Chef Kwinten De Paepe on Belgian food
Chef Kwinten De Paepe is in India for the ongoing Belgian Food Festival at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, Mumbai. Owner and head chef of Trente, a restaurant in Leuven, Belgium, De Paepe has won several accolades, including the 'Best oyster cook of Belgium' and the 'most inventive and creative chef of Belgium'. De Paepe, along with colleague chef Guy Vantoortelboom, will prepare and display a spread of authentic Belgian cuisine at the festival, which began on 10 February. In an exclusive interview with Condé Nast Traveller, De Paepe talks about his favourite culinary experiences, Belgium, and much more.
What made you come to India?
We are open to new projects and getting in touch with other cultures, so when the opportunity arose to come to The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, we didn't hesitate. The exchange between Belgian and Indian cuisines is an exciting factor, as there are quite a lot of Indians living in Belgium. We wanted to explore the country and its culture.
What is your favourite cuisine, besides Belgian?
We have a special relationship with the French cuisine in our style of cooking, but we enrich it with influences from all over the world. We are now excited to get in touch with Indian influences as well.
What should one try at the Belgian Food Festival?
All dishes of course! We are proud to serve you some typical Belgian products such as endives, asparagus, and chocolates and beer, of course!
What has been your favourite dining experience so far?
That is still to come! The most important thing while dining is to be in good company, the people around you make the experience a true success. This philosophy is dominant in Belgian dining culture and we notice that this is the case in India as well.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
Gastronomic-modern. It is based on classical cuisines, but developed and modernized through my own vision and passion. At the base lies respect for origin, "terroir" and the use of only high-quality ingredients.
Choose a country you would visit only for food?
The Scandinavian countries. There has been an impressive evolution lately, with a great respect for local products.
Have you ever tried your hand at cooking Indian food?
Of course, especially tandoori food and chutneys, which I am fond of. However, in Belgium we make it less spicy!
Those travelling to Belgium must see and try ...?
Belgium is a small country but with huge diversity. Cities to visit include Brussels, very eclectic and international, Antwerp with its diamonds and huge port, Bruges, Liege and, of course, my hometown Leuven.
You should taste the asparagus, endives, chocolate and the enormous variety of beers. But there is also the coast. With the town of Nieuwpoort, for instance, you can try shrimps, oysters and lobster.
What is your travel itinerary for India?
The Taj Mahal Palace hotel! We will have a very busy cooking schedule but we hope to catch a glimpse of Mumbai.