Luc Rensen and Thomas van Voorst
Luc Rensen and Thomas van Voorst are chefs of Restaurant Bøg in Den Haag
The common themes in your kitchen are organic seasonal products and sustainability: how far do you go in this?
Luc, who has worked at The White Room in Krasnapolsky Amsterdam and with Thomas in De Stadstuin in Breda: ‘We order our vegetables daily, based on the number of guests we will receive. As a result, we have no waste. The great thing about Rungis is that we’re able to coordinate with them what we exactly need. That we can purchase very specifically, for example in certain sizes, and nothing unnecessary comes in.’
The owner of Bøg is Danish. How Scandinavian is your kitchen? Are you, for example, foragers?
‘Luc: ‘At Bøg, which you pronounce as “Beu”, we use a lot of Scandinavian techniques such as smoking, pickling, brining and fermentation. Foraging happens very occasionally; it’s just not profitable to do that ourselves. There’s so much growing in Denmark; you can almost pick everything there. But try to find a piece of untouched nature over here is almost impossible. We’ve been to a Natura 2000-area before, but you’re not allowed to take anything. In some other place we did pick some cornflowers, poppy flowers and pine tips. We also cut away some nettles.’
Do you import products from Scandinavia?
Luc: ‘The winters are rough over there, with just a few vegetables. In The Netherlands we have the luxury of a year-round supply of products. But what we do import is lumpfish roe. Our boss regularly visits his family in Denmark and brings some special syrups with him. Such as one that resembles salmiak, and Swedish sugar syrup. We also have a dill aquavit-tonic as an aperitif cocktail.’
What appeals you to the Nordic Cuisine?
Luc: ‘The purity of the products and that you can give dishes more depth by using other preparation techniques.’ Thomas: ‘Minimalism; that you can prepare a special dish with only three or four ingredients. We don’t work with everyday products; and also not with the most luxurious products, such as hamachi, pigeon or duck liver. It goes without saying that these kinds of ingredients are tasty. Our menu now features a combination of rutabaga, Jerusalem artichoke and seaweed: very simple and delicious. The Jerusalem artichokes are boiled, peeled and finely chopped and mixed with sea lettuce and a cream of seaweed-cheese. On top we put some slices of rutabaga with rapeseed oil and vinegar. The buttery, grassy flavor of the oil makes the rutabaga softer. Finally, the dish is finished with some fresh dill.’
Who or what are sources of inspiration?
Luc: ‘We look at restaurants in the higher segment, but also, for example, at what’s growing in the area.’ Thomas: ‘I admire the Slovenian star chef Ana Ros; she cookes with vegetables and dairy. But also the books of Faviken, Noma and Kadeau are a favorite. But it’s not just Scandinavian chefs; what Alain Passard does with vegetables is also interesting. It’s not like we copy things, like those molds you see a lot on Instagram nowadays; that’s the last thing we want. But as a cook it’s important that you know what the latest developments are.’
Which menu is the most popular?
Thomas: ‘Our meat and fish menu, although the vegetarian menu is of the same high standard. What happens more and more often is that guests exchange a meat or fish dish for something vegetarian. Or that someone that eats vegetarian opts for fish as a main course. The best thing is when, at a table of two, one guest goes for the meat and fish menu and the other for the vegetarian menu and each other’s dishes are tasted.’
And which vegetarian dish?
Luc: ‘Especially the light smoked fresh cheese, unripe tomato with elderflower, roasted cucumber, green apple and shallot. But the dessert is also popular: cremeux of lemon thyme, poached plums, beurre noisette ice cream and yeast crisps…’
What are you looking forward to in September?
Thomas: ‘Each menu has a duration of two months. In July we were in the mood for plums; that’s why we’re now working with Reine Claude and Reine Victoria from The Netherlands. But cherries are also great to work with.’
Luc: ‘Because they know what we’re looking for; they think with us. When there are fresh juniper branches, they contact us immediately. Plus the fact that Rungis has a large network and knows how to find farmers who can harvest only two kilos of something for us. Not all new suggestions suit us. we can’t do much with Peruvian tubers, for example. Although it’s always nice to see what’s new on the market.’