City Brewery De Koninck presents local culinary heroes
In recent months, the De Koninck brewery site on Mechelsesteenweg has been a hive of activity and construction work. While the brewers carry on brewing their celebrated Bollekes in the brewing hall, walls have been knocked out in the surrounding buildings to create new spaces. Starting from summer 2015, the renovated city brewery will be opened to the public so that everyone can come and discover what goes on inside. But along with the unique pleasures of De Koninck beer, there's a lot more in store for visitors. The Berchem-based cheese masters Van Tricht had already found their niche in the city brewery and now, it's opening its doors to butcher Luc De Laet, chef Bert–Jan Michielsen, chocolatier Jitsk Heyninck and photographer/publisher Tony Le Duc. It promises to be quite a culinary summer!
A happy marriage: cheese & beer
In 2012, when the Brewery found itself with a free space adjacent to the new brewing hall, the area was converted into eight new ripening chambers for the Van Tricht cheeses. The city brewery is just steps from Van Tricht’s cheese shop and Cheese & Wine bar in Berchem. Van Tricht had been looking for some time for a large space in which to ripen and store their cheeses. Father and son Van Tricht have been supplying cheeses to nearly all of the better restaurants in Belgium and abroad for years and in 2010 they were picked by the Wall Street Journal as the Best Cheese Shop in Europe. Together with a cheese producer from Normandy, Van Tricht developed a special cheese, “Vanillien”, as the perfect pairing with De Koninck. The marriage between Van Tricht and the brewery has been a success and now, new spaces being made available to more creative spirits.
It's in his blood
As a butcher who lives for his craft, it's been a childhood dream of Luc De Laet's to open his own butcher's shop. This summer, on Mechelsesteenweg, it will become a reality. The story of Luc De Laet is all about drive, hard work and ambition. Through many hours of working weekends, holidays, and at every available opportunity, Luc honed his craft as a butcher. In 1992, the jovial rock and roll butcher took over the Hendrickx family business in Hove, and in 2014, together with his enthusiastic wife Peggy, he started a wholesale business. For years, Slagerij De Laet has been synonymous with pure quality and inspirational craftsmanship. De Laet and the brewery have already established a rewarding collaboration and this summer, they will no doubt be raising a toast to another great new venture on the premises of the city brewery.
Veal cheeks with Winterkoninck
The duo of chef Bert-Jan Michielsen and sommelier Luc Dickens, both of whom currently work at the restaurant De Schone van Boskoop, will be opening a restaurant of their own in the space occupied by Slagerij De Laet at the brewery. Bert-Jan got his start as a youngster working for De Laet and developed a taste for it, literally and figuratively. He lives near the brewery and knows the neighbourhood like the back of his hand. Bert-Jan: “I was chatting with Luc about the construction work going on at the brewery and at a certain point he says, ‘Bert there seems to be a lot going on in your backyard’. That was the moment when I saw that I could translate my dreams into concrete plans. I love the feeling of the building with its industrial, yet inviting character, and that's something I want to preserve in my concept. I want my guests to enjoy it all: the decor, the atmosphere and naturally, the dishes I serve.” From an open kitchen, Bert-Jan plans to offer high quality but affordable fare. Meat will play a central role, since he will be sharing the space with the butcher. Bert-Jan: “veal cheeks with Winterkoninck and potato mousseline, that will be on the menu for sure.”
“They are like a circus in your mouth”, these were the legendary words of the Consul of Qatar upon tasting the pralines made by Jistk Heyninck. The 24-year-old chocolatier has travelled the world with his chocolate creations, bringing his pralines as far afield as the World Expo in Shanghai and Korea. But he'll soon be touching down in Antwerp. He'll be setting up a chocolate workshop and store right next door to the brewing hall. Jitsk may be young, but he's tremendously dedicated and ambitious, a master-chocolatier with a penchant for pure flavours. Jitsk: “I want my chocolate to represent quality in all its simplicity. No unnecessary frills, just love of the product and the craft. I seek out small-scale suppliers and I'm highly selective with my ingredients. I want 100 % flavour and products that are above all, authentic.”
A few months ago, culinary photographer and publisher Tony Le Duc put the finishing touches on “Desire”, an impressive book capturing the final year of award-winning chef Sergio Herman at the now closed restaurant Oud Sluis. The Jane, the new restaurant run by Sergio Herman and Nick Bril, is located just a few blocks away from city brewery De Koninck. Tony Le Duc knows the neighbourhood of the brewery and the special character of the buildings triggered something for him. He decided to take a look at what the brewery site had to offer. Le Duc has a deep-seated love of beer and brewing. His father was a beer wholesaler and concession holder for Wieze-pils. As a child, he frequently visited the brewery laboratory where he discovered how new beers are developed. The smell of malt is etched in his memory. In the summer of 2015, Tony Le Duc will be setting up his company ‘Minestrone Cookbooks’ in the former laboratory of brewery De Koninck. The space will house not only the company offices but also a tasting lab where cooking and beer demos will be held regularly. In his 30 years working as a food photographer, Tony Le Duc has collaborated with world-renowned chefs. Since 2004 he has also been a publisher of culinary books. Tony Le Duc: “I always start with a visual concept and I often use old printing techniques and special finishing details and I work with premium-quality papers.”
Dynamic city brewery
Meanwhile, minute by minute, the renovated brewery site continues to take shape. In the summer of 2015 the new city brewery will open its doors to the public. Visitors can take their own tour of the brewery. The 75 to 90-minute tour will immerse young and old in a grand tradition well worthy of a king ('De Koninck'). Discover the process from a 4-meter-high walkway straight through the brewing hall. You'll feel all of the energy of the brewery and learn more about the world of Belgian beer. And naturally, afterwards, there's ample opportunity to taste Antwerp's beloved beer. The renovated city brewery has been made possible in part by the support of Toerisme Vlaanderen and the Flemish government. You can keep up with the latest developments on the De Koninck Facebook page.