As head chef of two Michelin star Belgian restaurant Pastorale, Sebastian Sandor is ready to take the plunge and fulfil his dream of opening his own restaurant. On the 28th November he will open Heritage, a new restaurant in the Patershol area in the heart of Ghent together with Fabio Cammalleri.
Heritage will be housed in the former Pizzeria Barbaro and the opening is testament to his persistence and determination. He has managed to fulfil his dream at the age of 30 also ‘thanks to my stubbornness,” he told Food and Wine Gazette. “I was walking past Pizzeria Barbaro in Gent and saw it and fell in love with the restaurant. I met Fabio who was running the restaurant and asked if he wanted to sell the restaurant. He replied in the negative saying why should he sell.” Sebastian told Food and Wine Gazette.
Like Sebastian, Fabio had also fell in love with the restaurant and moved to Ghent from Limburg to open Barbaro, a rock n’roll pizzeria in the historic part of Ghent.
“We found ourselves in a situation where I really wanted the restaurant but he did not want to sell it. I invited him to Pastorale to come and have a look at the cooking. I managed to convince him with my cooking and finally he did not sell me the restaurant but we will work on the new restaurant together,” he said.
They have chosen the name Heritage as it reflects what they intend to do. “It is about the heritage of Ghent, a city which had such a big linen and cloth industry. The restaurant will have aprons which will be made out of natural linen, we will use napkins with natural colours. I will make bread with linseed oil and will mix the ‘trash’ of this linseed with bread to have zero waste. But there will also be a bit of my heritage – some German and Hungarian elements as well as some Italian elements given Fabio is from Italy. We will have a very small pizzeria in front because that is also the heritage of the place so everything has a certain sense to it,” Sebastian said.
A German with Hungarian origins, he has settled in Belgium after working in Germany and Japan. “After Germany and Japan, I wanted to gain experience in another country and Belgium is quite well known in the culinary world. I looked up restaurants that could be interesting for me and found Pastorale. I liked the style and sent an email looking for a job. I got a reply, had a meeting with Bart and we talked a lot and he offered me the position of sous-chef. But when the head chef of Pastorale was leaving in April of last year, he asked me to take over which was a bit of a shock for me as while I had been working in the restaurant industry since I was 16, it was still a big step to be become executive chef. This was during the time when the restaurant underwent a big change also in terms of its decor and style,” he said.
Like many who arrive in Belgium he has fallen in love with the country for many reasons. “I like the culinary scene here with lots of small independent restaurants cooking really nice things and working a lot with herbs. It is a very nice country to work in and people love to go out to eat and have no problem paying for good quality. It is different in Germany. People want to eat a large piece of meat and spend as little as possible. Quality is not important,” he said.
He has also fallen in love her, his girlfriend is from Waregem and they often used to meet in Ghent. “So I’ve also fallen in love with the city, the canals, the historic old buildings and lots of nature. “We are really looking forward to live in this city,” he said.
“I hope to be able to match the expectations of this city which is very vibrant when it comes to food. I will not be changing my cooking style with the focus being on quality produce and flavour. Ghent is a green city with lots of bio shops, cars have been banned from the city centre. I want to focus a lot on vegetables which is great because at Pastorale, the restaurant won the best Belgian restaurant for vegetables award,” he said.
His intention is to keep meat out of the kitchen. “I will be working with vegetables and fish and I believe that these ingredients make better dishes,” he said.
There will be between 18-20 dishes on the menu at a price from 12-14 euros per dish. A four course lunch menu will be on offer at 36 euros. They will also serve a five, six or seven course menu but guests will be free to choose their own dishes with a recommendation to choose at least 4 dishes.
Sebastian said that the style they want to achieve is casual fine dining with a small but very good wine list with wines from Hungary, Italy, Austria, France and Germany.
“I will work with produce that is available and in particular that is growing in Belgium. For example, if sugar snaps are only available for 3 weeks, they will be on the menu for just three weeks. I will not use tomatoes in winter unless they are preserved because they would be past their peak. I want to use the vegetables when they are at their peak,” he said.
Sebastian has worked in Japan for a while and he is influenced by that. “I will work with ageing fish, grilling vegetables, cooking with dashi, serve sashimi of local produce and give those subtle Japanese flavours putting the techniques that I have learnt cooking elsewhere,” he said.
Barbaro will close in the coming days to allow time for some changes to take place. It will then reopen at the end of November as Heritage.