Growth strategy pays off for top Belgian restaurant

Tue Apr 10, 2012 10:41am EDT
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By Eric Holmberg

BRUGES, Belgium (Reuters) - Sommelier Joachim Boudens bends down and plucks a few stalks of sorrel from the ground. He eats the herb, testing its flavor.

He knows it has just the right sour taste because it was grown on his own farm, which provides vegetables, herbs and flowers to Hertog Jan, Belgium's latest three-star Michelin restaurant.

The fresh sorrel is destined for a lunchtime dish of asparagus and small red radishes being picked nearby will accompany salmon and caviar on the dinner menu.

Chef Gert De Mangeleer, 34, has taken Hertog Jan to the top of the culinary world with a cooking style based on fresh, local ingredients and perfection in preparation.

"The taste wasn't good, the quality wasn't good. So that was why we decided to start (cultivating) vegetables and flowers and herbs by ourselves," De Mangeleer said.

Three restaurants in Belgium and 106 restaurants worldwide were awarded the top three-star rating in the 2012 Michelin Guide. De Karmeliet, also in Bruges, and Hof van Cleve in Kruishoutem are the other two in Belgium.

Hertog Jan now has a six month waiting list for Friday and Saturday dinner.

De Mangeleer and Hertog Jan earned all three stars since 2007.   Continued...

Belgian chef Gert De Mangeleer poses in the kitchen of Hertog Jan, the country's latest three-star Michelin restaurant, in Bruges March 29, 2012.REUTERS/Francois Lenoir