The way the cookie crumbles: Giovani Oosters

Last week I started with a new recurring feature on my blog where I ask 10 questions to chefs ( link toSyrco Bakker’s answers). This will give us a closer look at their passion for food and how/when they got this passion. The question I like the most is actually the question about their best memory/anecdote of chef school. One of my best memories would be when a fellow student dropped a bowl of soup on a customer (you should have been there).  The second chef that I asked to provide answers to my ten questions, is Giovani Oosters. He is the chef/owner from restaurant Vous Le Vous and still up to today, the chef that has prepared the best piece of Lamb I ever ate! What I like about Giovani, is first of all the fact that he’s a great guy. He speaks with so much passion and enthusiasm about our mutual interest. But also because his interest and passions is not limited to cooking only. He also grows lots of ingredients he uses in his kitchen himself. You can read more about Giovani’s restaurant in my blogpost about my visit to Vous Le Vous.  I can only recommend it.

Giovani Oosters by Nina

1. What is your favorite local product(s) to work with? And in which way should it be prepared?

“Limburgse stroop” (Syrup aka Apple butter) is a one of those top products we can and have to be very proud of. It has no added sugars and is still a handcrafted product. I love cooking with beers from the Limburg region or the Hasseltse Jenever (aka Dutch Gin) to make some great sauces, pastries and since recently our (from Vous Le Vous) pre-dessert. Not to forget the Limburg cloister pig slowly cooked for 3 day at 69°C, a true delicacy!

2. Is it important for you to use local products?

I love surprising my guests and if I can do this with a Flemish Cuckoo (type of Belgian chicken) or bio piglet from around the corner it makes me even happier! I also see it as my duty to show everybody how great our local products are, a task I love doing with whole my heart.

3. An ingredient you couldn’t miss in your kitchen?

Maaslands herbal salt (Kruidenzout in Dutch) is my Provençal herbs from the Limburg Region… FYI this “salt” is an herbal mix of herbs ao.  Thyme, wild marjoram, laurel, sage and malva, filled up with sea salt and pepper.

4. When did you get the passion for cooking?

Thanks to Roger Souvereyns’ cooking. He has given me the real passion for cooking.

5. Who is your big example in the gastronomical world?

Roger Souvereyns, with a two-acre vegetable garden and herb garden a true pioneer of the contemporary Belgian ‘terroir’. For me he is one of the greatest Belgian chefs. (Small interview with Roger)

6. Where do you get your inspiration for making new dishes and combinations?

From nature, while walking or cycling. I not only enjoy the environment, I also absorb it and take it with me… when I come home afterwards and I am in front of my computer I start bringing back those images, fantasizing and combining.

7. What has been the most culinary experience? (The restaurant was already on my list, but now I got even more curious)

For my wife’s birthday we went to Hertog Jan  for dinner, for me this is a type of cooking I like and even touches me… enjoyment at its best.

8. For which dish would you make a big sacrifice to be able to eat it?

….

9. What is your most wonderful memory of chef school?

In all honesty I wasn’t a good student, so my best memories must be the ones when I wasn’t there 🙂

10. A culinary experience everybody should have had besides have a meal at your restaurant?

Haha, great question :-)!  I believe the everybody should really try the buckwheat pancakes from granny Lucienne in Zutendaal.

GIovani in his garden by nieuwsblad

Officially old, my 30th birthday

I’m still writing this blogpost as a 29 year old, but I have to face it tomorrow I’ll officially old! Tomorrow (27/05, so today) I’ll be having my 30th birthday (at 11:15pm to be precise). If it were for me I would have celebrated it in a modest way (with food obviously) and do nothing special… but my friends and especially my beautiful fiancée thought otherwise and they gave me  a birthday to remember. I also didn’t know my friends were such good liars or better so good at keeping a secret 🙂 as I really didn’t know anything about it.

my friend at comocomo

The first part of my threefold birthday celebration was with friends at the restaurant of a lovely hostess and friend of mine aka Comocomo which you might remember from one (or more) of my previous blogpost. I can say for a fact that my friends really love me as they spoiled me with gifts!! I’m not worthy to have such great friends 🙂 🙂 I can’t thank you enough. One person (besides my beautiful fiancée) I want to give a special thanks is the lovely Stephanie Straatman! She and my fiancée designed a brand new logo for my blog!!! A true beauty they designed, don’t you agree? Thanks again to ALL of you, you guys ROCK!!

Spinelli dolce vita

For the second part of my birthday  surprise my sweet woman took me to the restaurant from the chef that still up to today has made the best lamb meat I have ever eaten!! It is true I might have given a few hinds about where I wanted to go (yes woman of mine, two can play that game 😉 <3). The restaurant I’m talking about is Giovani Ooster’s “Vous Lé Vous” located in the gastronomical heart of Europe (blogpost) aka Hasselt. I wanted to come here as the few dishes I had tried from Giovani in the past just made me want to have the whole Giovani Oosters Gastronomical experience!

