“Prêt-à-Cuisiner”: Commis de Cuisine by Janneke Hoeben (Holland)

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NOTE:

To continue feeding “dynamically” the content of this blog, here is an interview with a “coup-de-coeur” makes great products, just in the spirit of ” la Jeune cuisine”. The culifashion designer Janneke Hoeben is a talented illustrator (training) who has decided to create a kitchen textile label of high quality and affordable fully anchored in the Netherlands. More, it’s local, pratical, visually stunning and sustainable.

His work matches perfectly with the spirit of this blog: to reveal people with passion and high quality projects (worldwide) revolving around gastronomy and food.

Q&A:

1-(Scoffier) How would you describe the path that led you to create “Commis de Cuisine”?

JHoeben– Being educated as a fashion designer, I worked almost a decade in the fashion industry as a designer. To develop myself further and to focus on my passion regarding the visual aspects of food I started as an independent entrepreneur making illustrations of everything that involves food and drinks. Having chosen this specialism, I realized that I am the first culinary illustrator, or culistrator as I call it, on the globe. The lack of working with tangible products made me decide to combine both work fields. Our kitchen textile label, Commis de Cuisine, is where the worlds of fashion and food, by means of culinary illustrations, meet.

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2-(Scoffier) How do you explain the idea behind your business?

JHoeben– As said Commis de Cuisine is and unique kitchen textile label in which the worlds of fashion and food are united. The brand is called Commis de Cuisine, after the French definition for the youngest help in a restaurant kitchen. At Commis de Cuisine we wondered: ‘Why just dress the food?’ In our kitchens we spend more and more attention to our food and drinks. And on our appearance by wearing fashionable clothes. Why isn’t there any fashion in the kitchen? The products of Commis de Cuisine jump into this gap. While having a dinner with friends, your apron does not have to be put away quickly anymore before serving, it may be seen!

The products of Commis de Cuisine are no ordinary kitchen textiles. They are kitchen couture, culifashion, and kitchen confection. ‘Prêt à cuisiner’ as opposed to ‘prêt à porter’. With technical knowledge, we look beyond what existing kitchen textile labels are offering. Comfort in the kitchen, but in a way where the products make the whole picture look even better! Influenced by fashion, the products of our collection form beautiful assets for our clients and their kitchens.

3-(Scoffier) It was important that your creations are entirely “Made in Holland”?

JHoeben– We embrace sustainable, responsible and organic solutions when producing items for our label. Nowadays production is almost completely outsourced to foreign countries. This has a negative impact on the knowledge and craftsmanship in western countries as the Netherlands. In earlier days we had a florissant textile industry.

This is exactly why Commis de Cuisine launched a kitchen textiles line, which is produced in the Netherlands ‘99% Made in Holland’. We do not claim to be exactly 100 percent Dutch, because yarn, fabrics and buttons for example have to come from further away. But we are on the right track: labels are made in Holland; artworks are being printed in an eco-friendly manner by hand in our hometown Utrecht; production takes place in our own workplace and in small workplaces in the Netherlands. And even the cards and labels are printed around the corner from our atelier.

The first collection and the new fall-winter collection, from the very first napkin to the last apron, are designed and produced in Holland. So no mass production from a country far far away, but handmade durable kitchen goods.

4-(Scoffier) What ambitions do you have for your work? Increase the number of items, to sell abroad?

JHoeben– We are still in the initial phase of the brand. There is still so much to be done to develop Commis de Cuisine even further. Both in terms of reputation and production. At this moment we are working hard to see if there is a possible collaboration with a larger workshop in the Netherlands for increased production, so Commis de Cuisine can find its way in retail stores and international web shops next to our own online store.

We are also trying to look for better materials, ECO-cotton and linen, and whether it is possible to have this produced in the Netherlands.

We get many requests from entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry as well. People want an unique design for their own restaurant, hotel or bar. A distinctive interior is becoming increasingly important nowadays, so an unique apron design for your staff or a fantastically beautiful napkin on the table is something that works. Commis de Cuisine wants to be known for this specialization. Small numbers for unique users.

