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Peter Goossens
Restaurant Hof van Cleve

Peter Goossens

“Food should taste good. It’s that simple.” These are the words of Peter Goossens, godfather of Flemish gastronomy. His iconic restaurant Hof van Cleve has sported three stars for nearly twenty years in a row now, with a cooking style that has adapted flexibly right up to the present day. “The style of thirty years ago is simply no longer acceptable. Our sauces are much less rich, meals are lighter and the mood is more casual.”

A meal at Hof van Cleve must be a celebration; both the food and the general experience. “Our team does its utmost to give all our guests a good feeling every day. We aim for perfection on your plate. With this approach, we cannot say ‘today isn’t our best effort’. People expect an unforgettable experience and we strive to provide that, each and every time.”

The unique taste of our regional products

“In Flanders, we are blessed to have really excellent local products,” says the chef. “For example, I only use fish from the North Sea. Why would I look further? Langoustines, cod, brill, turbot and sole; they are all wonderful to work with.” Vegetables are also given a chance to shine. “Ever since I started this restaurant, I’ve been putting vegetables in the spotlight. In winter I like to cook with chicory, a splendid local product. Sprouts are also delicious if prepared well. They must however be served after the first frost, as they become much milder then. In spring, I love white asparagus. Ilse Vancraeynest at Aspergehuis in Moorsele puts her passion into growing the very best asparagus for us. They’re so tender they barely need to be peeled at all. Good asparagus is juicy, but at the same time, has a good bite. The flavour almost cannot be described, it’s so unique and complex. Hop shoots are another item on our menu every year. Foreigners are surprised to learn that these shoots come from the same plant as the hops used in beer. The cone-shaped flowers hang down from high, bound-up vines in clusters in late summer, while the shoots grow underground. They are the same vines, just cultivated in raised beds to keep them out of the sun and preserve their white colour. It is a uniquely Flemish product that isn’t cultivated anywhere else.”

Peter Goossens

Ode to Flemish cooking

"Food should taste good. It’s that simple."

The seasons determine the rhythm of Goossens’ cooking. “We’re just about done with game now and looking forward to spring’s first lamb. That will be especially magnificent in combination with tender fresh peas. We also have some classics that we serve all year round. One of our specialties is grilled turbot with lobster or oyster bearnaise.” Although everything that is served at Hof van Cleve delights the eye, Goossens is clear about his priorities. “I’m no florist, I won’t ever add flowers to a plate that don’t add anything to the flavour. Visual considerations must never dominate.” Another important aspect of his philosophy is respect for local cuisine. “There’s no need for us to mimic Spanish or Scandinavian cooking, our own rich food culture already offers plenty of inspiration. For example, in Spain they eat tapas because they are used to taking siestas. In the north, there is a lot of canning and preserving to make it through the long winters. We must look for our own context and individuality. Think of our beer-flavoured stews, eel with green herbs and chicken vol-au-vents; let us take pride in these wonderful dishes.”

Goossens’ influence reaches beyond the doors of his restaurant. “I’m proud to have had the opportunity to train the next generation of chefs. They all follow their own paths, but are also all dedicated to flavour. I’m happy to have passed that on. In the end that’s what it’s all about, after all.”

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