Mario Ridder is owner/chef of Joelia and co-owner of C.E.O baas van het vlees and Ají in Rotterdam
How would you describe your style of cooking: sophisticated urban?
‘Phew, let me think… My kitchen is no longer the traditional kitchen. It has become lighter and innovated since we’re located in the city centre. The Parkheuvel- and Zwetheul- base is still there, but we’re ten, fifteen years further… My kitchen is elegant, feminine and subtle; you won’t taste an overload of flavors and explosions. If you eat duck, i want you to taste that duck; no dates or plums. The sauce must be supportive.
Those who understand my style of cooking, end up in a different world. I still serve the ‘likkepot’ with crab and caviar and the brioche that was ons Cees Helder’s menu, but the choice of music and design of the restaurant is modern, urban and global. The cutlery, glassware and crockery are also at the highest level, but you’re also in a restaurant where you not only eat brioche with foie gras, but also eggplant with couscous and garlic foam. Where you can get a good glass of wine for six or seven euros, but also a bottle of 10.000 euros and the entire range in between.’
It’s autumn: what are you looking forward to?
‘To everything the world has to offer, but mainly to mushrooms and earthy vegetables; i look forward to salsify and jerusalem artichoke that we prepare in various ways. So we get both creaminess, freshness and crunchiness…’
On the website there are also beautiful pictures of sea vegetables, asparagus and tomatoes…
‘There must be diversity in a kitchen. Nowadays everything is available all year round, but snow peas, sea aster and Italian tomatoes should only be eaten in the summer. In the fall it’s all a bit richer; then i choose mushrooms. With baked potatoes and top quality chicory, celeriac and salsify, you already have a delicious dish.’
Tell us about ‘Mario’s favorites’!
‘Watermelon-capers-chili is our vega classic: we pickle and dry the watermelon and make a steak tartare out of it. The dish isn’t ordered often, but when we serve it as a part of a menu, guests always say: ‘This is delicious! I’ll take that next time!” The eggplant-look-couscous that i mentioned is also a favorite. The egg plant is cooked sous-vide with a little olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper. Then we sprinkle it with vinegar; that makes it a bit purplish. It’s the base for our famous eggplant ‘caviar’, only we prepare it in its entirety. Couscous, dill oil and smoked garlic foam are added. These are the dishes people would like to eat these days; those are the dishes you can taste the quality of a kitchen with. The well-known lobster salad can only be made with European lobster; but those are extremely expensive! The same applies to Bresse chickens. They already cost 40 euros each! What should you ask for a dish!?
In that case, more vegetables…
‘Laughs out loud: In the kitchen of Cees Helder, where i come from, we never marinated raw vegetables in acids. But nowadays i really like that. That’s where you can distinguish yourself with. We don’t have a vegetarian menu, but we always have an a la carte starter and main dish with vegetables. In the kitchen we also have other vegetarian dishes on the plate, as soon as someone indicates that he doesn’t want fish or meat. In the last two years in particular, we notice that there is an increasing demand for vegetable dishes. You should always facilitate that instead of improvising all the time. As a chef you should never forget: people who often go out for diner, have already eaten that lobster salad a hundred times. You can surprise those people with cream of jerusalem artichoke, a little vanilla and a sour taste of salsify, crisps of celeriac and candied onions. Then you’re ready! The more you go out for diner, the more you will appreciate these type of dishes. People expect turbot, red meat and lobster in the high level restaurants, but it are the extraordinary dishes that should be stimulated. That’s why surprise menus are the best; people taste something different once, and are immediately ‘over’ .’
On the menu i also see lemon sole-carrot-garam masala…
‘The lemon sole is filled with a farce of white fish and nori, folded together and prepared sous-vide. On top comes a crispy breadcrumb, with orange and sea salt. With that we serve an amazing vegetarian sauce based on carrot and garam masala. The carrot is presented in different ways: from carrots we make puree, from winter carrots we make balls with some spicy kimchi with a salad of raw fennel, we have acid-marinated carrots and a tarragon emulsion with a piece of grapefruit.’
‘Which we almost always have on our menu. After soufflé with preserved cherries and macaroons, we gently moved towards other combinations. When i go out for dinner myself, nine out of ten times i take the soufflé as a dessert; you recognize someone’s craftsmanship through a soufflé. As a starter i always take the langoustines; at the cuisson you can immediately tell the quality of a kitchen. And with the other dishes, is usually say: “give me something you like the most”. If you go to diner like that, you tasted the real kitchen!’
Why do you choose Rungis?
‘Because they, as a vegetable supplier, have the best to offer; i don’t know anyone else who has such a total package as Rungis. The Rungis colleagues are constantly looking for new things, consult with their growers and get products from all over the world. And don’t forget their test packages with new products, those are sensational. Everything i find in those packages brings me into a different state of mind every time!’