Describe yourself, your background and what you do today.
I am a certified beer, wine and coffee expert who’s been evolving the hospitality industry for quite a few years now. I’ve gathered a lot of experience training and working in bars and for brands in the likes of Bacardi, Red Bull and Corona, so today I spend most of my time passing on my know-how to younger generations as a bar academy trainer at Brussels Bar Connector.
How has where you come from shaped who you are?
My father was the director of the Belle-Vue Brewery for 35 years, and I even lived there, so I guess you could say I was literally born in the spirit industry. Bellevue is a typical Brussels beer, which really had an impact on me: I’m a real ket from Brussels who speaks brusseleir. I then moved to London and graduated as teacher and as a spirit specialist, yet my background continues to have a huge impact on my work. I must say I’m very proud of my cocktail creation the Bloody Dikkenek, a Bloody Mary based on Brussels Ketjep’s Dallas.
How would you describe your attitude to work?
Some call me the Punk of the Bar Scene. I like that description: it’s nice to be perceived as someone special. Others may say I’m a dikkenek, but I’m actually just a loudmouth who’s not afraid of telling the truth. Besides that, I’m very professional, enjoy sharing my knowledge and am always looking to expand my horizons, so I often travel to spirit-producing countries such as Mexico, Chile, Peru, Brazil and Scotland.
On a personal note, what would you say you’re the proudest of?
I have a real passion for spirits, bartending, barista and good food, and I’m really proud to be able to do what I love, and love what I do.
To you, what is a Ketje?
A real kid from Brussels, just like me.
What do you think distinguishes Belgium, and its people, from the rest?
Humility, self-derision and a typical Belgian sense of humour.
If you had to nominate three people that, to you, best symbolised Belgium in its full glory, who would they be and why?
Eddy Merckx, because anyone who’s into cycling knows the Cannibal. Jean-Claude Van Damme, because he’s the most famous Belgian actor in the world. Hergé, because Tintin is an eminent character in the comic book scene.
If you had to take out-of-towners to one essential restaurant in Belgium, which one would it be?
I would take them to a friterie to get them to taste real Belgian fries.
If you had to take visiting guests out on a Sunday tourist trail, where would you take them and why?
Marché du Midi, the biggest market in Brussels. The Marolles Flea Market, a very famous antique market in a typically Brussels atmosphere. Grand Place, one of the most beautiful squares in the world. Manneken Pis, of course. The Atomium, one or two typical Belgian brasseries, and if there’s still time to spare we can go to Ghent to visit another type of Belgian city.
Sauces, in Belgium at least, are intrinsically linked to French fries. What’s your combination of choice?
I think you mean Belgian fries, because there’s no such thing as French fries! I used to go for andalouse, samouraï, Banzai and of course mayonnaise, but today my preference is the beloved Dallas sauce.
Can you recollect your best Belgian joke ever?
Why do French people love jokes about Belgians so much? Because they’re the only jokes they can understand!
Why do Belgians do it better?
Because we want to show everyone that you can be great, even if you come from a little country.