Thomas Gellynck is still 23 but has the maturity and the cooking skills of a more experienced chef. Together with his partner Lara De Vliegher, they manage a pop-up restaurant which will cause a commotion when it closes in November 2019 because it has become the talk of the town in the Belgian city of Ghent. The pop-up restaurant is called Commotie (translated into commotion in English).
The food scene in Ghent has been very vibrant over the past few years and this pop-up restaurant adds to the number of interesting food spots that are on offer in this vibrant city including recent openings like Taxi, Souvenir and Aroy Aroy to mention a few names.
You could say that Thomas and Lara have returned back home after running a 40-cover pop-up restaurant in Kortrijk. ““We started in Kortrijk because we thought that nobody knew us there so if we managed to make a restaurant work there it could work anywhere,” Thomas said.
“While we had people working with us at Kortriijk, we decided that we would be just the two of us here in Ghent. We wanted to give the restaurant the feeling that our 18 guests were visiting our home. It is like welcoming you into our living room. We want our guests to feel at home and the food which is meant to be shared is also relaxed,” Thomas told Food and Wine Gazette.
“Here people know us, all our friends are from Ghent. At first we decided to open the pop-up for a year because that was what was available but the landlord has now given us an additional year,” he said.
They will be using this year to try and find a permanent location where they can settle. “We want to be able to offer a catering service with the possibility to organise weddings, baptisms and more. But we will still open as a restaurant for three days a week,” Thomas said.”We will work with just one menu and try to push the boundaries further because then I will have more people who can help me. Here at Commotie I can work very hard but I am limited because I am alone,” he said.
“We want to stay around Ghent but find a bigger place with a garden and a professional kitchen,” he said,
He tells me that the pop-up restaurant is working very well and it is opening a lot of doors for them. “Everybody knows the time is limited so they want to try it which is good. It also allowed us to build something with less money because you know that it will be destroyed soon. We did a lot of things ourselves. We had to bootstrap and buy things for cheap such as the chairs and tables but it still works very well,” he said.
What the experience has given him is also the possibility to meet new people and to make friends with established colleagues like Kobe Desramaults of Chambre Separee for example. “A lot of exciting things are happening in Ghent like the recent openings of Taxi and Souvenir. It is cool to be around Ghent with a lot of talented colleagues.
“I’ve got a long way to go but it is great to be surrounded by good people because you can learn from everybody. That is the most beautiful thing about being a chef and Ghent is amazing in this regard,” he said.
We visited the restaurant after a tasting of Dow’s Port wines. Thomas cooked cauliflower in whey. He then burnt it and served it with north sea shrimps and their sauce. The second dish was a green thai curry risotto with soy fermented squid which was a very clever take on the Italian risotto while giving it a Thai twist. For main course he served an entrecôte that was marinated for 72 hours with yogurt and served it with mashed potatoes and fermented cabbage. For the pairing with vintage 1970 port, he served chocolate with blue cheese and hazelnuts, a bold and inventive dish.
Commotie: Hubert Frère Orbanlaan 228, 9000 Ghent, Belgium. Open for dinner from Tuesday to Saturday from 7pm to 10.30pm and Friday for lunch from 12.00 to 2.30pm.