Describe yourself, your background and what you do today.
Since graduating from the Namur-based hotel management school EHPN in 2007, I’ve been discovering the various aspects of restaurant work for myself, from dining room management to dishwashing and setups. Today, as the general manager of Chez Léon, I oversee the day-to-day running of the establishment.
How has where you come from shaped who you are?
My parents did a great job of raising me, especially my father who taught me the importance of rigour and loyalty. Chez Léon is a family business, so I see myself like Obelix a bit, who fell into the magic potion when he was a little kid – except in my case I fell into mussel juice.
How would you describe your attitude to work?
I like to think I’m calm, fair and balanced. I have empathy for my staff because I believe it’s really important to be able to put yourself in the other people’s shoes before you judge or take any official decision.
On a personal note, what would you say you’re the proudest of?
I am very proud of taking up the torch and ensuring the durability of my family’s enterprise. I am so honoured to be the sixth generation of the Vanlancker family and very excited to be able to add my own contribution.
To you, what is a Ketje?
A young man from Brussels who lives his life to the hilt; a bon vivant who likes to hang around the streets and meet new people.
What do you think distinguishes Belgium, and its people, from the rest?
Belgians are real experts in beers, chocolate and fries. Besides that, they’re good-natured, openminded and have a distinct sense of humour, with plenty of self-mockery. They don’t always take life too seriously.
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, for his sense of humour and self-derision. Jacques Brel, because he’s a true with an incomparable presence on stage. Joël Smet, because he left his mark on the motocross world.
If you had to take out-of-towners to one essential restaurant in Belgium, which one would it be?
Chez Léon, of course!
If you had to take visiting guests out on a Sunday tourist trail, where would you take them and why?
The Atomium, without hesitation. Although it was supposed to be demolished in 1958, the Belgians decided to keep this monument – and with reason. I like to think of it as our Eiffel Tower, withstanding the test of time.
Sauces, in Belgium at least, are intrinsically linked to French fries. What’s your combination of choice?
There’s nothing better than mayonnaise combined with well-cooked fries.
Tell us about the first time you discovered BK sauces.
I was grocery shopping before joining my friends at a barbecue, and the packaging of these products really caught my attention, so I decided to taste the Mayo, Ketjep and Dallas. They were delicious!
Can you recollect your best Belgian joke ever?
My memory’s not great when it comes to remembering jokes – this one’s always stuck in my mind though:
Why did the blonde stick her ear against the wall of her home? She was listening to house music.
Why do Belgians do it better?
I wouldn’t say that Belgians do it better, but we certainly do it differently.