Soon after the green Michelin star concept was rolled out in France, in 2021, eight restaurants in Belgium received their first green Michelin star during the Michelin award ceremony in Mons. WOWwatchers ventured into nature and discovered in the vegetable and herb gardens of Hofke van Bazel*, one of those pioneers, what the requirements for a green star are and how chef Kris de Roy and his wife Gina Miurin plucked it from the firmament.
Text by Anja Van Der Borght
“Michelin had been toying with the idea of a green star for some time,” explains Werner Loens, Selection Director of the Michelin Guide Benelux. “One of the major objectives of our industrial group is to completely green all activities (tires, hotel industry, and restaurants) between 2030 and 2050. Hence, we want to inspire chefs to work more sustainably. Many star chefs have been involved with this for a long time and it wasn’t Michelin that initiated it, but we do think it’s important as a leading entity within fine gastronomy to distinguish chefs with a green star for their sustainable way of working. Although we have some criteria for it, we don’t have a sustainability checklist that we tick off. It really revolves around philosophy and that can vary from one restaurant to another. For example, chefs in an urban environment are often more involved with reducing food waste and plastic or purchasing their ingredients more locally, while a more rurally located restaurant might grow its own vegetables, install more solar panels, or recycle its water. We also honor initiatives such as Instroom by Seppe Nobels who focuses more on people and gives new futures to newcomers from all over the world. He looks for immigrants whom he wants to put to work in a beautiful, happy atmosphere. Restaurants that focus heavily on work-life balance; for us, that is also sustainability… of people and work. We assess these aspects during our visits, by informing ourselves through websites, social media, etc. If the menu mentions local suppliers, it rings a bell and we will investigate further.”
We also honor initiatives such as Instroom by Seppe Nobels who focuses more on people and gives new futures to newcomers from all over the world. He looks for immigrants whom he wants to put to work in a beautiful, happy atmosphere.Werner Loens, Selection Director of the Michelin Guide Benelux
The First Seed
“In 2005 when we inaugurated our first vegetable garden, there wasn’t really any talk of a vegetable garden at a restaurant,” says star chef Kris De Roy of Hofke van Bazel. “In other words, even before the big hype of restaurants and their vegetable gardens, we were already involved with it. Initially, we wanted our own herbs to help us out. Driving back and forth to the herb nursery Sanguisorba in Ranst, legendary among star chefs, twice a week at night after service was tough, and we could never perfectly calculate how many flowers and herbs we needed until Sunday evening. That’s why we decided to grow ingredients that we use a lot, such as Hot Lips, thyme, tarragon, etc., as a backup ourselves. And so the first seed in our herb garden was planted. Today, we still grow everything from the seed because with plant material you never know exactly what quality it is. We have experienced this, for example, with Moroccan mint. With plant material, the strength, the aroma, the scent of the plant is so weakened over time because the plant adapts to our climate. If you let Moroccan mint grow from seed every year (and it grows fast), then you have that sultry, full mint for making mint tea every time. Meanwhile, we also have a 0.7-hectare vegetable and herb garden (the size of a soccer field) in the Polders of Kruibeke, a unique natural area and the largest flood area in Belgium. The vegetables we serve in our restaurant are half our own production. Not everything. Certain vegetables like celery, potatoes, carrots are not interesting for us to grow because the soil here does not lend itself to it. Tomatoes and a large part of our eggplants, bell peppers, chili peppers, edible dahlias, horseradish, wasabi, etc., we do grow all ourselves.”
De Nieuwe Winkel** in Nijmegen by Emile van der Staak recently received the award for the best plant-based restaurant in the world.”
In 2018, Hofke van Bazel was chosen by Gault&Millau as the best vegetable restaurant in Belgium and in 2021 they received their first green Michelin star. “That was fantastic,” Kris recalls. “Michelin has created this award to honor restaurants that run their business sustainably. Every restaurant that is included in the Michelin Guide is eligible, but it is not so much about restaurants that can cook deliciously green. The Michelin inspectors screen for the green Michelin the use of local and seasonal ingredients, the food waste and ecological footprint of the restaurant, the general waste processing and recycling, and the sustainable management.”
