Savouring the unexpected: Herman Cooijmans' culinary masterpiece
Herman Cooijmans, the young chef at restaurant Eden* in Valkenswaard, accompanied by his sommelier Robin Groos, had barely been in business a year when he was awarded a Michelin star. In that short time, Herman has made quite the impression; he never fails to surprise his guests – in particular with his extraordinary ice cream flavours, for which he uses Debic Cream Plus Mascarpone.
The Michelin star came as a complete surprise to chef Herman Cooijmans (32) in 2020. At the time, his and his business partner’s main focus was on making a success of their restaurant – their paradise in Valkenswaard, named after the Garden of Eden. Sure, Michelin had paid them a visit and requested information. But at that moment in time, both men would have been more than happy with a mention in the guide. Even during the award ceremony, Herman still hadn’t realised what was happening until Groos started slapping him on the shoulders and they were whisked to the stage. Unfortunately, their celebrations were cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. For a while, they made the best of the situation by providing takeaways, and they set up an inventive drive-thru. But now, thankfully, they are once again able to pamper their guests in style.
‘A lot has changed since we were awarded the Michelin star; but at the same time, everything has stayed the same’, says Herman. ‘We welcomed new guests and launched a second, more luxurious menu, but our approach to cooking is the same.’ The young chef has a reputation for surprising his guests with unpredictable flavour combinations. Michelin evidently values this approach, so why change a winning formula? For him, the star is the definitive endorsement of his experimental and eccentric cooking style. ‘It’s always nerve-wracking when you do something that’s a bit unusual. So it’s fantastic when Michelin says what you’re doing is good.’
Herman likes to experiment; for example, he combines vanilla parfait with dried ham and caviar. He even pairs skate with strawberry and rhubarb beurre blanc – a dish that the Michelin inspector had his doubts about at first, but which, as we can read in his report, completely blew him away. He is fascinated by ice cream and comes up with the most extraordinary flavour combinations: from hawthorn and liquorice to smoked and salted herring with chocolate. Herman recorded all the formulas for his ice cream preparations in Ice Solution, the ice cream calculator (see box, ed.). Thanks to this app, which was recently launched online, anyone can make any kind of ice cream: from savoury to sweet, from vegan cream-based to creambased, and from gelato to sorbet. The chef can’t explain the experimental combinations on his menu at Eden*: he just picks ingredients and flavours that he thinks would go well together. ‘Perhaps its driven by our pricing policy. We want people to be able to eat at a decent restaurant for a decent price’, he says. ‘We are one of the five cheapest starred restaurants in the Netherlands. Our five-course menu starts at 65 euros, which forces us to think more creatively about the ingredients we use.’
Herman Cooijmans developed the Ice Solution app so that anyone can create ice cream recipes – without having to have the necessary knowledge. The app is proof of his eccentricity; he has already added around seven hundred flavours to the ice cream calculator, and he keeps on adding more. On top of that, there are also around a hundred different sugars, sweeteners and sugar syrups
Herman created a caesar-salad-inspired salad in which he incorporates confit chicken stomachs. ‘I pair that with Argentinian prawn, with an ice cream based on Debic Cream Plus Mascarpone, with mulberry, fenugreek and mace. I wanted the fresh acidity of the mascarpone to come into its own, which lends itself better to more mature flavours than sweet ones. That’s how I came up with the idea for that ice cream.’ He explains that the fresh acidity of Debic Cream Plus Mascarpone – the ready-to-use mix of cream and mascarpone – makes it perfect for his savoury starter. ‘It also has a slightly different protein content than standard cream. That little bit of extra protein makes my ice cream more stable. The 1.5% more fat adds a little more lightness to it while being whipped, so I end up with a nicer ice cream mixture. Debic Cream Plus Mascarpone has a consistent quality and can be used in sweet and savoury applications. That makes it really easy to use, especially for cold preparations.’
Recipe by Herman Cooijmans
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