Vous le vous (1)

   Vous le vous herb_vegetable garden 

Vous le vous vegetable garden

Vous le vous restaurant

VLV the Chef table

To summarize my whole “Vous Lé Vous” experience… Giovani Oosters is the type of chef I like and that for fits perfectly into the list of my favorite chefs like Ingrid Neven (Pazzo) or Wouter Keersmaekers (Schone van Boskoop) to name a few. Why? Simple you can really see the passion and sparkle in their eyes when they are talking about food or when they are preparing the food and they try to share that passion with everybody (a bit like me) . I just love it! Passion is the best motivation in life!! What I also like about them is their respect and pride of local products which try to use as much as possible. You mostly notice this in the little things like in Giovani’s case the homemade herb butter or the fact that he has his own vegetable and herb garden at the restaurant for example….. This is to me what separates the cooks from the chefs! Take what I said above companied with the perfect team with that same passion you can see on their faces and you have the best gastronomical experience one can have! (with a smile)  

Happy Me

VLV freshly made bread and homemade herb butter

Let me start talking about the food, as that is what is all about (besides spending time with my woman) 🙂

 We started our evening with a variety of “amuses bouche” a feast for both the eyes as the taste buds. Rice croquettes, cucumber bonbon, salmon and asparagus role … just to name a few…. I had a classical “Gin tonic” with it, but they had replaced the gin with a local grain jenever.

VLV

VLV 2 Tomato flan  VLV 1 Cucumber panna cotta

VLV 3 rice croquette & Salmon VLV 4 Exploding cucumber bonbon

It might see unbelievable, but it got even better. Let me present to you the menu “Vous Lé Vous” served us:

Mackerel Escabeche with green celery, black olive crackers and crumble and something called green star accompanied with a 2011 (white) Spanish Arindo Verdejo from Bodegas Shaya

VLV 5 Escabeche of mackerel_ green celery_olive crackers_crumble and olive green star

Fried green asperge with a wild garlic mayonnaise, an Alken goat cheese crème and frog legs accompanied with a 2012 South African (white) Chenin Blanc/viognier from Bellingham vineyard

VLV 6 Fried green asperge_ wild garlic mayonnaise _crème of goat cheese from Alken_ frog legs

Langoustine with a asparagus carpaccio and mango and citrus flavors accompanied by a 2011 French (white) La Gascogne  aka Gros Manseng – Sauvignon Sec wine by Brumont

VLV 7 Langoustine with a asparagus carpaccio and mango and citrus flavors

Veal sirloin with chateau potatoes with lemon verbena, grilled asparagus and mini mushrooms accompanied by an 2011 (red) Italian Avignonesi from Cantaloro vineyard

VLV 8 Veal sirloin with chateau potatoes with lemon verbena mini asparagus and mushrooms

Cod fish with chateau potatoes with lemon verbena, grilled asparagus and mini mushrooms accompanied with a 2010 Argentinian (white) Septima (chardonnay/torrontes)

VLV 9 Cod fish with chateau potatoes with lemon verbena grilled asparagus and mini mushrooms

Desserts: Chocolate and coconut explosion, a rhubarb, hibiscus and Wellen strawberry dessert, a yogurt, pictache, pineapple dessert accompanied by a Spanish Moscatell Priorat from Rotllan Torra vineyard.

VLV 10 Chocolate and coconut explosion

VLV 11 rhubarb hibiscus and Wellen strawberry dessert

VLV 12 yogurt pictache pineapple

With the coffee also came some njammy delights! Even a chocolate “praline” with mustard

Delights that came with the coffee

Wasn’t I right that it was a treat for the eyes? If you also want to agree with me on the taste part I can only suggest for you to go to Vous Lé Vous and try it… or to “Limburg proeft” where Giovani will also be present  (amongst other great chefs/restaurants). Also a very good selection of wines Harald (sommelier) paired for us!

We stayed overnight at Vous lé vous’ chocolate room… this way we didn’t have to worry about drinking too much.

The chocolate room

beautiful bath in the room

I don’t mind celebrating my birthday, but I don’t like the spotlight being on me (you know what I mean?) So I never tell when I’m having my birthday dinner…  but I didn’t organize it… ok ok I’ll stop b…shitting, it is nice to get the extra attention…

 My happy b_day surprise

Giovani lighting the candle

Thanks again to Giovani, Harald (sommelier) and the rest of the “Vous lé Vous” team and to my beautiful fiancée for looking and being as great as always!

Giovani & me

The luv of my life

My birthday wouldn’t be my birthday without also having my family and especially my mom with me to celebrate it (yes, I’m a mama’s boy, so what?!)…. so the third and last part (unless I still have something coming?) was at my brother’s place for some lovely cake which was the perfect ending of a perfect weekend and now I’m all ready for a new decade!

Cheers!