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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

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The People :: Sergio Herman

This creative mastermind doesn’t need any introduction.
But for those who don’t know him:
– Like what? Have you been sleeping under a stone last 8 years?!

Owner of Sergio Herman Hospitality Group
– Restaurant Oud Sluis ***, Restaurant Pure C *, Restaurant The Jane **, AirRepublic and AirCafe, Blueness and Frites Atelier.

Anyhow, working for this hospitality guru, taught me a lot!

5 take away’s from working for Sergio Herman: 

Be PASSIONATE

Working 16h a day is a LONG day. If you’re not motivated or passionate, you won’t survive. Would I do it all again – YES! without a doubt!
Working with a team that is fully committed and 200% passionate about the food and hospitality industry is mind blowing! It’s like a drug, including the addiction.
Everyday we pushed each other to be better, faster, harder, stronger.
I will never forget the passion of Nick and Sergio either.
The way they danced in the kitchen when everything was going smooth, how they could push everybody to their own limits – and beyond, the energy we could create as a team.
Until today, I still thrive on that. When I recreate the memory in my head, I can push my team to be on their A-game.

Learn from your MISTAKES

We were allowed to make mistakes.
As long as you only made them once and learned from it.
Every 6 to 8 weeks, Sergio would come up with a complete new menu.
Learning the new plates and all it’s ingredients was part of the job.
One of my first weeks, I was in the dining area, providing guests with water, bread, utensils. One of the servers was carrying the tray with plates for table 15. He asked me if I could serve them and explain it to the guests. It was the main course of the daily lunch menu. It was something with a fish and green sauce. I went back into the kitchen and asked what kind of fish it was so I could explain it to the guests.
The ‘This girl should never ever come into the kitchen again!’ made it pretty clear I had to study the menu and all it’s ingredients.
Believe me, from that point on, I always knew exactly what was on the plate, till every single detail, flower and herb.

Take care of your REGULARS

Your regular guests are most important for your business.
Consider them your husband or wife. You marry them and you promise to love them in good days and bad days. When everything is going well, they are happy but when it’s not, they’ll forgive you – most of the time. We had a large group of regular visitors. Some of them were annually, some quarterly, some even monthly. We kept their records, knew their favorite plates, their favorite table to sit on, their allergies and dietary wishes.
I made it my personal mission to get to know them all and to remember their last visit, what they looked like, what happened last time they were at the restaurant.
I can honestly say, my facial recognition skill is on point because of that!

Be CURIOUS

We were stimulated to grow – but only if you could train.
It creates leadership.
Whenever they changed stations in the kitchen or front of house, you had to train your successor. If he or she wasn’t able to cover the section by him/herself within 1 week, you would be going back to your old station.

Take care of your TEAM

We were respected and appreciated
Sergio wouldn’t always tell us, but we all knew.
If you take care of your people, your people will take care of your guests.
Your guests will take care of the business.
We had lunch and dinner every day in the restaurant, sometimes even breakfast if somebody showed up late. And on Friday’s, we had snack night.
We would make a cocktail – yay for Moscow Mules and Whiskey sours in buckets!- and one of the guys in the kitchen would make a snack.
If you came from abroad, it had to be something typical from your country.
That’s how I got the chance to eat Russian, Colombian, Fish and Chips in a wallpaper, Sushi, Kaiserschmarrn, apfelstrudl, ‘Kapsalon’ and duck rilletes from the ducks we went hunting for the week before.

Learn from the best, they reached the top for a reason.
I feel extremely blessed to have worked for Sergio Herman and would do it again if the opportunity came up. I am the person I am today partly because of him, his leadership and his creativity.

Xo – Ann

In memoriam: Oud Sluis *** (1)

In memoriam, because by the end of 2013, chef Sergio Herman decided to close the doors of this iconic restaurant in the South of The Netherlands.

3 Michelin Stars
20/20 in Gault Millau
Best restaurant in The Netherlands by Lekker Magazine
Top 20 in World’s 50 Best Restaurants

‘Always learn from the best.’
Another great lesson from my parents.
They are the best for a reason.

I still remember the first day I started working there.
It was somewhere in February 2010. It was a cold and rainy day.
But inside, there was an energy that could fuel hundreds of people.
I was asked to work a day with the team, to see how I would like it.

I felt like coming home. This was my dream, this was my energy.
High end hospitality, a team that ran like a well functioning machine, guests that were impressed every time you brought a new plate.
At the end of the day – around 1:30am- I sat down with Benjamin, the Maitre D to talk about my experience that day. Needless to say I would love to become part of this team!

There are too many great stories that I will share with you in the next couple blogs!
Stay tuned if you want to hear about the ‘Kissing Lips’, I-Foie or Chess board.
Hint: They were names of the plates!

Xo – Ann

Photo credit: www.foksuk.nl