Werner Loens (born 1962, Watermaal-Bosvoorde, Belgium) has been working at Michelin since 1987, and has been chief inspector for the Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) since 2007. He trained at the PIVA catering school in Antwerp and worked for many years at various Michelin-starred restaurants. He also spent a number of years as a cook and manager with the Belgian Navy on the training ship Zenobe Gramme.
‘I owe the basis for good food to my grandmother. She used to do the catering for weddings, so she set the bar high. After various culinary meanderings, in 1987 I applied for a job at Michelin. There were no fewer than 560 candidates. I reached the last 10, at which point it got really nail-biting. I got a good education at the catering school, and did a vocational training there to work in the kitchen and in butchery and patisserie, so I was classically trained. I worked in a number of small top restaurants, and was able to judge dishes well, which is what Michelin is really about. Is the dish good both technically and in terms of flavour? And the price-quality ratio also plays an important role. Guests trust our judgment. Each inspector has his own territory, where he makes 60 per cent of his visits. The other 40 per cent are abroad, which is important to broaden your scope and gain new ideas.’
‘Michelin also sees sustainable gastronomy as important. It awards a Green Star to restaurants that use fair trade products and operate sustainably, and therefore have a “green menu”. This doesn’t mean they don’t serve meat, that choice doesn’t necessarily play the primary role. In the restaurant, chefs have to show they are working as sustainably as possible. A lot of restaurants have been inspected. To win a Green Star it’s absolutely not a must to have a coveted Michelin star. For example, Restaurant Lokaal, which is part of QL’s Villa Ruimzicht (Doetinchem, the Netherlands), has been awarded a Green Star but doesn’t have a Michelin star. The Michelin-starred Hofke van Bazel (Basel, Belgium) can also proudly display a Green Star. Michelin wants the Green Star to stimulate sustainable dynamics among chefs to create healthy green competition.’
RESTAURANT LOKAAL (VILLA RUIMZICHT, DOETINCHEM, THE NETHERLANDS)
Chef Bjorn Massop sources ingredients from farmers and other producers around Doetinchem. The menu is seasonal, and environmental responsibility plays a big role. Massop likes to work with old techniques, using almost all every part of the animal in his dishes. He is known in the Netherlands as a pioneer in the field of sustainability. The restaurant is soon to open a large private herb and vegetable garden of no less than one hectare.
HOFKE VAN BAZEL, BAZEL, BELGIUM
Chef Kris De Roy is not only a well-known chef, but also a herbalist. He cooks, as he puts it, in the name of nature, which to him is a matter of honour. The restaurant’s vegetable garden, the size of a football field, is important to Kris and his kitchen staff. They use recycled materials and they compost the organic waste from the kitchen. The menu always includes an entirely vegan main dish and all the appetizers are vegetable dishes. Hofke van Bazel is also renowned for it’s house-made juices.