5-(Scoffier) Have you always been interested in food, gastronomy?

JHoeben– My love for food and gastronomy evolved ever since I was a very young girl. I was raised by a mother who had a keen eye for modern tastes in the kitchen. She was way ahead of her time. The visual and social aspect of food has an important place in my life ever since my childhood. My final collection in order to graduate from the arts school was entirely based on the form, texture and color of food and drinks. I never learned so much about gastronomy until I met my boyfriend, a food lover in private and profession as well. If I have to choose between a designers bag or a dinner in a fine restaurant, I would always go for the second option.

6-(Scoffier) What are your childhood memories associated with cooking?

JHoeben– As a child I sat on the counter or helped my mother in the kitchen. Whatever ingredient she used, I always wanted to taste. From peppers and raw potatoes to snow peas straight from the land. This way I learned a lot about color, smell, and texture of ingredients. Besides that I had a sweet and above all fashionable grandmother. We were always busy in her kitchen as well. Capping beans or preparing a cucumber salad. But, whatever she did, she always wore a beautiful matching apron. Maybe that is where my sense for style in the kitchen comes from.

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FURTHER INFORMATION

1. Commis de Cuisine

2. Janneke Hoeben, Culistrator

N.B: Copyright for the photos © Commis de Cuisine

Tous droits réservés. Copyright ©2008-2012.

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Chef/Iniative: “20X8” by chef Peeter Pihel (Tallinn, Estonia)

NOTE:

“Initiative of a chef” is a recent addition to this blog. With this, I want to emphasize research or special events performed by emerging chefs in the world.

To inaugurate this category, an interview with Chef Peeter Pihel about the events “20X8” at Tallinn (Estonia). For me, Peeter Pihel is currently one of the most interesting young chefs of the moment, besides his cuisine, he helped to develop and create a real “cuisine” in Estonia and to raise the standards of future young chefs. He is a true pioneer to open the gastronomy of Estonia at the rest of the world…And this work is just beginning!

Here is the story of an event born of old cookbooks found within the walls… Inspiring!

Q&A:

1-(Scoffier) Initially, you found old cookbooks in the walls of the Pädaste Manor and I know that you’re very interested by your Estonian’s roots? Have you discovered new things in these books?

PPihel- The biggest surprise was that already in the beginning of the last century selection of ingredients was very rich – foie gras, lobsters, different meat, exotic herbs. All these things are mentioned and used in recipes. There are also mentioned proper descriptions how to use those products and how to grow them – for example artichoke. I believe that locals use to put aside seeds for usage at home gardens and it would be interesting to observe how different bushes, plants etc. have spread. Many tips can be found about fertilization – for example it is suggested to add aspargus more horse dung, it makes higher temperature and aspargus loves it.

2-(Scoffier) How did you get the idea for these culinary events “20 X 8″ (just the old books)? What are the objectives?

PPihel- Idea behind “20 by 8″ is to step out from everyday routine, focus on something different and to re-introduce old traditions, ingredients etc. that may seem to be more or less forgotten. For now we have made total four events under “20 by 8” and the last dinner for this season takes place in the end of May.

3-(Scoffier) How do you develop your recipes for these evenings (creative process with your team, way to work…)? Are the events inspired the restaurant’s menu?

PPihelIt is pure teamwork and it is very enjoyable. I try to find the background – meet historians, talk to people, who use to work in Pädaste, check old photots etc. If I have marked the key words, then we sit down with my team and discuss in which way we are going with the recipes. Everybody learns something and widens their knowledge.

4-(Scoffier) I am curious, there is a recipe that you consider a “coup de coeur/hit”, if so which one?

PPihel- In every events are some hit dishes, I would say biggest hit has been reindeer brain and lung sausage in Zero waste dinner. We take in whole reindeer rump and try to use everithing what you can use for food. Amazing texture and we was happy with results!

