Caroline en Nicolas Baerten en Decloedt - landscape

Ambassador of GOESTING

Caroline en Nicolas Baerten en Decloedt - portret
Caroline & Nicolas Baerten en Decloedt
Restaurant humus & hortense

Nicolas Decloedt & Caroline Baerten

At humus x hortense’s plant-based kitchen, seasonal cooking gains new meaning. Chefs Nicolas Decloedt and Caroline Baerten design their menus in accordance with no fewer than 24 micro-seasons. They follow the rhythm of the fields meticulously.

“We’ve been working with Dries Delanote for over a decade now. He calls himself a wild farmer. In his fields, nature plays the tune. What we value is that he practices regenerative farming. That means he enriches the soil instead of exhausting it. He doesn’t plough, use fertiliser or pesticides. That way, the micro-organisms in the soil can do their work in peace. The bio-diversity above ground benefits as well. The results are clear to taste; every year the quality of his soil improves and his vegetables, herbs and fruit become more flavourful. Our collaboration is a continuous dialogue. At planting time, he asks which herbs and vegetables we’d like to have on the menu. When it’s time to harvest, he keeps us informed of which produce is at its best.”

Botanical gastronomy

Once they know which crops are available, Nicolas and Caroline determine what to serve their guests. “Sometimes I dream up a botanical cocktail and Nicolas works out a dish to match. It can also be the other way around.” They currently have a savoury Paris-Brest on the menu, made with layers of smoked celeriac, a vegetable peel reduction, dots of fermented quince and celeriac charcuterie slices the chefs developed themselves at food scientist Maxime Willems’ laboratory. “The result is amazing, the celeriac matures and ferments very slowly until it’s like an umami bomb.” To complement these full-bodied flavours, Caroline serves an infusion of milky oolong from Taiwan. “I infuse the tea in a slightly tart kombucha and a refreshing cordial. I combine that with homemade amazake, Belgian gin and sake; the velvety mouthfeel rounds out the dish’s intense flavours.” The drinks pairing offers diners a chance to taste at least three of Caroline’s creations, along with carefully selected natural wines, Belgian craft beers, ciders and sakes.

Sustainability as a guiding principle

Sustainability is deeply embedded as a value at humus x hortense. It’s not a buzzword, it’s a fundamental principle that guides all aspects of the restaurant’s operation. “We don’t stop at what goes on your plate. For example, our staff wear organic cotton clothing, made by a Brussels fashion brand. Our team also receives a financial incentive to come to work by bicycle or public transport. Our tables are made of responsibly harvested Belgian oak. No bottled water is served here; instead we have filtered tap water in reusable glass bottles. We’ve banned the use of plastic wrap in our kitchen and are currently challenging ourselves to reduce our monthly water consumption by 10,000 litres.” And of course, all the cooking at humus x hortense is entirely plant-based. “It is a logical extension of our quest to minimise our impact on the planet. However, we prefer the term botanical gastronomy.”

The team at humus x hortense received a green Michelin star in 2021 for their efforts, on which point Nicolas and Caroline do have one critical note. “We don’t think culinary guides should be approaching sustainability as a separate category. It shouldn’t be necessary to choose between tasty or sustainable food. It’s perfectly possible to combine the two!

Chefs have an important role to play in addressing our current environmental challenges. They influence trends and support certain suppliers and thereby, specific types of agriculture. If we all make more sustainable choices, that has a huge impact on our food system.”


Environment and enjoyment go hand in hand

"Our guests feel at home here; they are made welcome. We emphasise the beauty and enjoyability of plant-based food. In our eyes, that is the best strategy for change."

Despite their strong beliefs, Caroline and Nicolas don’t wish to polarise, but do want to encourage critical reflection. “We desperately need to think about ways to ensure a liveable planet for future generations. To do so, we must become more creative in our use of natural resources and realise that farmers, chefs and diners are all part of a larger ecosystem.

Our restaurant demonstrates a positive approach. Our guests feel at home here; they are made welcome. We emphasise the beauty and enjoyability of plant-based food. In our eyes, that is the best strategy for change.”

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