Menu’s dictated by the rhythm of the garden

Across the globe more and more chefs grow vegetables, and farmers start creating dishes. It sparks creativity, experimentation, and a different way of working. For sure it gets you noticed by our inspectors, take a look at our criteria for receiving the highest accolade. Our editor Sheila Struyck jumped into the world where nature is king. She interviewed chef / owner Vicent Guimerà of L’antic Moli in Spain about his ‘project Mans’, a collaborative circular initiative. Owner Reinier Kempenaar and chef Martijn Koeleman of De Dyck proudly showed her around their farm turned restaurant in the vicinity of Amsterdam. Both are four radishes restaurants (and with a green Michelin star). For all chefs that can’t afford a huge piece of land, we collected inspiration to work closer to nature with local producers from Les Cols, Basiliek, Anglo, La Madernassa, ‘t Aards paradijs and Sanaburi. 

Lieven Lootens - 't Aards Paradijs
Lieven Lootens - photo Wim Demessemaekers

L’ Antic Moli – We get excited by the flavors of each season.  

In Ulldecona, 110 km South from Tarragona, lies l’Antic Moli (four radishes). Chef turned farmer Vicent Guimerà explains: “We make sustainable use of our farm's resources. We do it, not for ourselves but for future generations. Sustainability is a "win win" for everyone and especially for nature”. In this short video you can meet the chef, his garden, collaborators and his project “Mans”

"Promote small farmers in your area. Give importance to everyday products and give them a life of greater value." Vicent Guimerà of L’Antic Moli

Grandfathers ultraspecialised potato farm de Dyck became a selfsufficient restaurant serving 150 different plants from its garden. 

The grandfather of Reinier Kempenaar, owner of De Dyck (4 radishes), operated a mixed smallhold right after WW II. His father stopped with dairy cows and specialised in potatoes and flowers. Kempenaar ended the worldwide export of sunflowers and started a restaurant in the farmhouse.

A farmer turned chef, how come?
“Martijn Koeleman is the chef, I am the farmer, haha. I wanted to cater for the people close to the farm, not for anyomous customers around the world. So we started a restaurant on the farm, to provide the larger Amsterdam area with fresh food and a wonderful dining experience. It grew step by step and in the 5000 hectare garden we went from 2 or 3 different crops to 150!  The garden does not only supply the restaurant we also offer local people the opportunity to harvest for their weekly needs. And we continue on the selfsufficient road. ‘Buitengewone Biggen (extraordinary pigs), located free roaming pigs with us. The piglets from one litter are kept together, they live a happy life on our land and eat our organic waste and fertilize the land. We get paid to feed and take care of them. We proudly serve their meat on our menu.

Extraordinary pigs - photo Sheila Struyck
Freeroaming pigs at De Dyck, photocredits: Sheila Struyck

What is the dish that best expresses ‘de dyck’ on a plate?
“Vegetables and fruits are the heart of our dishes. For example the “capucijner”. These marrowfat peas aka capuchines are a heritage legume which my father already grew. Ignored for a long time and now slowly getting back on our plates”. Koeleman adds: “And we use this for our skewer of pointed cabbage, we create a new variation every year! A 100% dish with our own ingredients in winter! All elements have been fermented, hydrated, smoked and preserved here. This year it comes with pine, sweet and sour rosepetals and a ‘ketjap’ of these capucijners.

De Dyck Capucijner fermentation - photo Sheila Struyck
De Dyck Capucijner fermentation - photo Sheila Struyck

Martijn Koeleman, photocredits: Sheila Struyck

Martijn Koeleman, photocredits: Sheila Struyck

How do you organise the connection between harvest, production and the menu? 
“Ofcourse we create the sowing plan together and decide where we want to experiment”, says Kempenaar. Chef Koeleman: “But in the kitchen there is no masterplan. We decide how to treat the harvest when it comes of the land. It is impossible to predict all of that. It does meand we need knowledge, so 1,5 chef FTE is fully dedicated to the fermentations and the preservation preparations. Where I know about flavours they know everything about microorganisms. AAt the first conservation stage we don’t flavor, so we can be creative when they are ready to be used. Sometimes it goes wrong and things get thrown away. To avoid repeating erors, we started logging everything on a digital whiteboard to store and transmit knoweldge. Also to front of house, so they can prepare the menu’s pairings and the explanation to the guests”.

