Alexander Brouwer is executive chef in hotel QO in Amsterdam
Do you mind, you’ve been taken out of Dubai for this project?
‘I had a great time in Dubai, but this is such an unique project; a hotel that focuses entirely on sustainability and circularity. Luc Kusters from Restaurant Bolenius is consultant chef, so we work according to Dutch Cuisine; as much as possible locally, with seasonal vegetables, quality meat and fish from the North Sea or farmed in our own country. In the morning there’s no buffet, instead we serve an a la carte breakfast for all the 280 rooms; to prevent food waste. It takes some time for the kitchen to get used to that, but you can guess what people are going to order. You don’t bake one egg, but at least ten.’
Sounds hard… and then there’re also two food concepts!
‘We got Persijn Dutch Eatery and Juniper & Kin, our kitchen garden and bar on the 21st floor where 41 is a holy number. It stands for the maximum number of degrees the ingredients are prepared at; the ideal condition to retain taste and vitamins. The term raw scares off; guests quickly think they will get a raw celery stem. We look for other preparation techniques than cooking. Peeling a sweet pepper and then freezing it is also a sort of cooking. We use pickling, fermenting, cold smoking and have a cool pass for cooling raw ingredients. We have two five-course menus; one with fish and meat, the other is vegetable-oriented.’
There’s also a private greenhouse at a height of 76 meters…
‘We have had some teething problems on the roof, but are operational now. The temperature. the water supply; thinks like that had to be arranged properly first. Thanks to an ebb and flow system things are much better with our micro leaves, edible flowers and herbs. We could become 100 percent self-sufficient in this. We also use a part of the greenhouse as inspiration by growing special varieties. But we can’t grow vegetables from the open ground here; we can’t be without Rungis. Almost all of our fruits an vegetables are from Barendrecht. The people from Rungis think along, keep you well informed and help you along the way. Certainly when we have big parties.’
What do you get from Zeeland, your birth ground?
‘I love working with salty vegetables like salicornia, sea lavender and seaweeds from the Oosterschelde. But also with sea buckthorn, for that nice pickle, and the products from JanisFarm. Tubers are just as nice to work with: we prepare an entire celeriac in the Josper. And we also have cabbage from the barbecue: cut into quarters, pickled, vacuumed, cooked sous-vide and then grilled in the Jopser; this way you get that delicious smokey taste. Underneath we put atjar from the outer leaves of the cabbage plus a crumble of hazelnut, cress and marigolds.’
Any other favorites?
‘Strawberry, raspberry and blackberries are extremely tasty. At the moment we have strawberries with black pepper and basil-yoghurt ice-cream and in the other restaurant blackberries with goats strained yoghurt, beetroot ice-cream and licorice-anise-basil. As a variation on steak tartare we have carrot tartare on the menu. From carrot reduction we make something like a cream with carrot juice, red pepper and lots of ginger; that’s the base for creating the tartar. Plus, as a garnish, finely chopped shallot, egg yolk, fine green herbs, dried red chili and mustard. I also like cauliflower. We looked at ingredients that work well with cauliflower and then chose different structures; baked, as couscous or raw as a cream, finished with vadouvan oil and roasted hazelnuts.’
Are you a vegetable fan?
Questionable look; ‘Only if the vegetables are well prepared… No, i don’t have any traumas; thankfully my mother was a good great cook.’