Benoît Blairvacq, head gardener of L’air du temps (two Michelin stars), is the winner of the first QL Hering Berlin Gardener’s Award. He was presented with the award on 16 March 2017, in recognition of his outstanding horticultural skills. Benoit’s knowledge of herbs and vegetables is exceptional. Nikoline van der Werf, director of the Belgian tourist office for Wallonia and the Ardennes, presented Benoît with a commemorative plate specially made and hand-painted in gold by the manufacturer of contemporary porcelain, Hering Berlin.
Nikoline van der Werff presented the award to Benoît Blairvacq
Benoît, generally known as Ben, grows around 400 different varieties of herbs and vegetables for L’air du temps, the famous restaurant headed by chef Sang-Hoon Degeimbre (San). Ben is an economist and used to be a banker. Twenty years ago, Ben and San met during a business lunch, and their immediate fascination with each other was matched by Ben’s fascination with gardening.
L'air du temps
Ben started out as a hobbyist on a small scale, read widely about herbs and vegetables, experimented, and evendeveloped a new variety of tomato, le Zèbre Vert. His hobby became his profession, and he now works fulltime in a 12-acre garden in the grounds of L’air du temps. It takes four members of staff to tend the garden and its greenhouse, often assisted by trainees. The garden is also used for research aimed at conserving knowledge and growing the very best produce. Guests at the hotel and restaurant are welcome to look round, and the gardeners are happy to explain the finer points of their work.
The QL Hering Berlin Gardener’s Award: a logical step
QL Hotels & Restaurants has always set great store by the use of local, seasonal ingredients. They are often healthier to eat, better for the environment, and good for the local economy. And what could be more local and seasonal than herbs and vegetables from your own garden? ‘The interaction between a chef and a gardener, both striving for the very best quality, innovative flavours and dishes, made with wonderful ingredients, this is what binds Benoît and San together,’ says QL’s founder Hein van Beek. ‘That’s why Ben deserves this prize more than anyone else.’
From left to right: Carine Nosal (hostess of L'air du temps), Benoît Blairvacq (head gardener of L'air du temps) and Sang-Hoon Degeimbre (host and chef of L'air du temps)
The QL Hering Berlin Gardeners Award
From left to right: Hein van Beek (founder QL Hotels & Restaurants), Carine Nosal (hostess of L'air du temps), Benoît Blairvacq (head gardener of L'air du temps), Sang-Hoon Degeimbre (host and chef of L'air du temps) and Nikoline van der Werf (director of the Belgian tourist office for Wallonia and the Ardennes)