by Charlotte Vanbever
From May 12 to 15, the Tour&Taxis site in Brussels will host a new culinary and festive event: the Streat Fest, contraction of “street” and “eat”. Either eat, but (very well), in the street… or almost. For the occasion, Max has brought together three Belgian chefs, with origins — a Carolo, a Brussels native born in Bhutan and an Antwerp native — and with totally different backgrounds, but with a vision of cooking that is resolutely focused on pleasure. Seated or not…
“This festival, and street food, is a way of celebrating life, especially after two years of the pandemic”rejoices Lhamo Svaluto, owner of the Tibetan restaurant Mo Mo. The famous Carolo chef, Stéphane Chermanne, whose restaurant bears the name, smiles: “It’s nice of you to have thought of me already!” Because I’m not into street food, I run a bistronomic restaurant and they contacted me to find out what touch I could bring here. The challenge is super cool, because it’s not something I’m used to doing. It can be a headache for me to make a street food dish”. Unlike Glen Ramaekers, chef at the Humphrey, who is used to having his exotic cuisine tasted at various events. “In our restaurant, with my wife, we make a lot of dishes to share. In what we do, we represent Filipino cuisine, my mother being Filipino, and we move a lot”. Installed in the building of the music label Pias, in the heart of Brussels, chef Glen experienced, long before the pandemic, another obstacle to taste his cuisine: the attacks in Brussels. “On an open right after. People then avoided coming to Brussels. We understood that we had to move, that the period was difficult and that we could not be satisfied with having a restaurant. We did festivals, we represented Belgium outside our borders. We went abroad to promote Brussels, but why didn’t we work on it at home? In Flanders, food festivals exist in several large cities, with starred restaurants. What’s great here is to have a festival that’s a little more fun, younger and, above all, multicultural, like Brussels and Belgium in general. I don’t think we’re proud enough to put that forward! »
Photo credit: Xavier Janssens
For once, with you three, we are confronted with three cuisines from totally different cultures…
Stefan: I’ll be happy to let my guys work at some point and go and taste all over the festival, to see what the other restaurateurs offer…
Lhamo: It’s not a compartmentalized world, it’s not just chefs and stars. I don’t consider myself a chef. I feel like an impostor…
But what is it to be a real leader then?
Stefan: Being a real chef is the pleasure of pleasing others and mastering what you do.
Lhamo: I like this definition! What I do is very mono-product, totally in the spirit of street food, parties and festivals. We still have the ready-made idea of unrefined street food, of poor quality. Or, here, the challenge is to do something refined but in street food.
Street food allows you to dare more, to have more freedom than in a restaurant
To what extent has the conception of the restaurant in the very broad sense changed over the past ten years?
Stefan: The clientele has evolved and the codes have changed a little. Twenty years ago, restaurants were on weekdays for businessmen and weekends for families. Today, in a couple where both people work, we go on weekdays to “eat a little bit”. It is no longer making long gourmet meals. People go out more often and want to find a fairly varied choice. There are a lot of people who no longer cook at home and who don’t have the means to have a gastro every day either.
Are people also more open to tasting other flavors elsewhere?
Lhamo: I note that the palate of the clientele has widened. Until a few years ago, slightly spicy dishes were found to be very spicy. Now people generally say they love it.
Stefan: In the wines too it can be seen. There are wines from certain regions that I did not know how to drink 20 years ago and today they are the ones I prefer. The palace changes. Street food is also something very young and it’s a good thing that these young people are making themselves a palate because they will be our customers later in restaurants.
Glen: You can also dare a little more in street food, you can give yourself a little more freedom. In a restaurant, you pay more attention…
Stefan: Yes, we must remain a little consensual, on the line.
The palate widens but at the same time there are dishes that we no longer eat…
Stefan: Absolutely. Before, we ate more offal. Twenty years ago, our parents and grandparents often ate it. Was there any disgust?