Describe yourself, your background and what you do today.
A curious, determined and enthusiastic brusseleir. A world traveller, fritjes connoisseur, and non-fiction devourer. If house music is a nation I want to be the president.
I’m a cofounder and manager of BALLEKES, alongside my wife Florence. BALLEKES is a fast-casual restaurant specialising in Belgian meatballs, sauces, fries and beers. We’re going to be opening two more addresses in Brussels soon come.
How has where you come from shaped who you are?
For generations, Belgians have been preparing meatballs – or ballekes – accompanied with freshly-made fries, and the best beers in the world. As kids, Florence and I enjoyed our grandparents’ ballekes, and once we were a bit older became inspired by this tradition inherited from our grandparents, and the authenticity of Belgian cuisine. And that’s how BALLEKES came to be established in 2016. We’re dedicated in delivering the high-quality foods and hospitality. Our ballekes are made of 100% Belgian beef, pork and chicken; all vegetarian, raised humanely and source certified. For our fries, we use fresh Bintje potatoes, locally-sourced and fried the true Belgian way – and of course, with Brussels Ketjep sauces.
How would you describe your attitude to work?
Always aiming higher and prepared for the worst. Inspiring others rather than giving orders. I’m the carrot while Florence is the stick. Glory and luck comes with hard work and sweat.
On a personal note, what would you say you’re the proudest of?
Being an ambassador of Belgian food culture.
To you, what is a Ketje?
A kid, your friend from Brussels
What do you think distinguishes Belgium, and its people, from the rest?
If you had to nominate three people that, to you, best symbolised Belgium in its full glory, who would they be and why?
Jean-Claude Van Damme, my childhood hero. François Damiens aka François L’embrouille, the talented and surrealist Belgian comedian. My grandmothers, for the heritage they left behind.
If you had to take out-of-towners to one essential restaurant in Belgium, which one would it be?
BALLEKES! And Friterie Chez Leon.
If you had to take visiting guests out on a Sunday tourist trail, where would you take them and why?
The Marolles neighbourhood, for its folkloric and multicultural atmosphere.
Sauces, in Belgium at least, are intrinsically linked to French fries. What’s your combination of choice?
You must mean Belgian fries? A mix of Dallas, Brasil and samouraï, all in the same pot. We like to call it the Martyr sauce.
Tell us about the first time you discovered BK sauces.
We opened our first restaurant the same year BK started its activities, and were one of their first clients. It was love at first fries.
Can you recollect your best Belgian joke ever?
We don’t do jokes – we prefer to laugh at ourselves.
Why do Belgians do it better?
Because we don’t know that we do it better.