Martin Klein meets Syrco Bakker

Cocina de las dunas

This place shouldn’t even exist. Yet people have been living in Cadzand-Bad for almost a thousand years. Originally a small island, it has been continuously resculpted by wild North Sea storms. The settlers have drained the flat coastal waters over the centuries, turning the area into Holland’s westernmost seaside resort. Because Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp are all much closer than the nearest Dutch town, many of Syrco Bakker’s guests come from Belgium. Or even farther away: the former sous-chef of Sergio Herman is becoming increasingly famous in his own right. My trip to see Syrco also gives me an opportunity to catch up with Sergio again, who was our guest chef at Hangar-7 long before his Oud Sluis became for a few years the only restaurant in the world to hold three Michelin stars and 20 Gault Millau points at the same time. Since closing the restaurant, Sergio has set up his own group of companies, to which the Pure C restaurant now belongs. Syrco enjoys creative freedom there and has his own culinary style. It’s as extravagant as his teacher – and a little bit Indonesian: Syrco spent some time with his grandmother in Indonesia during his childhood.

Not here. Noirmoutier isn’t Paris. The menu – not to mention the accompanying wines – are very reasonably priced for a two-star restaurant. When Alexandre and his wife Céline first took over his parents’ restaurant in 1999, they had a hard time keeping the business afloat. By 2006, they were ready to throw in the towel and move to the city. But then came the first Michelin star. The couple stayed on the small island and things began to improve. By the time Alexandre was awarded his second star, he was already famous for his marine cuisine. These days, guests travel from afar to visit the restaurant, including an unusual number of other chefs who have become fans of his food. They all appreciate the extremely fresh preparation and the outstanding quality of his produce. Even in my privileged role as Executive Chef at Restaurant Ikarus, I had never seen a live halibut in the kitchen. Alexandre persuaded a fisherman to catch this wonderful flatfish by pole and line and put it straight into a saltwater tank on the boat. The chef therefore receives a large, live halibut every couple of days. Alexandre kills the fish very quickly and humanely using the Japanese Ikejime technique. This makes it taste incredibly fresh and pure. At Restaurant Ikarus, we’ll make the dish with char from the province of Salzburg, a good alternative. We’ll serve it with broccoli sprouts, a goat’s milk espuma, sweet-and-sour pickled blueberries and mustard blossoms – it’s not minimalistic, but it isn’t unnecessarily complicated either. The food arrives at the table piping hot – unlike many modern plate arrangements that can only be served warm, since the many little touches wouldn’t allow for anything else.

We go to visit Raymond Kadem together, who is breeding oysters for Alexandre just a few kilometres from the restaurant. The size two oysters are the chef’s favourites. They’re large, but not too big or fat. And they’re crunchy with just the right level of saltiness and a strong iodine aroma. Alexandre uses them to prepare a very intense dish: black oysters with lardo. He takes the mussel out of the shell and poaches it with a sauce from the squid ragout. The squid is left to simmer in its ink beforehand, creating a wonderfully concentrated jus. He combines the oysters with black Tapioca pearls that look like caviar. The dish is topped off with lardo balls and a pickled ginger powder. You can’t see the ginger, but it gives the oysters an essential hint of spiciness. Alexandre may be known for his oysters, but he isn’t keen on the modern term “Plat de Signature”. He creates the black oyster to remind people of the oil spill in 1999. In the same year that he opened the restaurant with his wife Céline, the cheap tanker Erika fell apart off the coast of Brittany, causing a major catastrophe. It was a tough year for everyone in the area. The oyster is a “Plat d'histoire”, a dish with history. 

“La Bonnotte de Noirmoutier” also has a wonderful history. This local, slightly sweet potato species tastes just like chestnuts. On the island of Noirmoutier, seaweed is used as the fertiliser, which enhances the potato’s unique flavour. At the start of the 1990s, this species was on the brink of extinction but was revived with the help of INRA, the French National Institute for Agricultural Research. The native islanders cleverly auctioned off the first of their rediscovered potatoes to raise funds for a French aid organisation. They eventually sold for 3000 francs per kilo – a world record that was widely covered on the Internet, making the island and its potato farmers famous. In normal stores, however, these valuable roots are not quite as expensive. Alexandre uses them as an amuse-bouche consisting of potato chip, potato foam and potato sorbet in a potato croissant – quite simple, but crispy, creamy, refreshing and perfectly made. The potatoes may soon come from Alexandre’s own back yard: a good friend – our guest chef and enthusiastic gardener Sang-Hoon Degeimbre – has inspired him to create his own large vegetable garden. The very busy chef already spends a bit of time each day attending to his vegetable plots. Alexandre calls it relaxation.

Recorded by Hans Gerlach

"PURE C"

Blvd de Wielingen 49
4506 JK Cadzand-Bad
Netherlands

Tel.: +31-117-396036

Web: www.syrco.nl

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Guest chefs at Restaurant Ikarus

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Guest chefs 2017
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Ikarus invites the world`s best chefs

The Hangar-7 cookery book 2016 /en/service-shop/ikarus-invites-the-worlds-best-chefs-2016/

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Isaac McHale /en/ikarus/guest-chef-at-restaurant-ikarus/2017/isaac-mchale/

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José Avillez /en/ikarus/guest-chef-at-restaurant-ikarus/2017/jose-avillez/

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Søren Selin
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Vladimir Mukhin
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Syrco Bakker
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Martin Klein and the
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