People 2 minutes 13 July 2018

The First Day I Got My Michelin Stars: Sergio Herman

We get the world's most celebrated chefs to spill what it was like when they got their first Michelin stars.

celebrity chefs Hong Kong First Day I Got My Stars

Dutch chef Sergio Herman shocked the culinary world in 2013 when he decided to close his family’s venerated establishment, Oud Sluis, near the north coast of the Netherlands. He had worked at that restaurant for 25 years. The restaurant gained one Michelin star in 1995, earned a second in 1999, and then achieved the coveted three stars in 2006.

Sergio Herman – winner of six Michelin stars.png
A year after leaving Oud Sluis, he unveiled The Jane inside a beautifully restored chapel in Antwerp, serving up his extraordinary brand of creative, produce-led contemporary cuisine. Within a year, the restaurant was awarded two Michelin stars.

In 2010, Herman opened a more casual seafront restaurant, Pure C Bar & Restaurant, just a stone’s throw away from Oud Sluis, in the Strandhotel Cadzand-Bad. Pure C earned a Michelin star in just 18 months.
Here, he talks about his relationship with the MICHELIN Guide.
Sergio Herman will be cooking with Edward Voon at LE PAN in Hong Kong.
Sergio Herman will be cooking with Edward Voon at LE PAN in Hong Kong.
You took over the family restaurant and closed it when it was at its peak with three stars, and opened The Jane and Pure C which earned Michelin stars not long after. How did you feel when you earned those first stars?

Oh yes, I remember how thrilled I was. This was a monumental boost for me, it was the confirmation that I needed. As I had never worked anywhere but in my father’s restaurant and had to find everything out for myself, I didn’t have any references but my own gut feeling.

The stars for Pure C and The Jane were different from the ones I received for Oud Sluis. This time, I felt the joy for the chefs that I gave my trust to and I mostly remember feeling the pride for these guys.

How would you describe your relationship with the MICHELIN Guide and the stars?

Well, with every star comes a kind of responsibility. I never felt trapped or anything. Ever since the very first Michelin star [for Oud Sluis], I was only focusing on improving and becoming better every day. So, as far as my relationship with the Guide, I can only say that it kind of pushed me to be a better chef and manager as well as a better host to my guests.

What advice do you have for chefs aspiring to a star themselves?

All I can say to them is not to get distracted by things like Instagram and such. Make your own choices, widen your horizon with restaurant visits rather than surfing on the Internet, and improve on your skills by trial and error. Find your own signature and do what makes you happy.
Sergio Herman's two Michelin-starred The Jane. (Pic: Eric Kleinberg)
Sergio Herman's two Michelin-starred The Jane. (Pic: Eric Kleinberg)
Not only are you a chef and restaurateur, you’ve also written cookbooks, designed kitchenware and even starred in a documentary. What’s been most memorable for you?

First and foremost, I am a chef. All the rest is the outcome of the quality of my cooking career that has spanned more than two decades. Because I am so grateful for every great opportunity that comes along, I enjoy every single one of them. But I don’t agree to every opportunity—it’s important to me to pick only the best cherries out of the pie. Only then I can enjoy that project.

In July, we are starting a bar where we serve Japanese-style cuisine. In Strandhotel [where Pure C is], we’ll be working on all the f&b outlets with a [new] breakfast concept. In the autumn, an apero/bakery bar will open its doors. Right now, I’m working on a new cookbook which comes out in September and several different new mid-term and long-term projects.
One Michelin-starred seafront restaurant Pure C. (Pic: Pieter D'Hoop)
One Michelin-starred seafront restaurant Pure C. (Pic: Pieter D'Hoop)

Do you have a mentor? If so, what did you gain from that relationship?

My father definitely gave me my cooking DNA alongside cooking classics, basics, flavors and techniques. It’s all based on pure flavors, which I had to learn the hard way.  This still remains the base of my cooking which I rely every day in the kitchen.


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