Richard Ekkebus, whose lauded restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, Amber, is on hiatus for renovation as the chef and his team embark on a three-month world cooking tour, hails from Vlissingen, a harbourside town in the southwest of the Netherlands, two hours from Amsterdam.
What is Dutch cuisine today?
There’s been a true pride in local produce and the use of Dutch influences in recent years. Vegetables are the true stars in modern Dutch cuisine, and local chefs are doing amazing things with plants, fruit and garden herbs.
What’s driving Amsterdam’s thriving culinary scene lately?
A lot of young chefs with fresh ideas are making diners excited. The city always had great Michelin-starred restaurants, but where the growth is most noticeable is in the mid- and low-end range. A lot of very creative and forward thinking things are happening there, and that’s building a broader foundation for Dutch gastronomy.
What are your favourite restaurants to get local homestyle food?
Bak; Rijsel; Scheepskameel; Marius and Worst (both owned by chef Kees Elfring).
What are your favourite places for more progressive, modern cuisine?
Choux, Bolenius, Rijks – where I did a four-hands dinner (collaboration) in January, my first time cooking in the Netherlands in more than three decades – and Spectrum, which has two Michelin stars and is run by my protégé Sidney Schutte.
What did you do on your last trip to Amsterdam?
We went to see the guys at Brand & Levy – very cool guys making traditional dried sausages. They learned from the best in Tuscany and came back to create a really cool brand of artisanal dried sausages and hams that have a true Dutch identity.
There are a few things I need to eat when back in Amsterdam, like herring. In the winter the herrings are cured, pickled and eaten with chopped onions; then from June you eat the new harvest, called maatjes herring, without onions. For me, it’s the best sashimi on the planet.
I will also have a frikandel speciaal – a fried sausage that is well seasoned – total comfort food.
Then I will eat old, matured Dutch cheese – if well made, it’s better than Parmesan (sorry, Massimo Bottura) – and go for a nice pot of beer-boiled mussels from my province.
For breakfast I eat a bolus with salted butter from my region – bolus is soft bread dough rolled in brown sugar with spices, which smells like treacle when baked.
Cathay Pacific flies to Amsterdam from Hong Kong seven times a week