”To have the best restaurant in food, wine and service, is what binds us ”
Working in a high demanding and sometimes hectic Michelin star environment is probably not for everyone. In Restaurant Vinkeles, Executive Chef Jurgen van der Zalm and Maître-Sommelier Natasja Noorlander work closely together to make a success of every evening.
“6 years ago we started working together, we really have the same view when it comes to flavours and delivering service of the highest standard. Together, we have developed a very clear vision on the direction of Restaurant Vinkeles, what we want to achieve and how we like it to be” Jurgen says.
What makes Vinkeles special to us?
Natasja explains that “the classical approach combined with modern influences and techniques really defines Vinkeles. This is recognizable in both the dishes, as well as our service. Not only in Vinkeles, but in the entire hotel actually.” Jurgen adds that he really likes Natasja’s approach to service, which is quite relaxed with a lot of personal attention.
Moreover, Jurgen’s passion for the most beautiful ingredients of the highest quality is something really important at Vinkeles. Jurgen: “To me, Vinkeles is something much more than a restaurant or a working environment. I have been here for more than 12 years now, so a big part of my life has been in this kitchen. My team, the opportunities and all the experiences I have had here is not something I take for granted. The beautiful thing to me, is that we are part of a hotel that fully supports their individual departments. We get all the space to develop, find our own ways and follow our own ambitions. Therefore it really feels like our own restaurant. With its own vision, and own ideas that we are able to carry out.’’.
And what defines the success of our collaboration?
Jurgen: ”I have great respect for Natasja’s way of thinking. She has a magical sort of flavour database in her head and really has a great sense for taste. Her knowledge and continuous enthusiasm brings out the best in me and many others. I often have a spontaneous or unexpected idea, which makes her having to think quick but she always finds a way to get a perfect combination in food and wine and also knows how to translate this to the team and to our guests.”
Natasja: “The communication part is really important here. Our common ambition to have the best restaurant in food, wine and service is what binds us. Our ideas sometimes need a little extra explanation to the guests, and this is where my team and I come in. To take our guests on a journey with us. For example, some time ago, we served a beautiful scallop dish with black truffle and a bone marrow broth. In our Chef’s Signature Menu, we served this dish after the main course. It feels strange to serve a fish dish after the main course – one of our signature dishes, roasted ‘Bresse’ pigeon – but because of its rich and intense flavour, it made sense for us to serve it post main course. As we are explaining these kind of concepts at the table, our guests understand our philosophy and enjoy their gastronomic experience rather than wondering why it’s served this way”.
Natasja really has a deep understanding of Jurgens way of cooking and really enjoys his style. “I find working with Jurgen very special. It really amazes me how skilled he is and how he comes up with dishes that keep on surprising me. High in flavor, yet so elegant and well balanced. When I taste a new dish and I get surprised again, I realize how proud I am to be part of this journey.” Jurgen is flattered by the compliments, but highlights that it’s a mutual effort. “Natasja is a passionate professional, she really shows that personal service makes all the difference in a restaurant. She really understands our guests, anticipates on their wishes and translates these to our team of chefs, and back. This is such a crucial element: if you’re not comfortable and relaxed while dining with us, you are not able to experience the dishes fully. Together, we take care of the full culinary experience’’.
Maître-Sommelier – Restaurant Vinkeles
Jurgen van der Zalm
Executive Chef – Restaurant Vinkeles