The craft of cooking

TEXT: JULIËN L’ORTYE | PHOTOS © BISTRO ZUIDLANDE

You do not need more than five minutes with Arend Nieboer, owner of Bistro Zuidlande, to learn that he is not your average chef. While talking to him, you hear him discuss “respecting the seasons” and “using products from the region” constantly – and you will learn that he thoroughly abides these rules.

“There is nothing special about what I am doing, you know,” he begins. What comes next is a long, interesting and sometimes critical monologue about how the craft of cooking has changed over the years. “Nowadays, most dishes do not even look like they are edible. Chefs give all their attention to the appearance of their food and forget to think about the taste.” That is exactly what Nieboer is rebelling against with his own restaurant, which he started little more than two years ago. 

Nieboer decided to switch from “wasteful” à la carte menus to three, four or fivecourse menus, which he describes as a blessing. Not in the least because he is doing everything on his own, which can be quite a task when the place is packed – especially during the weekends. “Imagine when you have a table with four guests and they all order a different starter, main course and dessert. That does not only mean that you have a lot of work, but at the end of the day, it results in having to throw away a lot of unused products.”

According to Nieboer, who has over 40 years of experience and has spent many years as a chef in starred restaurants in France, the main approach to cooking is using healthy, fair products that people are familiar with. “A healthy balance with seasonal products has never been very trendy, but that is exactly how it is supposed to be.” Together with his right-hand Bobby Dest, who does an amazing job of making sure their guests have a carefree and enjoyable evening, he serves weekly changing dishes. For example, a risotto of crustaceans as a starter, followed by grilled tuna with ratatouille and a vinaigrette of Kalamata olives, finished off with French cheese and fig compote.

If an evening of no-nonsense cooking and being spoiled to the brim sounds delightful to you, visiting Bistro Zuidlande is a must.

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