One of the things that surprises me in Germany is how many bio supermarkets there are. But how can you have mass-produced bio products? What’s the value of bio then?
Eat with Janick Cox
A few weeks ago I was invited to have a dinner, but it was not a typical routine dinner with friends in one of the Cologne’s restaurants. Instead, I experienced a different way to dine out and try delicious authentic food prepared in the apartment kitchen of a young Belgian chef. Janick Cox is a Graphics and Multimedia specialist at a large international organization and an aspiring professional chef in his free time.
Life is where you are
Janick comes from a small village Kortessem, situated in the Belgian province of Limburg. “In the Bavaria of Belgium,” laughingly says Janick. He only came to Cologne in 2008 because of work. “I never actually planned to move to Germany and at the beginning I was more excited about the job than my move to Cologne,” says the multimedia specialist. After two years Janick realized that he had two different lives: one in Belgium with his friends and family over the weekend and another one in Cologne from Monday to Friday. “Slowly, but surely I started staying more and more in Cologne,” says Janick serving me a refreshing tomato-basil soup as a starter and continues: “I enjoy my time here a lot. I only go to Belgium once a month now mostly on Sundays to visit my friends and family.”
Janick likes the possibilities that Cologne offers, for example, the variety of events, restaurants and bars. He also appreciates the fact that Germans do not like to show money, at least in the certain parts of the city, but they stand for a simple and cozy life with a lot of character. However, he does not find Germans always efficient, unlike a typical stereotype. “For example, the banks can be so inflexible,” he says and carries on:
I was quite surprised that you need to pay for a monthly wire transfer to a non-German back account or that you need to pay a fee when getting money from an ATM that is not from your bank.”
When Janick first came to Germany, he did not speak the language at all, but for a Dutch speaking Belgian it never seemed to be a big problem: “I used to germanize my Dutch a lot, especially at the beginning,” confirms the Belgian. Janick is sure that once you speak the language, you feel more accepted and well integrated: “I am almost there, I need to practice my German a bit more to really feel comfortable.” He also recalls one of the funniest language mistakes he has made here: “During my first year in Cologne, I once wanted to order a sandwich. In Dutch colloquial language you can say: “ene met kaas”, which basically means “one with cheese”, in the moment I assumed that “ene” in Dutch would be “ohne” in German, so I said “ohne mit käse” (without with cheese – ed.), obviously when I saw the confused face of the lady, I knew I was wrong.”
How the aspiring chef was made
I am personally often not sure how one develops a passion for cooking. Is it just inherent in some people? Or is it just a matter of liking what you do? Or perhaps just hard work and a lot of dedication? For Janick it is a matter of discovering modern techniques and experimenting with international cuisine.
More than three years ago Janick did not have to cook much, he was eating out almost every evening during his work week in Cologne. He still remembers that one evening while in a supermarket he saw a can of cooked spaghetti and he bought it. “When I opened it, it looked horrible,” exclaims the novice chef. That was it. That was the first real push to try and experiment with cooking. “The real kick start for my cooking came from a TV show “In search of perfection” by Heston Blumenthal, which talked a lot about the modern movement of cooking,” says Janick and goes on: “I was already intrigued by cooking, but I like the way this modern movement makes you understand the process of cooking and does not just accept the established techniques, for example, some myths like “sealing in the juices” are completely wrong.” Slowly he just fell into it. It was something that he enjoyed.
“I am not the cook that is crazy about fitting various ingredients together. I am more about the scientific things, about applying certain techniques to cooking. I like to cook underappreciated cuts of meat,” says Janick while bringing me the second course of the Belgian evening (the duck breast with a fluid-gel wild berry sauce, parsnip puree and crispy french fries – ed.) and continues: “Some cuts of meats have so much more flavor then a boring steak, for example, a brisket or a beef cheek, these parts are a bit more time consuming to cook, but so much better.” One thing that surprises him in Germany is how many bio supermarkets there are. “But how can you have mass-produced bio products? What’s the value of bio then?” wonders the young Belgian.
Eat with Janick
A few months ago Janick wanted to take his hobby a step up. By googling he got to know the concept of home restaurants and an online platform called “EatWith”. It is an international community that invites people to have a meal in would-be professional chefs’ homes. It is an Israeli based start-up company, very famous in New York, Barcelona and other big cities worldwide. “I recently joined the platform to improve my culinary skills, prepare authentic Belgian food in Germany, to get experience in cooking for bigger groups, and a nice extra is that I also get to meet interesting people,” smiling says the young chef. His first guests were tourists from the USA and the UK living in Paris. They found Janick through the website because they had heard about the concept EatWith before and simply wanted to try authentic Belgian cuisine while on holidays in Germany. “Perhaps Cologne is a little too small for this idea, it does not have so much tourism as a capital,” he says and goes on: “But it is still a new concept and you need to give people some time to learn about it. Next time I travel I would definitely search for a EatWith restaurant.”
Janick is optimistic and hopes that this concept grows in Germany as well. He thinks that there is a community out there that would like to experience more personal way of dining. He believes that it’s also a great way of getting to know the city you are visiting by actually meeting people that live in it. “My favorite thing to cook, which is a part of the menu I offer today to you, is the duck breast. In my view the best way of making it involves brining and cooking it sous vide, a technique used by chefs such as Thomas Keller and Heston Blumenthal,” Janick describes. (And I confirm it is a finger licking good food – ed.)
Cooking: a passion or career?
From time to time the twenty-eight-year-old chef thinks about turning his cooking hobby into a professional career, but he does not see himself as a full-time cook in a kitchen. “I am enjoying what I am doing now at EatWith. If you work in a kitchen, the connection with people who hopefully enjoy your food is lost and I would not like that,” he explains, while I am enjoying his delicious molten chocolate cake with a vanilla ice-cream (there is nothing better than a hot and cold combination in dessert – ed.). Now Janick admits that one of the best decisions he has made was actually his move to Cologne, he is really enjoying his time here. In the future he would like to learn more about food science and perhaps start teaching modern cooking techniques. “I have been cooking for over three years now and I have still so much to learn. I am very curious as a person and love to search for new combinations and flavours, I do not follow recipes and I believe it’s much more important to taste as you cook, at least you can understand what changes.
Of course, things don’t always work the way I plan to, but sometimes it turns out to be a great dish,”
he smiles and invites me to try his authentic Belgian food once again very soon in the future.