Meet fine food fanatic Sven Van Coillie

13.06.2018 - Dries Tack

Sven Van Coillie is a Foodie with a capital ‘F’. Food is his passion, his hobby, and his job. It has taken him all over the world and has offered plenty of one-of-a-kind experiences.

Sven, who also works for Njam and the famous international culinary website wbpstars.com, now continues his career at Gault&Millau. In addition to that, he also runs a popular food blog about gastronomic travels called Belgian Taste Buds. Food is such a major part of his life, we had to talk to him about it.

When did you realise fine food was such an important thing in your life?

When I was about 12 years old, my parents took me to a really great restaurant near Leuven called Spaans Dak. It was amazing. We continued going there for my birthday for the next 5 or 6 years. I think my love for food started right there.

Name a magazine/book/website that makes your mouth water.

I started reading magazine articles about gastronomy in my late teens. My family had a subscription to Weekend Knack which each week it features a piece about a famous chef or a restaurant in it. The fascinated me. I even started collecting the articles which I still have, all bound in one big folder.

However, all the food-related work I do made me really picky when judging similar content. I don’t think there are many good food magazines. There are some nice websites of course. Still, my favourite ones all are usually the personal chef or restaurant pages. A picture of a beautiful dish posted on a great chef’s social media is probably most likely to make my mouth water these days.

The best Belgian gastronomic experience?

My life-changing one was at L'air du Temps almost 10 years ago. Then there is Hof van Cleve. When it comes to products they use, it is the number one place in Belgium - the quality there is just amazing. Another one I like is La Source in Lanaken. Spaans Dak still holds a sweet spot in my heart as well. A little different from all these but still really impressive is Mmei that serves quality Chinese food. There are just so many great restaurants in Belgium, I can keep going. We really can be proud of our culinary heritage.

Thinking about it, I would say I used to be more attracted to the more elaborate cooking. Like the molecular gastronomy, experience dining, and things like that. But in the past few years that shifted to the more classical kitchen. These days I can really enjoy eating more simple foods like great papas or more classical dishes like crepe Suzette. Or a nice piece of meat with some Belgian fries. It feels good to go back to basics.

Which Belgian food artisan you admire the most?

I think the biggest food artisan in Belgium for the moment is Karen Torosyan. He puts dishes like pâté en croûte and millefeuille back on the gastronomy map in Belgium. For me, that proves that he is a real artisan. And, of course, there’s Roger van Damme, who was named the pastry chef of the world last year. What an amazing achievement!

What’s your favourite food shopping place?

If I had time, I would always to go the more artisan places like Van Tricht’s for cheeses and De Laet & Van Haver’s for meat. And, of course, visit farmers to get some fresh vegetables as well. Unfortunately, my schedule doesn’t allow this and it is often my wife that has to do the shopping. And me, I only have time to visit Delhaize every now and then…

What is your favourite or the most unusual food pairing you love?

I’ve mastered this secret spare-ribs recipe over the years and it works perfectly with a Duvel or a Tripel Karmeliet. A simple but excellent pairing!

The unusual one would probably be sea salt and chocolate. When I order a moelleux au chocolat at a restaurant, I always ask for a little bit of sea salt to go with it. And peanuts. If I can have chocolate, salt, and peanuts - that’s perfect for me.

The worst restaurant experience in Belgium?

Well, I obviously try to avoid bad restaurants. The ones that focus on quantity rather than quality. Or the ones that have a menu with something from every cuisine. Like, they offer Thai dishes, Belgian classics, Indian curries - they seem to have everything but none of it is really good. I think all people in general should avoid going to those places.

What would your last meal be?

I would have a whole list of simply amazing products. I’d start with some great caviar, some sea urchins, have the best quality plateau des fruits de mer. Then I’d go for a piece of melt-in-your-mouth Wagyu beef. And then finish it all off with a great dessert like a mille-feuille.

Which Belgian talent we should interview next?

Upcoming chefs like Willem Hiele, Bruno Timperman, and Pajtim Bajrami. Also, Niels Brants from Leuven. He’s very young and has opened two restaurants already. He works with his girlfriend as well and it would be interesting to hear about their life that revolves solely around gastronomy.

 

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