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annvanhalewyck@gmail.com All day - Every day

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

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Experiencing the field …

Gaining experience in the field is the first step in learning the ropes.
During my time in school, I started to work during the weekends in the bakery down the street and I helped in the banquet hall in town when they had large wedding parties.
I wanted to submerge myself as much as possible in the industry.

Internships were also included during the culinary art program.
So my first year, I interned in a gastronomic restaurant in Spain in the kitchen. I was in charge of the preparations of vegetables and fish and during the service, all of the desserts came from my station.

Being away from home for 6 weeks in a country where I didn’t speak the language was my first big test. But nomads will always find a way.

Luckily enough, the restaurant was owned by a very European family. The patron came from Belgium, his wife from The Netherlands. Their son ran the kitchen and was married to an Italian lady. Imagine the amount of different languages we could use in 1 sentence!

My second internship was in a Michelin star restaurant closely by my home town.
My knowledge of the front of house had to level up to keep up. Michelin star restaurants are being held to very high standards and consistency is key.

I discovered that I thrive better in high quality environments.
No wonder I requested my sommelier internship in De Karmeliet, a 3 Michelin star restaurant with one of the most impressive wine lists I had ever seen!
I was beyond excited to see they had ‘my wine’ Meursault Perrieres by Coche Dury!
If only we could sell one bottle … I would be able to taste it!

I had shared my obsession about this bottle and it turned out that my prayers were being heard!
So one night, it was a Saturday, I was in charge of the small dining area, Benoit, the head sommelier, came to me:
‘Ann, I have a surprise for you downstairs in the wine cellar. I’ll take care of your section for a second. Go and let me know what you think about it.”

And there is was, a glass of wine with a little bit of Meursault Perrieres from Coche Dury.
I was surrounded by around 500 bottles of wine, all of the best in the world, sipping the wine that represented the point it all started for me.
My hospitality fire inside lit up and created a memory nobody ever could erase!

Xo – Ann

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

Specialize your talent … WINE

Did you know that apparently women have a better sense of smell?
I didn’t know that one either.

Anyhow, cooking wasn’t really my strong suit, I liked being in the front of the house better. So I was BEYOND excited when we finally started on wine lessons in our 3rd year. In Belgium, it’s allowed to taste wine when you’re 17!

It wasn’t until our second year of wine classes that my interest in wine really took off.
I believe it was April, and after aperitifs, liquors and juices, we’d finally start to learn about wine.
My teacher at the time, Mr Mullebrouck gave us the assignment to pick one of the empty bottles in the room and review the wine.

All the way in the back of the classroom, there was a little cabinet with bottles from Chateau Margaux, Chateau Lafitte, Mouton Rothschild, Chateaux Petrus.
All the big names in Bordeaux. However, I didn’t want to walk all the way to the back, so I just reached over to the side and pulled the first bottle I landed on.

Later that evening, when I was researching my bottle, I discovered the true value of wine. Apparently I had chosen one of the most precious wines in the room.
Meursault – Perrieres 1e Cru – Coche Dury.

Meursault: a small village in Burgundy, France
Perrieres: the vineyard with the status of 1e Cru (a class system to assign quality)
Coche Dury: a major wine maker with a very specific palette
Average price: around 300,00 EUR

That’s how my interest and passion for wine started to grow.
I discovered a whole new world out there and decided to do a major in wine.

Up until today, that bottle of Meursault Perrieres is on my wishlist.
I had the opportunity to taste it several times, but if you really want to make me happy, that’s your answer.

Xo – Ann

Photo credit – Pinterest

It always starts with a dream …

I remember being a kid.
Everything was so much easier back then!

My uncle had a restaurant and every once in a while, my mom would take us out for dinner at his place. There was a bouncy house, the most exciting kids menu, a little playground and a huge parking lot!
But the best part of our visit was always going to say hi in the kitchen.

Nobody else was allowed there.
How cool were we?!

I was 7 years old but I knew then and there that one day, I would have my own restaurant. I just decided that running a restaurant would be my dream, my goal, my purpose.
I would step into the footsteps of my Godfather and make people happy!

Thank you Omen (Uncle) Eric, for lighting a fire that – until today, is still burning inside of me!

Xo – Ann

Start with the beginning …

Today, I made the decision to start my own business.
I feel like I’m ready for it.
It scares the hell out of me, because are we ever just ready?
I’m starting my own Hospitality Costumer Service Consultancy.

How did I get to this? That has been quite a ride.
A ride that I will be sharing with you, here online.

Start with the beginning …
Because the Hosted By Ann blog will be the beginning of something new and exciting!

So hop on board, join the movement,
Start the change, be the change!

And let’s start creating possibilities together!

Xo – Ann