The honesty and simplicity of Willem Hiele

Daniel Roldán


The Belgian chef explains the outlines of his new phase on his return to Ostend

Either a chef or a fisherman. Those were the two professions little Willem Hiele wanted to become when he grew up. His grandfather, who fished for shrimp and prawns off the Belgian coast, was the reason. Hence his fascination with the men of the sea. A wonderful soup was made with these products in the family home. The second part of the dilemma was at the table. While he was deciding, Hiele worked in a bakery, almost as a punishment from his father, where he fell in love with making bars, buns and other products.

In the end, he opted for the kitchen, as he explained at Fusión Alimentos de España in Madrid, as Hiele decided to talk on stage, not to cook. He wanted to make a shrimp dish, but it was out of season. "For me, cooking is about observation and being part of society and nature. I don't believe in very technical recipes, they don't work for me", explained the Belgian chef.

This curiosity led him to notice his partner's eight-year-old son drawing. He saw him take a blank sheet of paper and do whatever he wanted. "When I saw that child, I started to create new dishes from that point of view. As a result, the restaurant has two different menus for lunch and dinner. I only have 18 people in the restaurant and it's very difficult to keep up with me, but this gives me the freedom to cook. That's what I want to do", he added.

Hiele's change came in December 2021, when he decided to close his restaurant and return to Ostend. "It was very difficult to explain to everyone why I did it." In the summer of 2022, he opened a restaurant under his own name in the historic polders (marshland reclaimed for agriculture) of the Keignaert, where he develops this simple cuisine and boasts that everything on the table comes from his stoves. "It was a very raw process. New energy, new staff", adds the Belgian chef. "I had to understand the building I was in and my environment. So, here I am, a year later, trying to be grateful and cooking in a pure, simple and very honest way", said Hiele of his neo-Flemish cuisine, deeply rooted in the terroir.






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