“I’d rather stand next to the pedestal than on it”


‘Classic fare’ is the name of Jeroen Meus’s thirtieth cookbook, which was released last week. In it, the sympathetic TV chef serves a hundred classic recipes, from the past and present. “I would like to preserve what is good, without being old-fashioned. Because classic is absolutely not the same as old-fashioned.”

Jeroen Meus shows the evolution of our classic recipes in his new book. Because in recent years the ancient classics have been joined by many ‘new’ classics, such as ossobuco, tagine with lamb and moussaka. In the book you will find 100 recipes and a number of basic preparations, in which the Daily foodchef shows his deep-rooted appreciation for the pure product.

This is your thirtieth cookbook, an incredible number. How do you look back on such a series?

“I watch – as we speak – to all the cookbooks that are neatly arranged in my bookcase. All the other books are haphazardly mixed up, but not my cookbooks. It is now a nicely filled shelf. But how do I look back on such a series? Gosh, I’m not looking back yet; I’m not done yet by a long shot. In fact, I’m already thinking about my next cookbook. But of course I think it’s really cool to have something tangible from my career. I can survey an entire career at a glance. These thirty cookbooks also show the evolution I have gone through. You also see this evolution in the photography style. Every now and then I pick up an old book again, for example when I have to look for new recipes for it Daily food.” (laughs)

Do you have any idea how many cookbooks you have sold in your life?

“No, but there will be quite a few. To be honest, I’m not really concerned with that. I know what the previous book did and how many of the very first one I sold. But I have no idea about the total. I would actually like to know.”

Do you ever plan to stop using those cookbooks?

“No definitely not. I find it too much fun to come up with those books. The previous book was full of vegetarian dishes, but now I thought it would be fun to offer something completely different: a book full of classics from the past and present. Because those classics also evolve. A spaghetti bolognese, for example, does not exist in Italy. In Belgium we make this with mushrooms, peppers and carrots. That has become our classic.”

You used to be described as the rock ‘n’ roll chef. Isn’t that in stark contrast to those classics?

“That was sometimes said about me in the past, yes, but I have also gotten older, a lot has happened in my life and I notice that I am increasingly returning to simple, solid classics, always starting from the product, more than from the creation. I now prefer to work more soberly; I’d rather stand next to the pedestal than on it. It doesn’t all have to be too crazy anymore.”

Which classic dish should you definitely not miss in this book?

“Sausage with red cabbage. And chicory in the oven. But I also added a Pad Thai, just like Cholent, a classic Jewish bean dish. I think embracing each other’s cuisine is a form of integration.”

“Sausage with red cabbage, that should not be missed for me,” says Jeroen Meus about the classics in the kitchen. (photos gf)

How satisfied are you with this book?

“Very satisfied! It was of course a difficult choice: which dishes do you select for such a book full of classics? But the result is impressive. I really mean it when I say that I think my books are getting better and better. What I am also proud of is that my team is still the same. The photographer who photographed my first book in 2001 also took the photos for this new book. In other words, I am blessed with a very loyal team. That also applies to Daily food.”

What is the secret of a good cookbook?

“I can’t answer that. I don’t try to go for success, but to do it right. I try to give people a lot so that it benefits them a lot. Sales success is never in the back of my mind, that’s not how I am built.”

‘Classic fare’ (Manteau Publishers, 29.99 euros) has been available in bookstores since last week.

The article is in Dutch

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