Ron Blaauw is owner of Ron Gastrobars (Sophialaan, Oriental Downtown, Indonesia and, from july 15th 2020, Indonesia Laren) and cooking studio Ron Blaauw Central Station.
How did you keep your head above water during the lockdown?
‘By being economical and making good agreements with suppliers, property owners and our own staff. And also a lot by communicating with each other. We’re very thankful for the support of the government. Although the scheme didn’t offer 100 percent compensation, we managed to make it.’
You haven’t been idle when everything got shut…
‘You shoot from 120 to 0 percent in energy level; i wasn’t used to that. I immediately started looking for ways to keep busy, because i can’t sit still. Although a little reflection didn’t hurt to have a better view and to get things back on track. In the meantime we contributed to ‘Een bordje voor Onze Helden & Ouderen’, translated it means a plate for our heroes and elderly. And we also participated in a Drive-Thru with starred chefs in North Holland. In Oriental and Indonesia we started delivery and take away almost immediately after the lockdown, but we stopped ‘ because of the success’. Seriously: we’ve never sold so many rice tables and satay! But it was no longer doable for our staff. But now everything is up and running again, but in a different way. It had to become something permanent; it had to be solid. The same now applies to Ron Gastrobar At Home and the pick-up locations across the country.’
Central Station is your ‘gastronomic junction’; what’s going on there?
‘It’s a place for workshops, training, meetings and seminars; it’s also an event location. At the moment we’re creating our new menus and dishes there and the cooking school is temporarily used as a production area. During this period we’re busy with consultancy. Companies approach us because they had the time to think in the last period of time. They took a closer look at their business operations and want to change things. We ourselves have developed a new menu and concept for the Gastrobar. The emphasis on the new menu is on green; after that you choose, if necessary, for fish or meat. It’s time for something else. We already served a fair amount of vegetables, but i thought that vegetables should get the main role. You can still eat some ribs, but this just feels good. We also had the time to develop this concept. During the so called prohibition…’
I see steamed sea vegetables with tempeh on the menu: delicious!
‘You should definitely try the gazpacho with strawberry, burrata and harissa. I can hear you think: strawberry?! Here’s why: i used to work a lot with raspberry vinegar, which was very trendy at the time. I suddenly thought: fruit with tomato, that should be possible. We fill small tomatoes with a cream of burrata and green olive. On top we add some slices of strawberry; to top it all off. Then we add ice cold gazpacho with Thai basil and croutons. We also have kohlrabi dim sum with shii take, XO, pandan leaf and tamarind. In there we serve some kind of chutney of cucumber with Thai herbs, ginger and lemongrass and the dish is served with the moisture of string beans and Thai herbs. A bit spicy, but very tasty!’
When guests eat your Romaine salad they say: so simple, but so tasty…
‘The dish is actually based on the Caeser salad. Romaine is a very tasty lettuce anyway. We create a combination with wild garlic, hen’s egg, green herbs and cucumber. At home i regularly eat a green salad with mustard dressing, some croutons and a poached egg. That’s what makes me happy.’
Dutch cauliflower with brown butter Pierre Robert, gravy and truffle is a keeper?
‘That’s an amazing dish; super tasty. The best part is when people try it when they are normally disgusted by cauliflower, because they’re used to it cooked the wrong way. ‘We’ve never eaten cauliflower like this’, they shout in surprise. We usually convince our guests by serving it cut in half, served as a side dish. I believe some dishes should remain on the menu, sometimes slightly modified. You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel, especially when people really like something.’
It’s almost July. What are you looking forward to?
‘To kohlrabi and turnips and in terms of fruits to blackberries and cherries. But also the wild strawberries. Rungis has a nose for tasty things. It’s great to work with them. Because they’re reliable, they deliver a fantastic product, think along with you and they’re always there for you. They also come around often to show us new products. That’s nice for the boys in the kitchens; they need new impulses.’
But you also need new impulses? Will there be any traveling again soon?
‘Definitely, the first flights have been booked. First is Barcelona. We start at the market, at La Boqueria, and then we’ll visit some friended chefs. For example to Tickets Bar, but also to some old tapas bars. And Paris is open: i’ve heard it’s so great again with all the terraces outside.’