The Tastemaker – Rob Baan

Frans Hals’ The Laughing Cavalier may still have something to smile about in 21st century Holland: forget jaded impressions of polders, dykes and vintage Gouda, a new wave of Dutch gastronomy is gathering momentum. The Netherlands may be a flat country, famed for Van der Valk and greenhouses, but its steep ascent in modern cooking is enough to give any knowledgeable gourmet vertigo. There is nothing sous vide about it: these relatively unsung heroes of the hotplate are refining their native cooking faster than any other European nation.

The Dutch are now at the cutting edge of haute cuisine; Sauerkraut and herrings are well and truly back in the pantry. Chefs like Sergio Herman, Jonnie Boer, Robert Kranenborg and Niven Kunz are making an indelible mark; watching and learning from their European neighbours, Adria, Blumenthal and Barbot. They are developing their own unique style built around local produce and traditional ingredients of the past – though their approach is far from reclaimed. Netherlands is rapidly becoming a gastronomic destination of choice: Holland has moved from being an epicurean never-Netherland to a place where excited chefs exchange ideas and confidently express their brilliance on the plate. This culinary creativity extends beyond the confines of the kitchen and encompasses others in the food chain, one man in particular exports his genius around the world, touching many who dine in the elite restaurants of Paris, London and New York.

Modern restaurant food is like contemporary art, it is there to shock and challenge our senses. In the elite realm of haute cuisine Dutchman Rob Baan is hard to ignore, from his fluorescent cherry red spectacles, shoulder length locks and positively floral Hans Ubbink wardrobe, echoing shades of 1967, he stands out from the culinary crowd. More Percy Faith than Thrower, this horticultural genius rarely uses jargon, with an accessible effervescent vocabulary he waxes lyrical about the health legacy of the Berlin wall and why, to him, sprouts are every bit as sexy as the designer curves of the latest Lamborghini. The legendary Ferran Adria describes Baan as “the Christopher Columbus of vegetables” and leading chefs Blumenthal, Arzak, Ducasse and Jamie Oliver, all use the products of his Dutch based company Koppert Cress.

With a sharp but gentle intellect combined with an esculent delinquency sufficient to overshadow even Anthony Bourdain, Baan, a great horticulturalist and highly skilled cook, has compiled a massive knowledge of seeds and edible plants across 70 countries and is known to all in the restaurant trade as the tastemaker. Having developed stunning natural flavours encompassing liquorice, ginger, aniseed and even fresh oysters, there seems no limit to what he can achieve and as a result, the greatest Michelin chefs value his unique range of micro-vegetables, using them to complement, enhance and make their porcelain plated creations sing. When defining his role in gastronomy Baan says, “we are producers of micro vegetables – germinated plants with extreme tastes, textures and flavours. They are fantastic to finish off a dish and great ingredients to make a sauce with a unique taste. I like my clients and customers to be surprised and experience a ping-pong sensation of flavours in the mouth”

Like a bottle of garagiste grade Pomerol, these greens ooze concentrated flavour and with judicious use might accent a sophisticated dish or provide an essential nuanced touch to raise a meal to Michelin perfection. I recently sampled this at Moshik Roth’s one star restaurant in Holland. A rising talent in molecular gastronomy (no longer a fashionable term among chefs), Roth prepared an extraordinary minimalist dish of supremely fresh Oysters together with Koppert’s latest Oyster flavoured vegetables – this subtle combination was startlingly original, providing a tribute to the chefs skill and his intelligent application of an exciting new product. These acute flavours provide an extra taste dimension for chefs: challenging their creativity and enabling them to develop stunning dishes. Quique Dacosta, the Michelin two star chef whose youthful brilliance has secured his position in the vanguard of European cuisine says, “Koppert Cress has changed our way of thinking about vegetables, their embryonic plants have given us a new vision of taste along with a completely different way to eat vegetables on the plate. They have won themselves a place in the history of contemporary cuisine”

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On the 18th October at 20.00 join us at the event “Ana in Wonderland” and enjoy the dishes created by the great slovenian chef Ana Roš, inspired by Koppert Cress. More informations about the event:

More about Ana Roš:

More about Koppert Cress:

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