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'See more of Zuidas than only your office and the car park': Interview with Luc Kusters, Bolenius Restaurant



Kale, asparagus, beets and a myriad of other vegetable delights: this is the speciality of Bolenius Restaurant. For just over six years now, owners Luc Kusters and Xavier Giessen have been welcoming guests to their Zuidas restaurant for lunch and dinner. Last year, the restaurant nabbed a coveted Michelin star. Although naturally they are honoured, they also feel the star was a long time in the making. Hello Zuidas sat down with Chef Luc Kusters to talk about Michelin stardom, their pioneering work in Zuidas and their views on the district. 'I'd like for people to take an afternoon o to wander around Zuidas and see all this area has to o er. So many people have no idea, and that's a real shame!'

Last year Bolenius received a Michelin star, making your restaurant restaurant the first in Zuidas to claim this honour. Why do you think you got a star?

'It ́s because of the high quality of what we deliver. Of course the people at Michelin never divulge their reasons, which is good. That way, they never have to justify their decisions. Theoretically, the jury make their visits undercover, but we know a lot of the judges personally. When they come to our restaurant, we simply do our best. And that's all you can do, anyway. For five years we have been waiting to be awarded a star, and we're thrilled to have it. But to be honest, I'm also surprised it took so long. Evidently, Michelin saw reasons to reward us now, but we don't know what those reasons are. Cooking was something I wanted to do ever since I was a kid and I've been in the business  for 25 years - starting out as a dishwasher, working my way up to being a chef. All the establishments I've worked at were awarded stars. We're looking ahead to the future and hope to keep this star in the years to come, and possibly to receive another one.'

How did you celebrate?

'The official presentation was at the DeLaMar Theater, but we couldn't attend. It was a Monday a ernoon and we had a busy lunch service, so we were hard at work. Work comes first, always! That same evening we celebrated with all of the sta and lots of friends in the business. This star is incredibly important to us, because of the great attraction it holds for customers. Hopefully, we won't have to wait very long to receive a second one!'

You have been in Zuidas for quite a few years. What was it about this area that made you want to open a restaurant here?

'One of the reasons we came here was that we wanted to cater to the professional market - primarily focusing on lunch. It's over six years ago that we came to Zuidas, and as pioneers we really helped to pave the way for other restaurants. The municipality made it attractive for us and was prepared to help out, and so did the property owner. That combination of factors provided the incentive to settle here. The first three years after we opened weren't too hard; everybody was eager to try the new place. A er that, things got tougher. But we had long-term ambitions for this restaurant. Nowadays, looking at how this area is evolving, Zuidas is the place to be, but that wasn't the case six years ago. However, when we saw the mockup of the planned developments, it really sparked our enthusiasm to start up here. Subsequently, Zuidas was stuck in a construction bottleneck for three years, which certainly hurt us in terms of turnover. But on the whole, we've never had cause for complaint. Now lots of the new housing is being delivered, and we're hoping to see Gershwinplein transformed into a local gem. So, in short, we're very pleased to be here.'

What's your view of Zuidas now? Has a lot changed?

'In terms of development, I think Zuidas is only halfway to what it will eventually turn out to be. I anticipate a brilliant future. What's crucial is that more people come to live here. We have great ties with locals who visit us o en. Basically, the more residential towers, the better for us. So far, the municipality as not made good on all of the promises they made us, but of course they can't control everything. Nor can we, as a business. You just have to make the best of what you've got, and that's precisely what we have done. And that's why we're still here today, looking forward to the future. If you ask me, Zuidas is one of the nicest parts of Amsterdam. Gastronomically, we also expect it attract more people from the outside.'

What can we expect to see on your menu this spring?

'Spring is a season of all-round abundance. One of my favourite products is asparagus. Lately, we've been making gravy from kale. It's very light and flavourful, and quite a change from the heavy stu made from beef bones, butter and cream. I've completely sworn o classic French cuisine, and our customers say they've had enough of that too. Vegetables are our real focus, though there's always room for fish and meat. We maintain a vegetable garden outside our restaurant in Zuidas and a lot of what we use is cultivated there. We even have a special dish we call The Kitchen Garden of Zuidas. It changes with the seasons, but it's always on the menu. We've now been listed amongst the 25 best vegetable restaurants worldwide, which o ers excellent motivation to continue down this path.'

What's your favourite dish?

'It would have to be The Kitchen Garden of Zuidas. It's di erent every season, but the dish is always one hundred per cent vegetables, flavoured with herbs and spices. Because it changes all the time, I have to continually taste the ingredients and try to balance them out and preserve the flavours, and that's always fun! What's more, it's a dish that never gets dull; you could eat it every day. And because it's always on the menu, it provides us with a certain amount of stability. I have to come clean though: I don't eat healthy every day. Twice a year I go to a snack bar and then I really go all out - my wife and I order every- thing on the menu, ending up with a veritable bu et of fried snacks.'

Is there anything in particular you'd like to say to our readers?

'I see so many people drive into the car park in the mornings and beeline back home in the evenings. They never experience all that's happening in Zuidas. It's such a shame! Even a er six years we still get people who berate themselves for not having discovered our restaurant earlier. We're not the only ones to see those reactions, I'm sure. I'd like for people to take an a ernoon o to wander around Zuidas and see all this area has to o er. If everyone were to walk around the area just once, it would benefit local businesses, but visitors themselves would enjoy it too. There are loads of fun and fabulous spots to discover!'