You might have heard the good news: we're having a baby! Well, a book baby, that is. After years of bringing you the best of the best of travel tips on the web, we decided to take pen (or printing press) to page & bring you an amazing, practical, beautiful guidebook to the city that is nearest & dearest to our heart. Which city is that, you ask? Why, Amsterdam of course! So now it's time for the countdown to begin.
As our publishing date grows ever closer, we want to give you some sneak peeks into what's to come to get you as excited as we are. Our book is nothing without the incredible shops, restaurants, bars & businesses we love, so it's important to us that you get to know them a bit as well. That's why, until the launch of our book, we are going to be bringing you interviews with the inspiring founders of some of our very favourite spots.
Today, we were lucky enough to sit down with the one & only Freek van Noortwijk, the killer chef behind one of Amsterdam's most craveable restaurants, BREDA. After falling in love with the restaurant more & more every time we've visited, it was finally time we got the inside scoop on what goes on behind the scenes. Scroll down to find out all the juicy details from this extra cool chef.
gloobles: Hi Freek! So cool of you to chat with us. Let's start out with an easy question. We know that food is obviously a central fixture in your life. Where does your love of food come from?
Freek: I think that both Guillaume & I come from families where food played an important role. We both went to our family homes at the seaside every year. Mine was in Belgium, his was in France & I think that we both found our love of seafood there. His grandfather was a cook & mine was a pastry chef. Also, both our moms know how to cook pretty well. That's probably why we're both so interested in food.
gloobles: Sounds like you had a pretty solid foundation. It would almost be surprising if you hadn't gone into food. Did you always want to be a chef?
Freek: I studied finance at the University of Amsterdam, & when I graduated, I decided to go & cook for one more year with my best friend Guillaume at a small brown bar/restaurant in De Jordaan called Daalder. He had just finished his cooking education after having studied art, as well as to become a French teacher. So the chances of us ending up working together as chefs in a restaurant were not always that high. When that place became a success, we realised that we were doing something special & that we could do this in the long-run for ourselves as well.
gloobles: It was fate! So what was your career like before you opened BREDA?
Freek: We opened Restaurant BREDA in December of 2015. In February that same year, we opened our first restaurant, Guts & Glory (now known as GUTS), with our best friend Johanneke van Iwaarden. This restaurant was really well-received by food critics, so you can imagine we were quite busy that year. Before all of that, we worked most closely at Envy & then at Daalder.
gloobles: You're a little like the three musketeers! Who & what inspires you?
Freek: I can still say that Jamie Oliver is someone who inspires me. I love his enthusiasm & the way he changed people's perspectives on our food culture. Everyone is so passionate about food & cooking, in part because of him. For Guillaume, I know that there are many chefs that inspire him. One in particular is Kobe Desramaults; his style & philosophy are very progressive & unique. The thing that makes Guillaume different from other chefs is that he will always try to come up with dishes & combinations that he hasn't seen somewhere else.
gloobles: That makes total sense & is probably why BREDA is so unique. Would you say you have a favourite ingredient?
Freek: There are so many nice ingredients that we are able to work with that I honestly couldn't say what would be our favourite. We love to use as much Dutch produce as possible. North Sea fish, Dubbel purpose cows (Dutch dairy cows that will later be used for their meat; they taste amazing & are more sustainable), game, poultry & local vegetables.
gloobles: We love that you are embracing the Dutch landscape. It makes BREDA such a distinctly Dutch restaurant. We love your location on the Singel. What about the location spoke to you?
Freek: The place was originally an old cheese factory that distributed cheese throughout Amsterdam by horse & carriage. The high ceilings & beautiful facade are something that we still enjoy every time we enter the restaurant.
gloobles; Oh wow that is so cool! We didn't know it was a cheese factory back in the day. Speaking of the space, who designed it? Were you involved in the process?
Freek: Erik Kojien was the interior architect. He has been working with family as long as I can recall, so he knows what we like. Since the opening of Guts & Glory, Guillaume and Johanneke have also been familiar with his work & fully trust him. I was involved in the renovation & restyling of our restaurants, but, in the end, we obviously decide everything together.
gloobles: Yeah, that makes sense. Now tell us: how do you source your ingredients & your wine?
Freek: We try to work with local, small producers as much as possible. We serve mostly vegetable & seafood dishes that sometimes contain an element of meat. The main course will usually be meat though. We often serve a piece of Dutch beef, lamb poultry or game. We have some old world classics on the wine list, but our wine director Elske Mosterd is working with natural wines more & more. Especially in the wine pairing, as these are usually more complex wines & thus more interesting to combine with certain dishes.
gloobles: We adore that local, sustainable model. It's probably why the food tastes so fresh, so alive at BREDA. & if you're not eating at BREDA, where do you like to eat in Amsterdam?
Freek: Some places we love to go that more or less cook on the same level as we do are: Choux, BAK, Cafe Remoulage, Kaagman & Kortekaas, RIJKS, Gebroeders Hartering, Cafe Caron, Entrepot, Europa & Envy. Then there are a few Michelin-star restaurants like 212 & Vinkeles that are very nice as well. But we also really enjoy simpler restaurants like De Japanner & some of the Chinese places on the Zeedijk.
gloobles: It seems like we frequent similar spots! Guess we'll be seeing you around then haha. If you cook at home, what are you cooking?
Freek: I love to cook at home! I actually do this a lot lately. During the summer, it's always something on the barbecue or over an open fire in the garden. I have a fully-equipped kitchen, but I like to go back to basics & try to use only primitive techniques. It will mostly be a bit Jamie Oliver or Ottolenghi style. Guillaume rarely cooks at home since he is the more creative chef at the restaurants. When he is off, he likes to order some delivery. There are so many nice options in Amsterdam, but where I live, in the countryside outside of Amsterdam, that's not really possible.
gloobles: We can imagine that Guillaume is probably happy to kick his feet up & step out of the kitchen for a few minutes. What is your favourite place to eat in the world?
Freek: Well for me, the best experience of my life was at Elkano in Getaria. The whole turbot on the barbecue & all the beautiful seafood from the Bay of Biscay made me cry on my 30th birthday last year. For guillaume, it was probably in Hong Kong. I also loved the food there, but he went mental about it!
gloobles: It's so difficult to choose. We struggle to do so ourselves! What do you think the best eating city in the world is?
Freek: Well I think Guillaume & I both agree on the fact that there are so many great cities to go to for good food. I love San Sebastian, London, Paris, Barcelona, Hong Kong, Cape Town, New York, Taipei & Bangkok. If you know the right addresses, there are too many options to choose from.
gloobles: That's so true. You just have to know where to look. Alright, one last question: if you could cook for anyone in the world, who would it be & why?
Freek: For me, this would be Jamie Oliver. He really made me so enthusiastic about food & cooking. I would love to talk to him about that & share some ideas with him over a good meal & a glass of wine. Guillaume would prefer to cook for an old French three Michelin-star chef like Alain Ducasse, which would be a huge honour as well of course!