At the age of twenty-four Jonnie Boer took on the position of chef at the Restaurant De Librije. A few years later Jonnie and his wife Thérèse bought the restaurant and soon after they received their first Michelin star. Four years ago the restaurant received its second star making Jonnie at 33 the youngest two star Michelin chef in Holland.
Jonnie's style can be described as eclectic, daring and fearless. He has received notoriety not just for his great cooking but also for his commitment to using local commodities along side the more traditional goose liver and truffles one expects from high ranking dining establishments.
Tell us about your restaurant. The restaurant itself has 35 seats, then we have a chef's table which is in the kitchen of the restaurant. Three years ago I was able to buy the whole building, so the first floor is the main restaurant, the second is a private dining room for up to 35 covers and in the kitchen we left half in its original state which was the restaurant and this gives room for another 15 covers. We are open from Tuesday through Saturday, with lunch service on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
How much does dinner for two cost? If you order five courses, Thérèse will make a wine arrangement including champagne to start off and coffee to close. You can expect to pay approximately 230 Euros ($200 or £140). We give our guests several small courses to start. When you eat with us you can expect to receive a little snail with sourkraut then an apéritif followed by a lollipop of duckliver, then we start to serve the menu.
How big is your wine list? We have about 600 wines on our list. They vary from very well priced to very expensive. Thérèse likes to have a big range of wines because she feels that a rather cheap wine can sometimes be better than more expensive one.
What inspires you? I was born in Giethoorn which they call "Little Italy". This is because of all the canals. The area is surrounded by nature. When I was a child I used to hunt and fish in that area. I like to work with regional products that are pretty much unknown. We have good local products, so I don't get them from France but from my region and that's why we are popular in Holland. Nature and everything that grows and lives in the surrounding area of Zwolle is my source of inspiration.
Describe the food of your restaurant. Our food is simple, honest, pure in flavor and no nonsense...
I see from your book that you use some unusual ingredients such as perch, eel and gurnard. How popular are these types of dishes with your customers compared to more commonly eaten foods? Do you charge a lower price for the unusual items? The perch is the dish that has given me fame. It was born because we didn't have a lot of money to buy exclusive products. Now a lot of guests come and visit us for that type of dish, but we do use exclusive products as well but everybody likes to taste dishes with products from this region. We don't charge a lower price because our local lamb is almost as expensive as from France. The best thing about that is I can select it myself and give my guest more information - because I know everything about the lamb.
What was the most unusual item on your menu last year and what was the reaction from your guests? Dover sole prepared in smoked butter with sweet and sour leeks stuffed with an oyster and a sauce of lemongrass. This is a dish that we are going to keep, everybody went crazy with the flavors.
Describe your cookbook - Puurder (more pure)... Puurder is my follow up from Pure my first book, which was printed only in Dutch. The reason why I made Puurder (which is available in both Dutch and English) is because we have progressed - with our guests, our suppliers, our food - it's more pure now. The name reflects our steps forward. The next one will be called Purest.
Whose idea was it to insert the wine booklet into the front cover? It was both of us (Jonnie and Thérèse). It's nice to have a book all about food but wine gives balance and can really give a dish that extra character. Wine can also destroy the concept of a dish. In the book you will find some simple wine ideas and how to handle it. It's written by my wife and is very easy to read, nothing difficult.
How well suited is the Dutch climate to the production of wine. What wine would Thérèse suggest compliments your cooking? We do have a chateau in Holland, it's called the APOSTELHOEVE but that's really the only one. The reason we do not produce much wine is because in Holland we have too much rain, winters are cold and the summers do not offer enough sunlight. But 2000 was a good year for Dutch wines. Thérèse feels the wines which best compliment my style are red Spanish wines as they are full bodied and creamy and white Bourgognes with a bit of wood but not too much.
What are your plans for 2002? Go even harder, better flavors, more guests. More development for the restaurant business in Holland. We still have the reputation of a country without good food and restaurants. I think that's rubbish. I have been in France a lot, you don't want to know what I get there sometimes.
Can you offer a word of advice for the chef of tomorrow? If you visit Europe come and visit Holland as well, try our kitchens. There is a lot going on here. Second - don' t think too difficult, use pure and good ingredients and give your cooking your own style.