Chef Emile van der Staak’s restaurant serving botanical cuisine, De Nieuwe Winkel, is currently number one in We’re Smart’s Top 100. Why go plant-based? “Because avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to make both us and the planet healthier,” says the chef. His culinary creations reflect the path he has travelled to achieve the 100% plant-based cuisine that he offers today —the path of a creative individual, with an open mind, who continues to hone his skills.
His realisation that he needed to change his way of cooking is linked to two major events. “In 2014, I visited NOMA (editor’s note: three-starred restaurant in Copenhagen), and a few months later I was asked to create a menu using only local, plant-based ingredients,” says van der Staak. This was the beginning of his shift towards vegetarianism. A year later, the chef contacted the managers of a food forest just a few kilometres from his restaurant — a happy coincidence. Foodforests are a form of agriculture. They are not “natural”, but well-designed ecosystems that are very rich in biodiversity and productivity. Almost everything is edible on this land: over 400 species of perennial plants, fruits, nuts and roots thrive there, without any human intervention. “It mimics the way a natural forest evolves. Every year, this food forest increases in volume and the soil becomes more fertile without anyone having to do anything,” explains the chef. Fascinating indeed.
“As chefs, our role is also to encourage our guests to turn towards a different way of eating.”
Since then, he has taken on an ambassadorial role to raise awareness: “As chefs, our role is also to encourage our guests to turn towards a different way of eating.”
Van der Staak is pleased his actions are inspiring other professionals in his field. For instance, the Michelin-starred chef who, thanks to van der Staak, stopped using dairy and meat products in his own kitchen. “This particular example confirms that mindsets are changing. There is still a long way to go, but it’s a good start.”
This chef won’t stop experimenting. He has support from food researchers to develop new ideas for more plant-based alternatives. This is the only path he sees, and he intends to lead the way.
De Nieuwe Winkel
Gebroeders van Limburgplein 7 — 6511 BW Nijmegen
Tel. +31 / 24 322 5093