François Geurds is chef and owner of FG Restaurant and FG Food Labs in Rotterdam.
What impact does corona have on you?
When you get shaved, you have to sit still. At the moment we’er busy developing and innovating dishes. ElBulli was also closed a few months a year to come up with new dishes so… If there’s anything you want to change in your business, now is the time: our restaurants are getting a good cleaning session and some maintenance is being done. And besides that, everything is digitized and we come up with things like QR codes on the menu about wine pairing. With the help of this, guests can easily find all information about the wine. It’s a new system that, right after the publication in the media, extensively got copied.’
Is there also something good about the world being paused for a while?
‘It is good for the environment, but not for the economy. It’s sad to see the big guys, but also the small companies, going under. I don’t think they will come back from this. The rents and taxes will be postponed, but soon the restaurants will only run at half strength while all the bills continue. I think the aftermath can easily last a year and a half. With us, everyone remains employed; only not the ambulatory staff. We just hope to sit out this time, keep paying our salaries and rent, and can have a fresh start later. You should use this time wisely; and then full speed ahead again.’
Why don’t you do delivery or take away?
‘Most restaurants that are doing this, were already equipped for this. If you’re used to a small turnover, you can cover certain costs with just a few employees. In my case i have to open a can of employees; that’s a different story.’
What do you think will be different from now on?
‘I hope we will be done with all those discount promotions. That guests are willing to pay for the quality they get. I also hope that people, because they have been locked up for so long, would love to spend their money in the catering industry. Every few years something happens. 2008 and 2009 were intens and now it’s intens again. It would be nice if entrepeneurs who come out of this alive, will become more aware. That they take better care of their money, for crazy times like this. Although i must say, you almost can’t prepare for something like this. I can imagine that not everyone has the reserves for that.’
‘Later on’ back to fruit and vegetables from Rungis?
‘Of course; Rungis is a supplier with amazing products. And they always have new and seasonal products. The service is also great.’
I’ve hear there’s no better place to eat as a vegetarian than at FG…
‘That’s great to hear. Our appetizers are vegetarian, and most of our sauces are made from vegetables, and if you prefer, you can eat 11 courses vegetarian and, if desired, lactose and gluten-free. We’ve been doing that since we opened eleven years ago. Even before there were ‘vegetable restaurants’.’
You were also ahead of your time when in comes to fruit and vegetable combinations!
‘You’re probably referring to licorice with banana, fennel and tarragon? That dessert is based on monkey heads from the candy store that kids love to eat. I once made it because tarragon, so also the gel we make, is related to the licorice plant, just like fennel.’
Which vegetable dish definitely returns on the menu?
‘Truffle macaroni is always on our menu. And our celeriac is a legendary dish. It goes on the josper grill and Big Green egg for 3.5 hours until it’s completely black. It’s with a reason our tuber is called black beauty. After gently being roasted, it’s cut in half and you’ll see it’s beautifully white inside. We cut that part out to make into a cream. We also make a vinaigrette with 43 herbs and spices with it, on top goes a mushroom beurre blanc, and in the winter we shave some fresh truffle over it. Man, you just won’t be able to get enough of that!’
What do you eat during this period?
‘From pizza to salads and grilled burgers. Not too big and not too much, cause you don’t burn a lot of calories as a chef these days.’