Creating your comfort zone

Everyday I came home full of new idea’s, new inputs and new experiences.
I had to channel all this new information into something I could work with and build on.
My room was the perfect place to unwind and to let all those new impressions sink in.

On the wall, I posted a large map of New York.
I made small arrows that I placed on the area’s, parks, restaurants, coffee bars I went to that day.
Around that, I had a blackboard where I wrote key words that mattered to me, that represented me. With every word I listed, I asked myself: What does this word mean to me? How does it affect my daily life? What do I do on a daily basis to incorporate this feeling? Why does it make me happy? What about it makes me happy?

Besides all that, I had a whole bunch of books about New York, yoga and mindfulness.
They were all displayed on my shelves.
While being home, I loved listening to some music.

Creativity and curiosity turned out to be two of my core values.
Whenever I’m around any of those, I feel safe, comfortable.
I’m able to turn idea’s into action.

What are your core values?
Have you found them yet?
Let’s go look for them!

Xo – Ann

Oud Sluis (3) – What’s in a name …

Creative minds are always looking for the next best thing.
And let that be one of Sergio’s strengths.

Every 6 to 8 weeks we would have a complete new menu.
Sergio wanted to keep things exciting.
Not only for himself or the team, but also for the guests.
In the beginning, the plates were combinations of seasonal vegetables and the best ingredients the region had to offer.
Think langoustines, crab or lobster with celery, carrots, beets and apple.
Not all in 1 plate though!

After a while, I started to notice a shift in the way Sergio created new plates.
They became a live version of a memory.
Either from his childhood or a trip he had recently made.
Then I remembered something I had overheard in a kitchen one day.

‘Good chefs will get their inspiration from other chefs.
Great chef get their idea’s from anything but other chefs.
They have mastered the skill to bring a memory alive.’ 

Kill me because I don’t know who to quote but I can tell you that Sergio was part of that last group.
Every time a new menu would be presented, we’d all be saying:
‘This is even better then the last menu. It can’t get any better.’
Until 8 weeks later, a complete new menu would go live!

Sergio knew exactly how to re-invent his kitchen, style and flavors every single time.
Some of the plates would even have names!
Just to list some of his creations:
The IFoie: foie gras with apple and red vinegar jelly, in the shape of the Apple logo.
The Rocks: a chocolate dessert with galangal in the shape of Es Vedra, a rock off the coast in Ibiza.
Kissing Lips: Cherry mouse with chocolate in the shape of kissing lips.

In his last year, he started to collaborate with other artists to create new menu’s.
He worked together with, inter alia, tattoo artist Henk Schiffmacher, DJ Sander Kleinberg, art and design duo Studio Job and Belgian artist Sophie Lachaert.

I can only imagine what it must have looked like from a guests perspective.
Food photographer Tony Le Duc did an amazing job securing his legacy in several books.

But from a team members perspective: it opens your mind and makes you curious about other crafts in the creative industry.
It also makes you humble because of the many opportunities we had to learn about them.
We had high quality produce available, every single day.
That’s a scarcity in many industries but it became our privilege.

Working in fine dining hospitality industry is so much more then just serving a plate.
It’s creating a memory, an experience.
One that people hope to recreate to find happiness.

If there would ever be a plate with the name HAPPINESS,
I’m sure it would be coming from Sergio’s hands!

Xo – Ann

Photo credit – Tony Le Duc

The graduate …

When I graduated from school, our principal gave a speech.
I was too excited to celebrate but 1 line I will always remember:

‘Now that you’ve studied 4 years of hospitality and culinary art, keep in mind you don’t know anything. We taught you how to read a recipe. Now go out and learn how to make the recipe, use it daily to refine it so that one day, you can create your own recipe.’

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about that speech. You can learn something new every day. Be humble, be curious, start as the student to become the master. But even then, there is always something that I didn’t know before.
Ask to listen, listen to learn, not to respond.

I have learned so much during my school time.
Not only the basics of the industry but also the art of learning.
The goal to become the master is a never ending journey.
The knowledge I gathered, I share with my team every day to make them better, to help them see the beauty of the industry.

In reverse, I learned about their culture, their language, their dreams, struggles and personal goals.
I can honestly say that my team shaped me into the person I am today and the way how I managed my restaurant.

And for that, I am eternally grateful!

Xo – Ann