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Anne-Sophie Breysem
Restaurant Ansoler

Anne-Sophie Breysem

A sense of wonder, that’s what chef Anne-Sophie Breysem aims to achieve with her culinary creations. Together with Jaume Soler, her co-chef with Spanish roots, she runs the kitchen of the Restaurant Ansoler in Hasselt.

“We enjoy creating edible illusions. For example, in asparagus season we like to serve a white chocolate mousse that looks like an asparagus spear. It is so realistic that customers are quite taken aback. Once a customer even requested a knife with which to cut the asparagus (laughing). Our goal is to serve food our customers will remember for a long time.” Another great example is her shrimp mousse encased in a bright red tomato jelly, recalling traditional Flemish shrimp-stuffed tomatoes. “We love the nostalgia of Flemish classics, but always present them with a good helping of humour,” says Anne-Sophie.

From kitchen helper to Lady Chef of the Year

Anne-Sophie did not always know she would end up in a kitchen. It was only while training as a graphic designer that she started hotel school as a hobby. “I was immediately enthralled. I knew immediately that this was what I wanted to do.” With no relevant experience, she set out to try her luck at a Hasselt restaurant. “I began as a kitchen helper and worked my way up to being a chef. After a year running the kitchen, I was all of a sudden declared ‘Lady Chef of the Year’ and that’s when things really got moving.” Soon after, Jaume, her sous-chef at the time, asked her if she’d like to start a restaurant together. “We transformed his mother-in-law’s old townhouse into a business with great character. I made the leap and I have never regretted it for a moment.”

Anne-Sophie and Jaume are a solid team: “I believe you make more interesting creations on the plate if you have someone with whom you can bounce around ideas. It’s also great to see how my Flemish background and his Spanish background join hands in our dishes. For example, we serve a dish of Flemish asparagus with a poached egg and migas, crunchy fried bread crumbs, a rustic Spanish staple.”

Anne-Sophie Breysem

Ode to local products

"I believe you make more interesting creations on the plate if you have someone with whom you can bounce around ideas."

Ansoler follows the rhythm of the seasons strictly and collaborates extensively with local farmers. Even their house cocktail is brimming with local ingredients. “Our current offering combines earthy red cabbage juice, sweet apple jenever and a splash of tonic. I love jenever. I use a full-bodied grain jenever in hearty sauces, add zesty lemon jenever to dressings and find that vanilla jenever gives a great creamy note in desserts. Hasselt is proud of its jenever culture; we even have a museum about it.

And as of this year, there is even one named after me! The Anne-Sophie B is a young grain jenever that is not barrel-aged, with a mild, subtle finish as a result. It is produced using the jenever museum’s historic distilling equipment. Did you know that jenever is the ancestor of gin? English soldiers encountered our local jenever here and then recreated something similar back home, but with more herbs. I am proud to promote this authentic, local spirit.”

Limburg is known for its white asparagus, which relies on a labour-intensive cultivation process that has resulted in the name “white gold”. “I always get my asparagus from Lavrijsen farm. It is ultra-fresh, fully flavoured and not too bitter. I like to cook with brown shrimp, apples, pears, cabbage and root vegetables too. Our climate produces such a wonderfully diverse range of fruits and vegetables, it is easy to find inspiration. I am also very pleased with Mattes, my pig farmers. They raise their own piglets and even grow grain themselves to use as feed. I’m convinced the pork tastes better if the pigs have lived a good life.”

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