. I
And outside Belgium?
I love my trips to Paris. There are lots of restaurants worth visiting there.
What are your favourite books?
I have a big collection of books. They all fall into three categories, architecture, art and cookery. I have read all the books about el Bulli, how they developed their philosophy. I am also interested to read about different types of cuisines like Mexican and Peruvian because by reading about what the people eat, you can learn a lot about their culture.