Werner Loens, Selection Director of the Michelin Guide Benelux: “
It’s not that there are separate ‘green’ and ‘red’ Michelin star inspectors out and about. That would cost us too much (laughs).”
In short, the green star honors restaurants and chefs who hold themselves responsible for their standards in terms of ethics and environment. Those who work with ethical suppliers and producers, who do everything they can to avoid waste and banish plastic and other non-recyclable materials from their supply chain. Many chefs work closely with local growers, farmers, and fishermen. They forage in the forests, have their own animals, and grow their own vegetables and fruit. Several chefs also pay attention to regenerative agricultural methods and, for example, work with food forests. Hofke van Bazel is no different. “All the materials, think of the plant and herb containers we use in our vegetable garden, are made of recycled plastic,” says Kris. “Even our garden benches are made of recycled PET bottles. We also work as locally and regionally as possible. Our flour, for instance, comes from the Hanewijk flour mills 500 meters away, our dairy is from nearby, etc. We get our vegetables from our vegetable garden and bring the waste we create back there to compost. What comes on the plate, how it originated, and what we do with it are the questions we ask ourselves daily.” These are also questions that Nicolas Decloedt of Humus x Hortense* in Ixelles asks. “This one-star restaurant in Ixelles was the first plant-based fine dining restaurant in Belgium to get a Michelin star and is a real example of concentrated sustainability for us,” Loens says. “They not only cook very vegetarian, but they also look at all the details regarding sustainability. They have a farmer who grows special products for them, they serve almost exclusively organic wines and infusions that they make from their vegetable and fruit waste. Even the chairs, table settings, and staff clothing are sustainable. On an international level, De Nieuwe Winkel** in Nijmegen by Emile van der Staak is a beautiful example. He has his own food forest, a treasure trove of edible plants from yarrow to Chinese mahogany. He is doing super well and recently received the award for the best plant-based restaurant in the world.”
The world currently counts 449 green Michelin stars. Fortunately, more and more attention is being paid to sustainability.Werner Loens, Selection Director of the Michelin Guide Benelux
Hofke van Bazel has also been charming for a long time with their green approach, serving all their guests one hundred percent green and vegetarian finger food and amuses. “This allows us to introduce many people to ‘green gastronomy’ every year, and that gives me a lot of satisfaction,” says co-owner Gina Miurin. “When customers tell us after a meal that they found it delicious and fantastic and didn’t miss meat or fish, then my mission is accomplished. I can’t change the world, but I can broaden people’s horizons so that they would be more open to green gastronomy.”
“I can’t change the world, but I can broaden people’s horizons so that they would be more open to green gastronomy.Gina Miurin, co-owner of Hofke van Bazel
“With a (host) wife who is vegetarian, we started with vegetable dishes more than twenty years ago; but our approach was no easy feat,” Kris says. “People didn’t understand that we weren’t serving meat substitutes but plates full of vegetables and herbs. Fortunately, that mentality has disappeared. Today, many vegetarian balanced gastronomic menus are offered. Restaurants that do not offer vegetarian dishes and proclaim this on their website are not of this time, in my opinion. Meanwhile, we also serve vegetable bread and menus with adapted juices. People who come here to eat a green dish can choose adapted vegetable, fruit, and herb juices. With ‘Gina’s Choice’ we even have an in-house label for vegetarian gastronomy. The more we are involved with it, the broader our offer becomes.
Recently, with Eleven Madison Park by Daniel Humm in New York, the first vegan restaurant in the world to be awarded three Michelin stars has become a reality.
Recently, with Eleven Madison Park by Daniel Humm in New York, the first vegan restaurant in the world to be awarded three Michelin stars has become a reality. In short, you can feel that there is a big evolution underway.” “Sustainable must be an evolution and not a revolution,” Loens agrees. “It must proceed steadily. Otherwise, there is a risk that we will impoverish the kitchen. We must continue to focus on delicious food, on taste, … because that’s what it’s all about when you go to a restaurant: the pleasure of eating.”
The new Michelin Guide Belgium and Luxembourg 2023 counts fourteen green stars. This year four new ones were added.