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50 Times a Year: The De Kas Dinner Menu on Rotation

Words by
February 28, 2017
We don’t choose a menu, we create the menu from what nature offers.
Our De Kas dinner menu consists of three starters (a soup plus two other selections), then the main course of fish or meat. Of course, there is always a vegetarian option available and no meal is complete without dessert. With a menu changing every week, that means a lot of creativity for me, but also the whole kitchen team. We’re constantly at the mercy of nature—getting the majority of our vegetables from our own greenhouse and nearby farm, and only supplementing the fresh tastes with products from local suppliers. We don’t choose a menu, we create the menu from what nature offers.
50 Times a Year
photo © Bas Wiegel
So how do we try out a new dish in the kitchen? It’s definitely a trial and error process that involves a lot of teamwork, a good imagination and flexibility. The creation starts during prep hours leading up to service. While working with the vegetables delivered straight from the farms each morning, we are constantly thinking, ‘How can I do more with it?’ As we prepare dishes for the table, we’re always thinking ahead to the next week’s menus. We try new things, share them with the rest of the team, taste constantly, but most importantly (for me at least), talk! Sharing ideas out loud sparks a certain creativity and also helps clarify ideas that aren’t fully formed. Sometimes a dish is made in only five minutes! All through talking, imagination and creativity.

But it’s important for us in the kitchen that nature takes the front seat. Vegetables are harvested fresh daily and they must be recognisable.
After making, tasting, talking, trying and adjusting a dish, we have to make a more standard recipe. It can be tedious, going through the motions and adjusting each small thing until it works and fits the standard of De Kas—this means fresh, flavorful, and nature-based. But it’s important for us in the kitchen that nature takes the front seat. Vegetables are harvested fresh daily and they must be recognisable. We just want the natural flavour to have the spotlight. Once we have a dish the way we like it, we make the recipe so we know that we have the same quality all menu week long and to make our kitchen jobs more streamlined.

But these recipes are only the base. Like I said, because we work so close to nature, our vegetables are not always the same. The flavour and texture of each individual vegetable is influenced by temperature, weather, harvest time, and even the delivery schedule. We have to honour each individual vegetable as unique and that’s why I say that while the recipe is our standard, the vegetable is the boss. Each day you sometimes have to adjust the recipe a little to make sure that each particular vegetable is treated individually.
Because the menu is changing so fast we are always thinking ahead. What will change? How will we come up with new ideas? How else can we manipulate a vegetable so that its natural taste is highlighted, but in a new way? Some dishes stay on the menu for two weeks so this gives us the time and space to try out new things. But overall, you work with three menus in your head: your current menu (usually more of a routine), the next week’s menu, and then further ideas for the following week. It all starts with small ideas that we hope to fit on the menu.

Everybody in the kitchen can and sometimes needs to make a dish. So at the end, we all create a menu together. With all the chefs in the kitchen having ideas, sharing them, and collaborating, there’s more motivation. There is competition only because we are all proud of what we do, but in the end, all we want are the best dishes for the restaurant. The atmosphere is always about motivated teamwork with the same end goal.

But eventually, when we set the final menu, our kitchen chef Jarno and I make the call. Our main goal is achieving a menu that follows the philosophy of De Kas: fresh, natural and vegetable-based. Of course, sometimes there is a dish or a flavour that makes it onto the menu but then doesn’t quite work in the end. That’s hard! In your head the dish is perfect, yet still, something is missing when it’s put together on the menu with other dishes. It’s back to the drawing board and we have to make substitutions or changes to the recipe. At the end, our recipe creation is about staying positive and taking chances! Experimenting with food is creative work and can sometimes be disappointing. But focusing on the good, and not on the mistakes or frustrations, makes for delicious dishes. I always remind myself, like attracts like, and a positive mind brings positive, tasty and beautiful dishes!