Ollie Schuiling is chef and co-owner of Restaurant Kasteel Heemstede in Houten
These are difficult times. What do the Corona measures mean to you?
‘We can only wait and hope that the restaurant closure will be lifted in the near future. At the moment we are mainly working on new dishes. We’re also discussing on how to make sure we can get the best out of our restaurant. After all, we were only open for five and a half weeks when the government decided that we should all close. If we keep our spirits up? We have to! A couple of weeks is doable, but at some point we need to get an income again…’
What changed during the renovation in January?
‘Actually, everything. There is practically nothing left of what it was like. We got an entire new kitchen and we also added an preparation kitchen. The restaurant has also been painted, there’s a new floor and new tables, tableware, cutlery and glasses. We also expanded the wine cellar and on the first floor we’ve created a colorful lounge.’
What attracted you to Houten, besides cooking in a castle?
‘I really wanted to start my own business. I’m 32 now and i’ve been in the shadows of great chefs all my life. It just started to itch again. I enjoyed working everywhere but at one point i wanted to have my own restaurant. As chef i was in charge, but the guests of Schloss Schauenstein came for Andreas Caminada; not for me. Everything that comes out of his kitchen, logically, only radiates at him.’
A castle with a terrace on the moat, could it be any more beautiful?
‘This is one of the most beautiful locations in the Netherlands. People enter via the red carpet, get snacks and a glass of Champagne and are guided down to the restaurant area or, when the weather turns nice, to the terrace with 35 place settings. If you have the possibility to eat outside in such a place…’
What did you bring from the German La Vie and Schloss Schauenstein in Switzerland?
‘The techniques. I’ve learned a lot from all chefs, including François Geurds and Jacob Jan Boerma, and that all comes together in this place now. At the same time it’s a quest for what the guests want and expect; how far can i go with acids, salt or the intensity of a dish. The first period went well. I cooked in February and the first week of March. And the level was particularly good after just a month of working. What i want to distinguish myself in are vegetable preparations. I want to get the most out of a product. Is there red beet in a dish? Then you should be able to taste that! You can intensify the taste by for example, drying, distilling or infusing the beets. I always look for the fine edge of salty or sour.’
Tell me more about your vegetarian starter!
‘Avocado can be quite boring, but thanks to its soft structure you can marinate it very well. We serve it raw and as a cream with ginger, garlic oil and Spanish pepper and marinated in tiger milk from the Peruvian kitchen, red onion, lime, lemon, pepper, lemon grass, lots of coriander, salt and white pepper. A vegetarian dish doesn’t have to be a cowardly intention; it can definitely be a bit spicy. Like i said, i’m looking for the distinct flavors.’
Mul stroganoff also sounds exciting…
‘Everybody knows stroganoff sauce. We’ve translated the flavors into a lukewarm vinaigrette with a very intense taste. Which is high in acids due to the use of balsamic vinegar and sherry vinegar. It contains finely chopped onions, shallots and pepper. It looks very colorful. There’s also a mini fennel from Rungis in the dish, filled with a cream of harissa. You don’t expect that with fish, such a bold garnish. Actually, the vinaigrette plays the main role instead of the fish. I’m also a fan of the Thai kitchen. Vegetables play a main role in the Thai kitchen and are spiced up with various spices. We convert that into a Dutch-European kitchen with local products. People sometimes think that i only work with Asian flavors, but that’s not true. But i do use a lot of acids.’
Do you have a favorite vegetable?
‘I like the simple products. I especially like onions; a true Dutch product with lots of possibilities. A lot of chefs can’t stop talking about molecular cooking, but you can do so much different things with an onion. Cold it has a sharp taste but warm it’s almost sweet. I don’t use bouquet in my sauces; all sauces are made with a basis of onions. They are available 12 months a year and are the most important vegetable in my kitchen. The white and the red ones and the shallots. When you cook onions slowly for an hour and a half, they will develop a lot of sugars by caramelizing. Our onion cream is almost dark brown in color, as if you see a spoonful of satay sauce. I also use onions for tiger milk: it gets a total different intensity. An onion is just incredibly versatile.’
And what about fruit?
‘I usually use the art of leaving things out: you should eat fruit when it’s ripe. Then you shouldn’t do too much with it. Simply sliced is tastier than cooked or processed into puree. Like strawberries or apples. I usually don’t work with fruit in starters or main courses, but i have to say that crab with little cubes of Elstar is amazing!’
‘Because of the ingredients that Rungis can deliver all year round. You have to look at the supply of products; that’s the most important thing for the kitchen. Your strongest side should be continuity. And: look for local products. We choose fish that’s caught in The Netherlands and vegetables that are always available. In January we used used blood oranges for a dessert. The people at Rungis have so much experience that they can say: ‘this season lasts from then until then’. And then they indicate what is available next. That’s why this time of year we serve sorrel, prepared in different ways with yuzu, yogurt and vanilla. Our suppliers determine which products we work with. Rungis has a lot of experience with fruits and vegetables and stands for quality. Their communication is also a big plus. Almost daily we receive an text or email about the new seasonal products.’