Brussels based chef Christophe Hardiquest, chef of two Michelin star restaurant Bon Bon welcomed José Avillez, chef of Lisbon restaurant Belcanto for the second Bon Bon Origins dinner organised a few days ago.
Working together with young Belgian Chef Kevin Perlot, they created a harmonious menu focusing in particular on the sea as their playground.
The Portuguese chef has been working since 2007 to the highest levels showcasing the huge Portuguese heritage that exists and that is very often forgotten amid the stereotypical dishes of the country.
When he started, he wanted to show that Portuguese cuisine was not just about cod. In fact, in his two Michelin star restaurant, he only uses cod liver or cod’s head as a way to show that there is more to his country’s cuisine that just its tradition.
Fundamentally, we are speaking about a country that introduced tempura to Japan but few people tend to know this, a country which has a rich tradition close to one of the largest gastronomic giants of the world, Spain.
When welcoming José, Christophe explained that the Bon Bon Origins project is all about trying to rediscover the territory and present these discoveries to customers in a modern way and one which makes sense in today’s world.
After the visit of Gert De Mangeleer, chef of the Belgian three Michelin star restaurant Hertog Jan, it was the turn of the first ‘foreign chef’ at Bon Bon.
“For us, it is also important to invite young Belgian chefs not only to showcase their work but also to raise awareness and to move them to work on Belgian produce and Belgian traditions.”
José thanks the guests at Bon Bon for coming to this unique four hands events. “As Christophe said, Portuguese cooking is more than just cod. We have been revisiting our cuisine for the past 10 years and we are very happy to be in Belgium for a second collaboration dinner.”
Two years ago José cooked at Belgian restaurant L’air du temps where he also worked with Kevin Perlot who at the time was working there.
The dinner at Bon Bon was the perfect example of how two diverse cuisines can merge and work in unison particularly when the cooking styles of the two chefs are the same. If there is one thing that unites the chefs, it is their love for quality produce and focus on taste. “Technique should come last and not vice-versa,” said José.
Christophe and José told Food and Wine Gazette that they worked on the menu together to ensure that it was harmonious even before the Portuguese chef and his assistant David Jesus arrived in Belgium. “I will always try to adapt my dishes to the creations of the visiting chefs,” Christophe said.
The dinner started with a trio of appetisers that set the scene for what was to come next. Christophe served Radish granita, horseradish cream and cottage cheese on bread while Jose Avillez worked with the pig’s ‘head’ to serve a perfect pate, something typically Portuguese. Kevin Perlot worked with calamari and beetroot for his appetiser for a great start.
From there it was Kevin who served smoked trout with green herbs. This was followed by a spectacular mussel dish from Christophe Hardiquest. He served the raw mussels in a jelly with a mustard sauce which combined to perfection.
José Avillez served an Algarve Scarlet shrimp two ways. The first was a perfectly cooked shrimp that was served with a polenta like mixture that was topped with cod liver. For the second part of the shrimp he served the head with its juices encrusted in a salt crust with herb. Both dishes were succulent and brought the best out of the produce.
Christophe Hardiquest gave a twist to the white aparagus cooked the Flemish way with eggs. He added an anchoide sauce with a parsley purée and the combinations lifted this traditional dish to another level.
It was then the turn of José Avillez to serve a typical Portuguese. Here he combined smoked horse mackerel with cod liver, pickled flowers, pearl onions with crispy bread and a tomato water snow. A pure dish that worked extremely well.
Christophe Hardiquest has been working with different variations of rabbit with Gueze, a traditional Brussels dish. Since two months he has added a langoustine and a bisque to the rabbit with Gueze and it worked splendidly.
José Avillez served a perfectly cooked sea bass with smoked avocado, dashi and pistachio oil. The texture of the fish that was slowly cooked at a low temperature was perfect. A taste of the sea combined with the smokiness of the avocado made this a perfectly executed dish.
Christophe Hardiquest finished the main courses with a pigeon served a la liegoise which was followed by a Belgian waffle ice-cream.
A second BON BON Origins dinner had come to an end and what a collaboration it turned out to be. Two chefs with a clear focus on their territory and produce created a magical evening for those present while enabling the Belgian chef to continue to explore how chefs interpret their terroir. The next chef to visit BON BON has not yet been announced but it promises to be unmissable.