5-(Scoffier) I have interviewed a year ago, since your name is recognized among the chefs (International), restaurant NEH will be open all year and you think a lot (Kitchen Crunch Blog) about the development of gastronomy in Estonia. Are people more aware of the importance of “local products” and their culinary heritage? Do you perceive a change?

PPihel- It is nice to say, that things are moving forward in Estonia – more and more chefs are finding themselves local farmer who will provide vegetables, meat, eggs, herbs etc. Restaurant concepts are getting more clear and concepts are really being follow. Lots of herbs from the wild nature are being used – in Estonia it is very easy, 15 – 20 minutes by car and you find yourself in the middle of forest which offers rich harvest. In my blog, I write about subjects and things in Estonian culinary world that could develop even faster. For example, I think that young chefs in Estonia should go and see what is going on in the big culinary scene, discover a world lot more and educate themselves in top restaurants. I really mean TOP restaurants! But overall I think that things in Estonian culinary world are heading on the right direction.

To sum it up – not only chefs but the whole society in Estonia have started to value and appreciate their roots. Estonians know how to make good dark rye bread and it is more and more popular at home!

FURTHER INFORMATION

1. Pädaste Manor/Alexander Restaurant

2. Neh Restaurant

3. Kitchen Crunch blog

4. Best Emerging Chefs (Q+A)

5. Chefs Talk project

N.B: Copyright for the photos © Peeter Pihel

Tous droits réservés. Copyright ©2008-2012.

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Coffeescenti, Tim Wendelboe (Oslo, Norway)

NOTE:

To start this Series, I chose to present a short interview with one of the best experts “Coffee” in the world: Tim Wendelboe.

The world of quality coffee “Third Wave” is expanding ans transformation worldwide, the coffee price increases and the coffee is very often a neglected by good restaurants.

So it was natural to discuss with Tim Wendelboe, an insider who knows all aspects of coffee: The purchase of farms, the coffee business, through roasting and “what is a good barista”. We must not forget that Wendelboe also wrote one of the best reference books on the world of coffee “Coffee with Tim Wendelboe”.

Q&A:

1-(Scoffier) How would you describe the path that led you to be the reference “Coffee” in Norway? How do you explain the concept behind your business?

TWendelboe– It all started in 1998, when I finished school. I did not know what I wanted to study and I wanted to work for a year or two in order to see if anything came about. As I did not have a job I had to look for one and the only one I could get was in a coffee shop called Stockfleth’s. In fact I did not drink coffee at that time as I really did not like it. However when I got a full time position in the coffee shop I realised there was bad coffee and there was good coffee and I actually started to like the drink given it was of good quality. The owner of the store was not very involved and there was no one to run the small coffee shop, so it just came natural to me to take the responsibility to run the shop as I had some experience from working in a grocery store while I was attending school.

After about 6 months, the owner forced me to compete in the Barista Competition in Norway. I happily did and did quite well on a shared 5th place. Of course I am very competitive and I also felt I could do a lot better, so I decided to compete again the next year which was in 2000. I managed to win the Norwegian Championship several times but never did better than 2nd place in the WBC. This really annoyed me and although I always tried to do better but it did not give any results. It was not until I took a year off competition in 2003 and started to work with roasting and blending that I started to understand what I was doing wrong.

I was not a good taster and I did not have references in terms of green coffee quality and roasting. I spent 6 months playing around with all sorts of coffees, trying to perfect the roast and tasting the results. I finally understood what coffee could potentially taste like and started to train a new competition. I also realized that I was neglecting the service part of the competition. Yes, I had great technique, but I payed no attention to pleasing the judges, what are sort of “pretend customers” in the competition. I therefore started to think a lot about service in general and how I wanted to approach the competition and service in the coffee shops I ran.

