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Chef Michaël Vrijmoed Celebrates Belgian Gastronomy Aboard Brussels Airlines

by Kimberly Inlander

Feb 10, 2024

PHOTOS: © BRUSSELS AIRLINES

February 2024

Every year a Belgian Star Chef creates a three-course, business-class menu on Brussels Airlines’ long-haul flights. In October 2023 Michelin-starred Chef Michaël Vrijmoed joined the airline as its year-long Belgian Star Chef.

Vrijmoed helms eponymous Ghent restaurant Vrijmoed and is now the 14th Michelin-starred chef to join the airline’s program, which aims to highlight Belgian recipes and ingredients. Known for leading one of the best vegetable restaurants in the world, Vrijmoed will evolve the business-class menus every three months to make the most of seasonal produce.

“As a Michelin-starred chef, it is a privilege to be allowed to cook for the business-class travelers of Brussels Airlines. I am following in the footsteps of Peter Goossens, one of my tutors. He served as a star chef for the airline in 2015. Through my creations for Brussels Airlines, I will introduce the world to tasty Belgian vegetables accompanied by some East Flemish regional beers and cheeses from cheese refiner Van Tricht,” said Vrijmoed.

Which food is your guilty pleasure? And on the opposite end of the spectrum, what is one ingredient or food you hate to use?
I actually really enjoy breakfast, both sweet and salty options. In Belgium we have, for example, a puff pastry with pudding that is absolutely delicious. Brioche bread or a good baguette can make me really happy. Next door to my restaurant, I have a bakery that has absolutely delicious bread. The man making the bread, my dear friend Joost Arijs, is a real artist to me.

Even though I take a lot of pride in working with vegetables that are typically Belgian, I’m not a big fan of red cabbage. There is something about the flavor and the smell I cannot describe, but I don’t like it.

What dishes would you serve at a private dinner party?
When I invite friends over for dinner, I keep it simple. I already spend enough time in a kitchen. I used to prefer going to a restaurant with friends, but I recently became a dad, so having dinner parties at home is more convenient these days.

I don’t want to stand in the kitchen; I want to spend time with friends. So I’ll keep the dishes simple: a fresh, homemade pizza baked in the green egg or a braised lamb shoulder. Start with an exhaustive aperitif: Some drinks and snacks set the tone, and take it from there.

But, just as in my restaurant, I love to seduce people with vegetarian food, inspired by the seasons.

What was the first meal you ever prepared on your own?
As a kid, I loved to make bread and pastries. Raisin bread and vanilla flan were among my favorites. When I was 14, I wanted to become a baker. My parents convinced me to go to catering school instead. They argued I would see a wider spectrum of possibilities, and I could still become a baker. Today I am thankful for that because, as you know, my life turned out differently.

If you could describe your personal style in one dish, which dish would it be and why?
For me, taste is everything. We start with how a dish should taste, and only after we’ll discuss how a dish should look. When you take a bite, it must be about texture, flavor and smell. I’m not going for a dish that looks nice when you take a picture and has nothing underneath. One of my signature dishes is a crayfish tartare with dashi and Belgian caviar. I had it in one of my first tasting menus, and regular customers keep asking for it. That’s why it is on my à la carte menu today.

Which culinary trend would you like to disappear?
I’m not a big fan of a kitchen full of jellies and mousses, just for the sake of it. My motto is: Less is more. Like you’ll find in typical Japanese cooking, they have an honest kitchen where what you see is what you get. It’s not about complexity but about quality.

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