The Netherlands, small country, big influence…. even on gastronomy!

Windmills, the dunes and dykes, the weed, and of course the Red Light District in Amsterdam. Everyone knows the stereotype examples of The Netherlands. But besides those overrated tourist attractions, the country is a big player on global scale. Of course you know Heineken, our fantastic national field hockey team and Shell, the oil company. But did you also know about Unilever, Boskalis and all our famous DJ’s?

For example Boskalis, this dredging company works all over the world, from Dubai to the Unites States. They are providing other countries in the world with their expertise on creating land on water and building dykes. Creating land on water like the Netherlands did with the 1400 square kilometer is a magnificent piece of art, and now shared all over the world.

Unilever is the top manufacturer of drinks and ready-meals who sells all over the world, and is competitor of Nestlé, Proctor & Gamble and PepsiCo. This company is gaining high profits and is the classic example of Dutch global trade and multi-national entrepreneurship what developed in the Golden Century (1600-1700). Furthermore, not to speak about the Dutch enormous music production industry. With big names as Tiesto, Martin Garrix and Armin van Buuren the small country reaches out over the world. Besides those top artists, there is also a very broad sub-class market, which is supported by the Dutch government.

You see that The Netherlands spreads its arms all over the world, even in industries you haven’t heard from yet. All nice, but one you also haven’t heard from is much more tasty, enjoyable and luxurious. It’s the Dutch high-end gastronomy industry.

Some countries and their Michelin ratios

Let’s introduce you to the hereby developed Michelin ratio. The amount of Michelin star restaurants divided by the citizens (in millions) multiplied by thousand. For The Netherlands this means 105 Michelin star restaurants on divided by 17, a ratio of 6,18. Compared with Germany, the ‘bier und wurst’ neighbour with 300 Michelin star restaurants over 82 million citizens, gives an Michelin ratio of 3,65. Also compared with other European countries Holland can be seen as an absolute culinary hotspot.

Some examples are the Librije, three star restaurant from chef Johnnie Boer, perfect French fusion cuisine with influences from all over the world. Or the Okura hotel in Amsterdam, which is the only hotel in the world with a one- and two star restaurant under one roof. Chef de cuisine Sergio Herman ran Oud Sluis, rated as number 17 by World’s 50 Best, got 20 out of 20 points by Gault Millau and three stars of Michelin in 2013 when he closed the restaurant. He wanted to spend more time with family but started two other restaurants in Holland (Pure C) and Belgium (The Jane) which were rewarded with one and two stars respectively.

NIVEN grilled vegetables (Pinterest)

Besides those famous and excellent restaurants there is a large basis of unknown Michelin restaurants, in almost every city to be found. Of course this is only Michelin, there is a wide variety of Bib-Gourmands, good restaurants with a three course menu of less then €37,50. This is popular by the middle class who can’t afford the high-end restaurants on regular basis.

Of course there are also remarks. Michelin rates restaurants by cuisine and service, this service must be formal. As Amsterdam is following Berlin its example to be a place for freedom, alternativeness, trendy and open minded a more informal setting takes over the city. Even the wealthy ones are interested in this stream and are visiting the good quality bars and restaurant without the ultra formal gestures. This results in Michelin restaurants becoming less popular, and the rise of very good cuisines in more retro of modern French informal style. Those restaurants are harder to find, but worth it.

Since the last century France is seen as the capital of cooking when Paul Bocuse improved the French way of cooking, the nouvelle cuisine, which is still practised by all chef’s in the modern gastronomy. On the level of gastronomy France is always the classic mother of the western cuisine. The fine dishes, the textures, high taste and beautiful presented dishes are unbeatable. France is the origin and other countries made up their own cuisine based on the French “haute-cuisine”.  Chefs like to use local products and products which are significant for the country. This makes that many chef’s have a menu based on French cooking techniques but with local products. This distinguishes them from others.

The original Dutch cuisine is rather boring, potatoes, vegetables and a good piece of meat. Holland is a farmers country so a good, big meal was necessary to keep the farmers farming. This simple and one-sided way of cooking made the Dutch cuisine not very populair amongst the younger generation and by gastronomy lovers. A few years ago no one would ever think that it was possible to have dinner at a haute-Dutch-cuisine. Luckily more and more chefs are thinking out of the box and are using typical Dutch items as kale, Zeeuwse oyster, mussels, herring and so on. They use the products not as in the classic Dutch farmer cuisine overcooked, plain and in big amounts, but in French style. Get all the taste out of it, beautiful presentation, complex dishes and innovative combinations.

Liudger van der Meer’s signature dish with tangerine, dimsum and cauliflower. (Instagram)

It’s definitely recommendable to visit some Dutch restaurants. Three examples who are stand-outs in the industry:

  • RijksRestaurant. With chef de cuisine Joris Bijdendijk Rijks gained one Michelin star in no-time. He tries to implement as much as local products in his dishes as possible. This is also his mission, make Dutch people proud on their own food. The restaurant is located at the Museumplein in Amsterdam, as part of the Rijksmuseum, ideal to combine both!
  • Restaurant NIVEN. Niven Kunz tries to cook with as much vegetables possible. The farmer style cooking is not relevant anymore as it’s not responsible to eat so much meat nowadays. His restaurant can be found in Rijswijk, close to The Hague.
  • Restaurant Wannee. This student-lead restaurant in the capital of the Northern province Friesland. Executive Chef Albert Kooij is seen as one of the main inventors of the New Dutch Cuisine and based his menu on the 80/20 principles. Liudger van der Meer is chef de cuisine and creates the often changing menu in cooperation with Albert Kooij. Due to the educational system behind this, Wannee is a prefect place to have a good course menu for half the price elsewhere.

I’m very curious what you think of the Dutch cuisine and don’t hesitate to share the experiences!

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