The following year in 2004, I finally won the World Barista Championship, which was a door opener in many ways. Although I already had made myself a good reputation among some coffee people, the exposure through winning the WBC was enormous. At that time I was running all the Stockfleth’s coffee shops  together with a friend of mine, but I felt I was growing out of the organization and decided to quit to work freelance as a World Champion Barista. As a freelance consultant, I was able to travel around the world, teaching and learning from other coffee professionals around the world. My philosophy is that you learn much more through sharing your own knowledge with others because you always get new ideas in return. This is still our philosophy at Tim Wendelboe and I think we have benefitted a huge amount from being transparent and not keeping any trade secrets. In fact I think people with trade secrets tend to be the loosers in the coffee industry in the long run. After doing a lot of barista trainings, I started to notice that a lot of times I could not get the coffee quality that I was  looking for. I had been roasting for 3 years already for Stockfleth’s coffee bars, but I quit doing this as I started as a consultant. I also realized that I needed a base where I could train people and experiment with coffee. Therefore I decided to open a roaster, espresso bar and a training center in Oslo. We are focusing our business on wholesale of roasted coffee and I spend most of my time traveling to consult and buy and develop green coffee together with coffee producers around the world. Our goal is to be among the best roastery in the world and that is not possible to achieve if you don’t work closely with the ones who supply your raw material, the unroasted coffee. Therefore we do not only source all our coffees ourselves, but we try to work with the producers to systemize and implement new producing techniques at the farm level in order to develop their coffees in the direction we want. Of course by doing so a lot of costs are added throughout the production chain, but that means we need to pay more for the coffee, which fortunately our customers are willing to pay for.

The reason for opening an espresso bar in conjunction with the roastery was to be able to show our customer what our coffees can taste like. Sort of a showroom for our roasting business. We wanted to open a bar where coffee is in focus and where people can come to ask us questions and learn about coffee. Therefore we decided to have a set menu where a lot of the mocha bullshit and other fuzzy drinks that dilutes and covers up the coffee flavour was not available. The only drinks served was the ones on the menu and we do change the menu daily depending on which coffees we would like to focus on and season. We started selling coffee and some cookies, but now we only sell coffee in our bar. We try to add as little as possible in our coffee drinks, but sometimes we also like to play with ingredients, especially in our Iced coffees during summer. Still there needs to be a clear taste of coffee and it’s origin in everything we serve.

The motto for our bar was not to be a place where our customers came to please their habits, but to be a place where their habits are challenged. We want to push the boundaries of what coffee can be.

2-(Scoffier) With the “Third Wave” in the world of coffee, the barista’s competitions etc., there are more and more people who respect and know the coffee. How do you explain that Oslo is now a place (almost) also known as London or San Francisco?

TWendelboe– I think it has a lot to do with Solberg & Hansen which is the biggest specialty roaster in Norway and the pioneers behind the Barista Competition that we know as the WBC. They started in the mid 90’s to teach people about the barista craft. They were one of the first to buy and market Cup of Excellence coffees and they were always willing to share knowledge and preached about the importance of transparency in the trade and the importance of coffee quality. I think this has affected all coffee people in our industry in Norway and has shaped the Norwegian coffee culture. Since they were dominating the market it meant that competitors needed to find their niche or do a better job than Solberg & Hansen. Since we opened in 2007 we have seen a lot of new roasters popping up in the country, and a lot of the roastery are focusing on improving quality in order to be able to compete in the market. The other important reason for Oslo and Norway being a coffee reference in the world is that traditionally we have been buying good quality coffee and roasting it light for many many years. Even the supermarket coffees you find here is of fair quality, especially when you compare it to coffees in our neighbouring countries like Denmark and Germany. I think this is one of the many reasons why a lot of people still drink a lot of coffee in Norway and has lead to Norway being the second highest consumer of coffee per capita in the world.

3-(Scoffier) The price of coffee just jump in the world. In your opinion, is this a temporary trend (speculation)? Does the consumer can already see a major change?

