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THE HISTORY OF HOF VAN CLEVE
Experience has taught us that the path leading you to Kruishoutem is more than just a road connecting two points on a map.
Everyone who pushes open the door of Hof van Cleve has had time to prepare mentally for doing so, undoubtedly to look forward to it, to anticipate the flavours which Chef Peter Goossens skilfully produces, to imagine the pleasure of being served.
Mentally mapping out the course, so to speak, beforehand is part of the total experience expected of a ‘house’ such as ours. It is our job to make sure that the experience actually lives up your expectations, that you live the dream, so that what your imagination has conjured up is matched by what happens when you are at the table. And that your stay with us will be a source of anecdotes and stories blending with the memories which everyone takes away and carefully holds on to.
The threshold which you are crossing by opening the door is highly symbolic in my eyes. This first innocuous step is a signal.
From that moment on we are going to take care of you. The welcome received must set the tone. Elegance is the hallmark of the tempo we have chosen. Elegance of the flavours, colours, materials, fragrances and smells.
This Is My Country: Peter Goossens
This is my country. The place where I was born. The place where I wanted to settle and do the job that I love.
This part of West Flanders leading to the sea is not just ‘le plat pays’ of the Jacques Brel song. Here the landscape of the Flemish Ardennes undulates as if purring with pleasure and amusement at its cleverness.
What I connect with in this environment is the earth, which farmers feel with their hands, the land which they have worked for generations by sheer strength of arm, to make it productive. It is stating the obvious to point out that we chefs are nothing without products. But living in the heart of the country, in this agricultural area, brings the idea home to you day after day.
My cuisine is that of my land. I feel deep attachment to this Flanders which has given me my roots as a person, which has instilled its originality in me. I am proud to proclaim the virtues of this culinary culture.
Jacques Brel also sang about the North Sea, my other land. Even though there is only a handful of diehards left, the varieties of fish which the fishermen of the Belgian coast bring back from each trip are the finest of their kind in my opinion. Like the land, the sea offers the best of itself each season. I have learned that too and it is something that I follow with relish.
Country people dip their slices of bread into bowls of hot coffee. And the salted butter, which escapes as it melts, draws little rings on the shiny black surface.
This image appeals to me, this somewhat mundane concept of the meal eaten when the day is dawning, or the ritual of the afternoon break, when country people stop to eat a snack before starting the last part of their working day, which ends when night falls.
At Hof van Cleve, one of the first acts in our ‘ceremonial’ is to bring you two small cylinders of butter and a bottle of extra virgin olive oil.
This somewhat basic ritual is primarily a gourmet one, as it is intended to go with bread, food for both the body and the soul.
I have tasted so many varieties of bread, different in shape, texture and flavour and the product of so many different cultures.
Flour, water and salt are all that is needed to knead bread. That says everything. Anything additional to these ingredients, which combine in perfect harmony, is simply superfluous.
The rest, more than expertise, involves knowledge.
The Taste Profession
I would have preferred language to have substituted a word closer to the essence of cookery for the word gastronomy.
My personal conquest was taste first and foremost. True to the image of people who do this job intensively, I see myself as a composer of flavours.
First of all, I built up my vocabulary. My path was multifaceted and varied. I was lucky enough to grow up in a family whose values included quality food and eating. My parents have the ability to pick out the best in everything.
Once these fragments of language were well established I developed in my culinary landscapes.
Harmony is a fairly exact word to describe what I seek. But it can be the product as much of contrasts as of resemblances.
I pride myself on having worked to achieve excellence and I fully appreciate the recognition which I am receiving every day.
I have no intention, however, of cultivating the myth of the man working on his own. The sophistication of our cuisine requires elaborate constructions. Everyone has a place in them. Thus new generations of chefs enter into the secret world of our passions.
Theatre Of Flavours
A meal in our restaurant is always a production. At Hof van Cleve, we want it to be carefully staged, on both sides of the door separating the dining area from the kitchen.
On the kitchen side, clockwork regularity is the maxim and this is constantly drummed into everyone, each lunchtime and evening. We are behind the scenery. But the real players, the people who will bring you into our world, are with you in the dining room.
With their own personalities they act out a succession, a sequence of events. Their role is equally to amplify and multiply the scale of your sensations.
If they could they would step aside. But their gestures would still be there, considerate gestures, as if anticipation and forethought were at one with their double.