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Chef Interview With Florent Ladeyn

Reaching the final of Top Chef 2013 in France saw Florent Ladeyn return to his childhood home in the Flanders countryside to open his first restaurant L’Auberge du Vert Mont. His mission – to only serve sustainable, locally grown food in a rustic, fine dining way. Now Chef Patron of three restaurants and a beer house in and around Lille, Florent continues to make his own rules in the hospitality industry. Florent tells us why…

© Anne-Claire Heraud

Q. How did you become a chef and how has your upbringing influenced your journey in food?

My parents' inn was my first love, it is where I grew up and where my roots are. I took on the running of the kitchen during my last year of secondary homeschooling. As a family, when my parents could get away from the restaurant, we went to the forest or the countryside. From childhood, I have felt deeply connected to nature with a respect for our planet and an awareness for wildlife, plants and regard for others.

Q. How did you come from being a finalist of

Top Chef 2013 in France to owning 3 restaurants?

That's an incredible achievement!

It is simply the result of a lot of hard work on the part of a fantastic team. It also shows that our 100% local produce commitment is viable on economic, ecological and social ground.

© Alice Tippy

Q. Are there any chefs who have inspired you in your career?

I have not worked with chefs and I've never had a head chef. However I have eaten regularly at Kobe desramaults at In de Wulf. At Vert Mont we have opted for a hybrid concept between the atmosphere of a Flandres tavern accessible to all and fine dining where guests can discover unusual combinations of produce and enjoy rustic techniques like our cooking with wood in the fireplace in front of our customers.

Q. What is your approach to sustainability in your kitchens & what can the industry do to improve?

We only use local produce. To me that says it all. Many chefs say:"we source locally" I say:"we only source our food locally." It is not a fad or a marketing ploy. It is what we do everyday and have done for a very long time.We only bring in produce that we can see growing on soil that we see outside our windows.

© Faites du bruit

Q. What can we do to cook more sustainably at home?

There are no unwanted steps as long as they go in the right direction. My only ambition is to show that it is possible. I'm not trying to teach anybody, I have enough to do in my restaurant. However, if each one of us had a mind to use only seasonal produce farmed and grown nearby, it would bring a real change. To eat is like voting three times a day to buy from the farm near you or get a local food box delivery, it slows down a trend destroying our planet and exploiting human beings for the sake of money.

Q. What are your favourite ingredients to cook with in the Autumn?

On average I have to wait a couple of months for produce (available to other chefs) before it gets to our kitchens, that makes me all the more keen to use them. In the autumn, I would choose quince as my favourite ingredient.

© Faites du bruit

Q. Are there any UK dishes that you love which use ingredients abundant in this country?

I only cook dishes from this area but I envy you your seafood, your lamb, your pork your edible plants and some of your craft beers.

Q. Running a business and having a family, is it a hard act to balance?

No, but I do my best to strike a balance. I have chosen a lifestyle based on my work which doesn't privilege family life, I would love to spend more time with my children but we have a great relationship and I enjoy every moment.

Q. Where does your creativity come from when you are menu developing and how do you keep surprising your guests after so many years?

For me, narrowing the choice of produce to local ones has given me an outlet for creativity, it has become a foundation rather than a limitation. I don't like to be too comfortable. Maybe later I'll be more so but not just yet. I don't get a kick out of endless lists of produce where I can choose anything I like.

Q. Aside from your restaurants, any top recommendations of things to do on a trip to Lille?

Do visit La Villa Cavrois or take a few steps in the Old Lille followed by a stroll in the park Marguerite Yourcenar. You should also go along the Dunkerque canal or walk amongst the dunes between Zuydchoote and Leffrinckoucke and hike in the hills of Flanders and take time to have a chat with local residents. That's what we do here, not like in Paris.

See our travel section for more recommendations in Lille.

Q. I read your amazing response to the loss of your Michelin star this January. How do you feel about it now that a few months have passed?

It's all good! I haven't heard of a reason but rest assured that there is no bitterness or worry on my part as my customers keep coming back and quite a few didn't even know we had a star as I hadn't displayed about it or talked about it.

Read Florent's response to the news here:

Q. How do you see the future of food and eating out in relation to the recent outbreak of Covid-19?

Never forget you're working for your customers, not for yourself. Provide more than just a meal without being elitist. A restaurant isn't just theatre but rather a living space which needs to balance financial, social and human parts. In my view, the best restaurant is always full, pays its bills and its team and shows respect for its environment.

Not the one rewarded with the top accolade!

Thank you to Chef Florent for this interview!

Please see restaurant details overleaf.

Follow Florent on Instagram @florentladeyn

© Anne-Claire Heraud

© Anne-Claire Heraud

All other images © Sebastian von Holstein


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