A taste of Holland is coming to Singapore, with Dutch chef Joris Bijdendijk in town to cook at two restaurants, Pollen at the Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay, and The Disgruntled Chef in Ann Siang Road.
He is here for Citibank's $100Gourmet initiative, which features international chefs collaborating with two host restaurants in Singapore each month.
For Citibank cardholders, the six-course dinners cost $100++ a person and the three-course lunches cost $100++ for two. Other diners pay $180++ each for dinner and $180++ for two at lunch.
The 31-year-old executive chef of Restaurant RIJKS in the renowned Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam will be working alongside chef Colin Buchan of Pollen until today and with The Disgruntled Chef's Daniel Sia from Wednesday to Saturday.
He tells Life at Pollen that he has brought some of his ingredients for the dishes that he will be cooking here.
BOOK IT / $100GOURMET
WHERE: Pollen, 18 Marina Gardens Drive and The Disgruntled Chef, 26B Dempsey Road
WHEN: Dinner today at Pollen, lunch at The Disgruntled Chef from Thursday to Saturday, dinner from Wednesday to Saturday
ADMISSION: $100++ each for dinner and $100++ for two guests at lunch (Citibank credit-card members), for non- Citibank cardholders, $180++ each for dinner and $180++ for two guests at lunch; separate charge for beverages
INFO: Go to www.100gourmet.sg
Among them: fresh yeast, black quinoa and a base for Dutch plum sauce. He will be whipping up signature dishes such as roasted prawn tail with curry cream, puffed quinoa and trout eggs. "I brought things such as the base for Dutch plum sauce as the Dutch plum season this year was very good," he says. "I also consider not just traditional foods such as herring, cheese, stroopwafel and croquette as the flavours of Amsterdam but also wild herbs, plants and mushrooms."
Other ways in which he plans to showcase the taste of Holland include "bringing in a harmonious culinary combination with seafood from the North Sea and fresh produce from the rich agricultural countryside of The Netherlands".
"I make contact with the other chefs and we discuss the collaborations so we can get all the produce ready," he says. "That's always the biggest challenge. I also feel that you need to be able to improvise and be creative when you cook overseas and be flexible to work around ingredients that you cannot get there.
"This is when I try to find something local with a similar flavour and incorporate it into the dish. It's fun because you're forced to be creative and come out of your comfort zone."
At Pollen, he and chef Buchan have collaborated on two dishes: potato cooked in caramel butter, smoked goat's curd, carrot soil and mint vinaigrette; and a Royale of foie gras, poached lobster, orange segments and vin jaune sauce.
At The Disgruntled Chef, he will work with chef Sia to create duck breast, pistachio crumble, germule (sprouts) and Dutch plum sauce; and a dessert of Dutch Hangop (strained yogurt) with miso caramel, rice krispies and peanuts.
At age of 16, chef Bijdendijk found an appreciation for fresh produce while helping out at his parents' farm in Belgium. He tended to the animals and helped to harvest the crops.
He started his culinary training alongside butchers and moved on to learn how to work with produce. He then went to work at the two-Michelin-starred restaurant Ron Blaauw in Amsterdam, under the wing of chef Ron Blaauw.
"I had to learn it hands-on from a master chef who was Ron Blaaw," he says. "I worked for free to learn more and squeezed in whatever free time I had juggling work and school to be mentored by him. I wrote a six-year plan and asked him to teach me everything that was on the list. I promised I would spend half of that time studying under him and the next three years working for him."
After that, he went on to become sous chef at Les Jardin des Sens, a two-Michelin-starred French res- taurant in Montpellier. After that came Bridges in 2012, the restaurant of the five-star Sofitel Legend The Grand in Amsterdam, where he was executive chef and earned his first Michelin star.
Now, as executive chef of RIJKS, he creates dishes that are largely inspired by the flavours that have influenced Dutch cuisine over the years.
His first visit here was in 2011, when he was sous chef to Jacques and Laurent Pourcel of Les Jardin des Sens, who were guest chefs at Restaurant Andre in Bukit Pasoh Road. This time, he is here with his girlfriend Elsa Alibert, 29, who also works in the restaurant industry, and son Samuel, who is nine months old. He says he remembers fondly the food adventures he had here on his first visit.
"I remember one of the guys from Andre giving me soup 'tulang' where I had to eat bone marrow from the bone with a straw," he says. "I liked it."