‘If you’re average, you’ll lose the game’

The Spanish chef Vincente Rodriguez is self-taught. A headstrong rebel, barely able to settle down, if at all, at school or with employers. He teaches himself to cook by endlessly watching and tasting. Gradually, he developed his own signature. “The refined cuisine of starred restaurants appeals less to me. I’d rather have the stews that my Spanish grandmother made: full bodied and brimming with taste.”

 Vincente Rodrigues

These days, Vincente Rodriguez cooks in Les Trois Clés restaurant in Gembloux, barely sixty kilometres southwest of Brussels. The restaurant is established in a hotel of the same name and previously came across as a gourmet establishment. Today Les Trois Clés tends more towards a brasserie – and for better or worse, Vincente is trying to make his own mark on it. So he doesn’t just focus on the menu, but consults with the owners on the tableware, glassware and look. One thing he knows for sure: the restaurant needs to become more of an experience.

Carving at the table - photo 2163765 | Debic
Carving at the table

“I like carving in the restaurant itself”, he admits. “I’ll shortly be taking a ‘Cortador de jamón’ course to improve my techniques. Although the presentation of the food is often not as attractive as when it is plated up in the kitchen, I still believe very firmly in preparing at the table. People come for a meal to see something nice. They are looking for a special experience. I’ve seen it myself in the simplest form at Le Vieux Pannenhuis in Brussels: it costs perhaps ten cents to make a pancake there, with all the trimmings. Flambé that pancake at the table and you can charge ten euros for it. Guest are looking for a unique total experience.”

Simplifying

Despite this desire for an experience, Vincente expects to see a lot of simplification in the hospitality sector over the coming years. “Not just consumers, but more and more chefs are opting for simplicity. I see starred chefs moving towards bistronomy or even brasseries. I think a few elite starred restaurants will remain, but the many middle-of-the-range gourmet restaurants are set to disappear. Joris Bijdendijk of the RIJKS in Amsterdam says a good dish consists of three products: you have to be able to taste all three of these products properly. And he’s right! Why would you include any more? There’s no need.”

Tasting and watching

Vincente himself, who has now been a chef for over thirty years, learnt the trade mainly by tasting and observing. “After an argument that led me to leave a restaurant where I worked for fifteen years without having picked up much, I no longer wanted permanent contracts. I went all over the place, watching: how do they do it here? I learned by watching. Plus I go to other restaurants for a meal as often as possible to taste everything. I like exploring. Besides, with me it’s not about recipes. Perhaps because I’m dyslectic. For me, everything revolves around tasting, tasting, tasting. I experiment with dozens of spices to find the one flavour that I can combine with something else and I bring in my liking for cocktails, too. So I constantly come across and identify new taste combinations. I have over a hundred different types of rum in the cupboard at home.”

Average quality - photo 2163771 | Debic
Average quality

Vincente hardly ever eats vegetables. Unless they are fantastically well prepared, for example by his best friend, who was once a starred chef in Brussels. “I think we're heading that way in any case. People who like meat want very good quality in a restaurant. And the same goes for vegetables. Average quality is no longer enough. If you’re average, you’ll lose the game no matter what.”

Vincente Rodrigues recipes

Vincente uses Debic Cream Plus Mascarpone for his Arroz al trote, with scampi, herb cream and chorizo oil and his dessert Bavrois El'Jula: mascarpone mousse with Manjari chocolate mousse and a nut crunch 

Looking for more inspirational stories?  - photo 2163773-1 | Debic
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