Sunday, February 21, 2010

Constantin Erinkoglou's Notos in Brussels

"In de keuken" (in the kitchen) is a TV programme on Canvas (Flanders, Belgium) presented by Wim Opbrouck, a talented Flemish guy who really does far too many things to describe here. Among them, he runs NTG, he's an actor, he does documentaries, you name it. In this last gig he presents a food programme under a cool concept. He visits well-known restaurants in the country and interviews the Chefs. They talk about themselves, their careers, their ideas, and they also prepare a few fine recipes. They then hand those recipes over to Wim who next approaches a few BV's (short for Flemish VIPs) and asks them to cook in their own kitchen what the Chefs prescribed. Sheer fun.

In his last episode Wim visited Constantin Erinkoglou, Chef of the restaurant Notos in Brussels. I'm not sure whether this Chef has ever earned any Michelin stars yet, but, who cares. He's one of the best living Chefs... Belgian ex-PM Dirk Verhofstadt would undersign this statement in the blink of an eye! Of course, not every chef can manage to become a show off like Gordon Ramsay or Jamie Oliver, this much we all know. You gotta own a Brittish gob to get that far. Not that English cooking is worth anything, mind you. Read Asterix in Helvetia to see what I mean.  In any case, to me, Costas is a much better Chef than either of them posh Brits... Voila!

Chef Erinkoglou cooked two recipes during the forty minute programme, that is, "Flowers of Pontos" and "Stuffed Shoulder" (Fleurs de Pontos and Epaule farcie, it definitely sounds tastier in French, right?). You can enjoy watching him preparing both recipes in the clips I posted on YouTube as Part 1 and Part 2 of that programme. To make it more fun I've even taken the amateurs' (Wim's BV friends) scene cuts out of the clips. They just spoiled it... sorry Wim. Especially that hilarious baldie with his Antwerpian accent and the Nazi name...

What about Constantin? You see, the thing is, I've been to his restaurant only four times in my life! It took me a few years to get there, after his fame has first reached my ears, and then, when I managed to visit, oh Gosh, I just wanted to come back. However, I only managed to do this 4 times... I promise you, I'll have to get back though, over and over... His cooking is sheer art! He does to your tasting senses what poems do to your ears... He manages to combine textures, tastes and flavors that I haven't tasted ever, certainly since I left home and my mom's cooking. There's another one I know, who gets kinda close in terms of skill, initially from Myconos, later moved to Athens... Η Ρένα της Φτελιάς for the Greek connoisseurs among you...

Why? you might ask... Why is Constantin such a star? Well, our experience of great cooking is generally pretty hard to describe with simple words. Watch the clips to see what I mean. This Chef is not just a cook! Above all, he's a courageous individual who exchanged the boring and uselss life of a Eurocrat for the life of a Chef. True story! He's also a wonderful poet! Poetry with food. The Aegean Sea, Mount Olympus and τα μπαχαρικά (spices) of the East! Minimalist but extremely powerful concepts. What do you need more? And Chef Erinkoglou does his craft to entertain us, miserable capitalists, bureaucrats, bankers and politicians. Listening to Constantin makes you love the Greeks and their country once again. Despite what the tabloids tell you about their lack of ethics in their financial dealings.

" must have a real talent" sez Wim. "Well", responds Constantin, "if you are motivated to do something, and you keep doing it day-in, day-out, well... that eventually becomes your talent". Reminds me what dearest Malcom Gladwell developed as a theory about the most skillful of the World in his recent bestseller "The Outliers". With persistence and hard work the best become even better. It's true!

I'd rather stop here. I'd spoil your experience if I continued. Watch the two clips instead. About 18 min in total. If you understand French and get the meaning of Constantin's talk, you'll be stunned by the quality of his reasoning. No wonder he turns simple carbs and proteins into poetry. Well done, bro!

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