Are you pleased with the result?
Kempenaar: “Happy faces when guests get here, we bring people back to nature. Yet, being a working farm we are a “destination restaurant”, something you don’t pass by on the street. This means that we have to work hard on our communication to get people out of the big cities to eat food directly where it is grown, on the farm in the countryside, 20km from their home. What do you think of that in terms of foodmiles?”

"We need to seduce people to leave the city and make the trip to the countryside, to the farm." Kempenaar of De Dyck

Farm to plate, six inspirational chefs show how to get closer to the source. 

Many chefs have a penchant for fresh, local, organic and seasonal. It is a journey of creativity and magic. They accept that “nature is the true artist and not the chef”, like Marco Pierre White famously said. Here are some great ideas from around the world to bring the garden and nature closer to the dining room. 

Embrace local and indiginous produce as the centre of your signature – Les Cols (Sp) 

As part of the tasting menu, the guests at les Cols (4 radishes) are invited to enjoy some appetizers in the kitchen. A great moment to meet the chefs, and smell the professionalism. These are the ‘buckwheat’ creations. Once the staple for all in this volcanic region, and now almost not grown anymore. By featuring it prominently, the humble buckwheat returned to the fields of Olot. From your table you can see the chickens. They improve and fertilize the soil. In order to close the circle there is always a dish that celebrates ‘egg straight from the henhouse’ in the degustation. Nothing goes to waste.

Les Cols
The foraging chickens, photo credit: les cols

Use microherbs to create magical flavours in winter- La Madernassa (It)

La Madernassa (5 radishes) sits in a resort with 15 000m2 of orchards, vegetable gardens, vinyards and greenhouses. These flavours and products are the heart and soul of the menu of Chef Giuseppe D'Errico. “In summer it is easy to rely on the garden, but in winter we purchase from suppliers with constant, continuous, and ethical production. When essential elements like the bitter and spicy notes of dandelion, dill, nasturtium, sea fennel, and samphire are missing in the garden, we compensate with products such as Paztizz Tops, Zorri Cress, Sea Fennel, and Salty Fingers."

La Madernassa Evergreen
La Madernassa: credits photo: La Madernassa

Discover all of the sense of nature with a horse and carriage – ‘t Aards Paradijs (Be)

Lieven Lootens, chef at “t’ Aards paradijs’ (5 radishes) in Deinze (Belgium) gets the inspiration for his seasonal dishes from nature. Next to growing their own herbs and flowers he created a small ecosystem with local foodforests, regenerative farmers and orchards.

Ofcourse you can come to t Aards Paradijs all year round to enjoy an everchanging menu that follows the seasons. In spring something special happens, you can book for an exclusive experience called “Quest of the Senses” (Ontdekkingstocht Der Zintuigen. With a horse and carriage Lootens takes you to a herbgarden, a bio farm and a food forest. Then to the orchard and vegetable garden, where everything you have gathered is prepared on a fire. You can taste fermentations and other preparation.

Lieven Lootens inspired by nature, photo by Amber-Lynn Lootens
Lieven Lootens inspired by nature, photos by Amber-Lynn Lootens

Keep notes of all your creations, some ingredients are only there ten days per year - Sanaburi – (Jp)  

Keiko Kuwakino (best 'vegetable lady-chef of 2023) is headchef of Sanaburi (5 radishes). She works with what the mountains can give her. "We anticipate the seasons. It snows in our village for four months a year. The first winter I was here, I had nothing more than some tubers and root vegetables to cook with. Now, I spend the whole year working on my winter mise-en-place. In the spring, I ferment many of the fresh herbs that are abundant in the fields. And in the summer, we build a two-meter high pyramid, which acts as a kind of pantry for extra food for when the snow arrives. I often work six to twelve months in advance. Some fruits, plants and herbs are only available ten days a year. Then their peak season is already over. That means I can only work with it a few times a year. I look back at my recipes and notes from last year and then try - in the short time I have - to explore the flavors and possibilities of those hyper-local hyper-seasonal ingredients even further."

Keiko in garden

Have you discovered a restaurant that puts vegetables and fruits central to innovative dishes? That work in close realtion with local producers, love the seasons and hate to waste food or plastic? Let us know! We are always eager to meet new talents.