Since the beginning of the year, Ekkebus has been hitting the road with a three-month-long global discovery tour that comprises pop-up cooking stints in restaurants in Amsterdam, Marrakech, Aachen, Tokyo and Taipei.
This kitchen sabbatical is a golden opportunity for the chef and his team to explore native produce around the world, study new culinary techniques and trends, examine sustainable restaurant practices and exchange ideas with other renowned chefs.
“We rarely accept requests for pop-ups or events as my priority is to cook in Amber,” he says. “The 4-1/2-month closure is a true opportunity to hand-pick destinations that would add value to my team’s experience and get inspired from various food cultures and chefs around the world.”
He hopes to distill new-found inspiration to shape Amber’s revamped menu, when the restaurant reopens in May.
Ekkebus, who returns to The Netherlands once or twice a year, says: “That was the first time I have cooked in my homeland in 33 years and it was an unique opportunity to cook in the historic Rijksmuseum, which is one of the most culturally significant buildings in The Netherlands.”
He continues: “Amsterdam is a super exciting food city. There are a lot of cool inexpensive eateries with strong vegetable and locavore-driven menus.” Here, Ekkebus shares with us his favourite food haunts in The Netherlands.
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1. What are your favourite dining spots in The Netherlands?
Spectrum in the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam by Sidney Schutte, who was my deputy in The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong. The restaurant, which received two Michelin stars seven months after it opened, features boundless creativity in its signature tasting menu.
I also like the three-starred De Librije in Zwolle by Jonnie and Therese Boer. Try their vegetarian menu as Jonnie works predominantly with ingredients from the region and out of the gardens of his farmer, Eef.
Château Neercanne near Maastricht was where I started my Michelin-starred restaurant career. This is the most beautiful terraced castle in Holland. In summer, you can have a drink in the beautifully restored castle terrace garden that overlooks the Kanner valley. Make sure that you have a drink, preferably a bottle of white Apostelhoeve riesling (one of the oldest Dutch winery that is next to the castle) that is kept in wine cellars hidden in the mountain behind the Château. Save some time to visit this amazing property. Chef Hans Snijders is famous for his mushrooms that are grown in the caves of the restaurant.
2. What is the first dish that you go for whenever you are back in The Netherlands?
In summer, I will have herring and, starting from September, I will go for mussels cooked in beer. And I always eat a frikandel (deep-fried sausage) and freshly fried French fries.
3. Which are your favourite markets to get produce from?
Every city has its markets that offer locally grown produce. Be sure to eat a herring from the fish stalls — the good ones clean the herring in front of you with a freshly chopped onion.
The herring season usually starts from May. It is usually served as a maatjesharing (soused herring that is soaked in a mild preserving liquid).
Also look for an artisanal waffle baker that sells made-to-order fresh stroopwaffles (left). It is, no doubt, one of the best sweets you will ever have.
4. If you could hop onto a plane and fly anywhere in the world for a meal, where would you choose to eat and why?
It would be Tokyo — hands down. The quality of food is extremely high and the offerings of restaurants very broad. I have never had a bad meal in Tokyo.
5. What food do you like to bring from The Netherlands before you leave for an overseas trip?
Dried sausages from Brandt & Levie, old Dutch cheese that has been aged for at least two years, clove or cumin cheeses and bags of liquorice (or "drop" in Dutch).
6. When you are not travelling, what are always in your home fridge?
A nice bottle of champagne, some nice cheeses, dried sausage or other cold cuts and a bar of dark chocolate with toasted hazelnuts.