TWendelboe- I think the commodity graded coffees will stabilise above USD 2 per lb for a long while but I don’t think it will be over USD 3 per lb for long periods of time. The consumption of coffee is growing, but the supply is not growing as fast it seems. This is mostly due to neglected coffee farms during the past 10 years because of low prices and also climate changes has had a huge negative impact on a lot of coffee producing countries.

We see a trend where more farmers are planting more trees and there are always ups and downs from year to year. China has started to grow coffee as well, but I doubt they can supply their own demand if every Chinese drank as much coffee as an average Norwegian.

The top quality coffees is a different story. We see a rise in living standards in many producing countries we buy from. Coffees are getting better because of more sophisticated techniques that involves a lot of manual labour. Therefore the production cost of producing top quality coffees are rising. There is also a boom in the specialty coffee industry all over the world which has increased the demand for these coffees tremendously. I think I can say with certainty that the best coffees will continue to rise in price for the coming years.

4-(Scoffier) A few months ago, you spoke of poverty of “service coffee” in restaurants in Norway (& Scandinavia). You doing the same conclusion for Europe in general? What is the main problem?

TWendelboe- Yes! It is a problem all over the world. I can count on one hand how many times I have had a good coffee experience in a restaurant. The problem is a lack of education. The sommeliers and chefs are not aware that you can get exceptional coffees brewed easily and with higher margins than the convenience solutions can offer. I have to say though that it is not their fault. The roasters and baristas who are dealing with top quality coffees are absolutely terrible at selling their coffees and solutions to restaurants. We need to come up with a solution and a language that the sommeliers and chefs can relate to and that is practical and manageable to handle in a busy restaurant.

5-(Scoffier) You have established a collaboration and helped the restaurant Maaemo (Oslo) has developed a “service coffee” out of the ordinary. How would you describe your collaboration with Pontus Dahlström (sommelier) and Maaemo?

TWendelboe- Pontus contacted me after a customer had complained about the coffee he was serving. He asked me if I could help them improve their coffee service and he really wanted to do the traditional steeped coffee in a kettle “Kokekaffe” in their Nordic Restaurant. We came up wih a solution where they are serving and preparing Kokekaffe (black full immersion steeped coffee) at the table in front of their guests. Simple, easy, theatrical and very tasty. But more importantly, they treat coffee as serious as their wine pairing and every other aspect of their restaurant. Our relationship has evolved a lot since they opened and Pontus has certainly studied a lot about coffee. He is probably the most curious customer we have. He attends cupings on a weekly basis, talks about coffee with us every week and is becoming an experienced coffee taster. After all he is a top sommelier, so he knows how to evaluate taste!

6-(Scoffier) Would you have a suggestion (a “selection of the moment”) of coffee or a useful tip(s) to serve coffee in a restaurant?

TWendelboe- 

1. Get rid of the espresso machine. It only complicates things. It is the most difficult brewing method and in a restaurant it is a logistical nightmare;

2. Get a grinder, water kettle, a manual coffee brewer, some good coffee from a roaster that can teach you how to brew the coffee and off you go. It is not complicated to brew a black filter style cup of coffee, it tastes much better after a delicate meal in a fine dining restaurant and the chances of screwing up is much smaller;

3. Learn more about coffee from the people who knows a lot about coffee. We have done this with several restaurants in Oslo. They are focusing on serving black coffee and we have actually managed to increase coffee sales in several restaurants. If something tastes good, then people tend to want more, but don’t fall into the trap of giving out free refills. Good coffee is expensive, you should charge more for it and make money on it like you do with wine and food. After all, there is no free refill on wine and food in most restaurants I know!

FURTHER INFORMATION

1. Tim Wendelboe

2. Book: Coffee With Tim Wendelboe (English), Schibsted Forlag (2010)

3. Maaemo Restaurant

4. Nordic Barista Cup 2012, August 9-12

N.B: Copyright for the photos © Tim Wendelboe.

Tous droits réservés. Copyright ©2008-2012.

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