Chef on a journey

Every creative chef needs inspiration. One finds it by eating with colleagues, the other gets ideas during a walk through the woods. And I? I chose to travel. For five months I traveled through eight different countries in Asia, each with its own food culture. I traveled through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea, the Philippines and Malaysia. Looking for unknown ingredients, special cooking techniques and the stories of locals. Just look, taste and listen: how to do it
others it? I came across the most surprising inspiration in Michelin-starred restaurants, but also in stalls full of street food. And also in colorful street art, images of a setting sun or a view of the skyline of Hong Kong. Inspiration is everywhere – and not just in the kitchen or on a cutting board. Let me take you on a journey for the next few minutes. Through stories, images and recipes that I developed based on what I saw, tasted, smelled and experienced. Because without inspiration no creation

Chef on a journey



Bright red lips, a wool cap on her head and huge ski goggles over her eyes. The 72-year-old Supina Junsuta is a special appearance. In Jay Fai she is the only cook behind two large wok burners, which are fired on charcoal. If you don't know that a restaurant is located here, you can walk right past it. An unhygienic look, mise-en-place performed on the street and a queue of at least two hours. And this has a Michelin star? Is Michelin breaking the rules? I don't think this place deserves a star unless Michelin equalizes its demands worldwide. The gastronomy is changing; I cordially invite Michelin to change with them. Admittedly, the quality of the food is insane. I take Junsuta's signature dish: an omelette with crab. It is prepared in the wok and looks like a large burrito, packed with crab meat and served with sriracha sauce. wow! My culinary journey has begun.

Chef on a journey

From the speakers 'Lick it up' by Kiss. It fits in perfectly with the dish that we were just presented with and that we can 'just' lick off our plate. No more rules at Gaggan. If you want, come in T-shirt. You may lean on the table with your elbows. And if you like that, you eat with your hands. The menu consists of 25 emojis under each other, without further explanation. The dishes are only announced at the end of the 25-course amuse-bouche menu. And then the emojis do indeed represent what we ate. The classic gastronomy rules do not apply in Gaggan. Creativity flows freely. Gaggan has been named Asia's best restaurant four times and ranked number five in The World's 50 Best Restaurants in 2018. The restaurant has two Michelin stars. Chef Gaggan Anand, a busy and energetic little man, has worked at El Bulli. His dishes, often based on Indian cuisine, are therefore technically advanced: everything is executed to perfection. Gaggan's menu is a feast, an explosion of Asian flavors

When making a reservation in Asia, always state that you work as a chef. Many restaurants, including Gaggan, give priority to professionals. I also got a seat at the Chef's Table: a good view of the kitchen and plenty of conversations with colleagues. Bizarre, how ridiculously inspiring such an experience can be!

Chef on a journey
Vietnam & Cambodia


8 dollars for a kilo of crab. So fresh that you are right on top of it when it is fished out of the sea. With you basket of crab, settled with one of the dozens of older ones ladies who are fishing next to each other but you like it convince yourself that they have the best, you walk to a cook with a wok on a burner at the waterfront. He cleans and prepares the crab for you with fresh peppers from Kampot and a spicy sauce. Someone appears with beer. Fucking hell what have you got little needed to make a dish delicious. The power of freshness and experience.

Chef on a journey

Start your journey in Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon. jump on the back of a moped taxi and cross through the busy streets. Get dropped off at Ms. Nguyen Thi Thanh, better known as The Lunch Lady. Just a tip from Anthony Bourdain on his program 'No Reservations'. The Lunch Lady knew that. Her street food is now known worldwide. Her menu changes daily and consists of fusion dishes with influences from Thailand and Vietnam. Also a good breakfast is in Vietnam easy to find. Do you like to eat like I do a sandwich in the morning, then the banh mi is also something for you. It's a baguette (courtesy of the French colonial times) with many layers of siege. Are you not in the opportunity to travel to Vietnam, you can do this too have a taste at Boguette in Rotterdam.



Known as the culinary hotspot of Asia, Hong Kong is without a doubt one of the coolest cities on this continent. The authentic Cantonese cuisine and trendy concepts from all over the world turn out to be an excellent match. In Hong Kong, too, I questioned the value and significance of a Michelin star. Restaurant Tim Ho Wan, founded in 2009 by chef Mak Pui Gor, achieved a star a year after opening. However, he does not pay any attention to interior, exterior or service; the focus is entirely on the extremely high quality dim sum he serves. He now has five restaurants in Hong Kong, where you queue for hours for a seat. If you come alone, you may be able to join someone else, so you can sit at the table faster. Then tick what you want on a notepad. This is served from a trolley, on which in the Netherlands we would at most stack the dishes in a rinsing kitchen.



Once the sun goes down, the city of Taipei changes. Streets are transformed into markets, where street food predominates. More than two hundred stalls are no exception. They are simple and small, so that there is room for as many providers as possible. Long queues at popular stalls are no exception. Popular here are gas-roasted steaks, bubble milk tea concepts, fried milk (a kind of marshmallow made from milk, sugar and starch that is battered and fried in oil), octopus tentacles resting on a rotisserie-like grill, stinky tofu (the smell of this fermented tofu can be compared to a strong camembert and doesn't disappear quickly) and jianbao, a bapao-like bun filled with minced meat that is fried crispy on one side.

Chef on a journey
South Korea


Past, present and future merge in South Korea. Traditional markets coexist with trendy western hotspots and bizarre food concepts. Commonly used ingredients: garlic, peppers, seaweed, rice, sesame and tofu. Less well-known is ginseng: a root that approaches the notes of the licorice root in taste and is considered by South Koreans to be the healthiest ingredient on earth. Dishes are mainly prepared on the barbecue. That means: you prepare your own meat on a mini-barbecue. In many restaurants there is a hole in the middle of the table, in which hot coals are placed and which is covered with a grid. There is an extraction system above each table, which provides a beautiful view when entering a restaurant.
Kimchi, a preparation of cabbage with chili and salt that every Korean knows, is a well-known side dish. In addition, you get pickled daikon, nori, steamed rice and leaf lettuce. The idea is that you put a few pieces of meat in the leaf of lettuce, add some sauce and side dishes and then fold the leaf like a burrito to eat it.

Check our article on chef Rocco de Santis
Looking for more inspirational stories?

Check our article on chef Rocco de Santis

Discover more