We are convinced that passion encourages passion. For years our grandparents have been getting the best out of nature and each other. Through some questions we try to give you insights on the strong women, next to their chef, whom together color the world just that little brighter.
Joke Michiel runs the opinionated restaurant Souvenir together with her husband Vilhjalmur Sigurdason.
1. Nature and family are values of paramount importance, how do you carry these forward, or combine them with Souvenir?
Living connected with nature and family aren’t values that need to be applied. It’s a way of life. Doing what you find important in a way you find fulfilling. In Souvenir we value durability and authenticity. A vision – not always as easy with 3 young children – intertwined in our personal lives. We do what feels right and don’t make a fuzz about the things that don’t always work out.
2. Kiss My… is about going your own way, against the stream. In which aspects is your stubborn side coming through?
Six years ago we were already serving a predominantly vegetable based kitchen in Souvenir. A style that was developing but still very controversial. The little meat that came on the tables in Ypres completely disappeared from the menu in Gent. Now it’s a rather desirable kitchen instead of a controversy. Recently Sergio Herman announced that meat will be erased completely from the menu at Pure C. What maybe was counteracting us then, is proven to be our succes now. Being stubborn can be positive sometimes.
3. How do you keep yourself inspired?
My job mostly consists in; keeping the restaurant profitable, accountancy and personnel administration. And that is a much less boring than it sounds. How do I ensure that my husband can be full focus on his talent in the kitchen and be the best provider possible? Next to that I can express my love for interior, design and art in the decoration of the restaurant. When it comes to creating, I am mainly busy with thinking up and elaborating juices to pair with the dishes. Then inspiration comes mainly from the products I work with. Smells, tastes, structures,…
4. Who would you like to have dinner with?
At home I’m quite often seated after everybody already finished their meal. I have to jump around for the kids that need to be fed. Most of the time, after they are done, they need me for other stuff, and then I still haven’t eaten yet. In Souvenir, I can – if there is time – grab a quick meal. Most of the time this moment is also interrupted (a phonecall, my husband, an accidental passer-by,…) Therefor a dinner just by myself seams absolute heaven.
5. Last year your hard work was awarded with a Michelin star. What advice would you give to someone aspiring a career in hospitality?
Stay stubborn but keep evolving; If you can combine both, you will get there. Don’t forget that the reward comes after hard work and by staying humble.
6. What is keeping you busy at the moment?
At this moment we are planning our personal move to Gent (3 km from where te restaurant is) this to be able to elaborate Souvenir even further.
7. What was the most memorable moment in your career?
If I can really put myself on the front, I would say Parabere Forum (in Istanbul in 2020). Parabere is an annual convention bringing women together from all over the world. During two full days inspiration is shared by and for women who are absorbed by food. You have to be selected to participate and I was one of the lucky ones. We have had the luck to be awarded several times with Souvenir. Before Souvenir I had a career in television that could also fill up a book with good memories.
8. Pulling the same cart together is also giving each other the space to grow. What is your ultimate me-time?
I prefer being on myself at home, just with the whispers and whistles of nature. Surrounded by nothing more than daylight. All quiet and light.