Ronald van Roon
Neolea initiated a series of interviews with several Michelin star chefs about their career and their unique outlook on life and cooking. What do they do differently than others and where do they get their inspiration from? With these stories we want to inspire our followers to be 'different' and get out of your comfort zone every now and then.
In part two we talk to Ronald van Roon, Executive Chef and Patron Cuisinier at Calla’s in Den Haag (The Hague, the Netherlands). Ronald is deeply committed to modern French cuisine, combining classy meets surprising combinations. While describing his style, Ronald admits he prefers elegance and simplicity over frills. Let’s have a look into the origin of his vision.
"Our style is French cuisine with a modern twist,
combining local and international ingredients."
You are rather a young Michelin star chef. What can you tell us about your personal journey becoming such a remarkable chef at a young age?
I joined Calla’s as Chef-de-partie in 2007, after working for other restaurants in the Netherlands and Germany. It was never an obvious choice for me to become a chef, as food wasn’t an important part of my childhood. It was a pure coincidence when I was looking for an internship and was accepted in the restaurant where my grandparents liked to have dinner when I was a teenager. From that point on, I started to invest in a future as a chef.
Calla’s got its Michelin star for the first time in 2002, when it was run by Marcel van der Kleijn. After joining in 2007, I thought it would be good to be at Calla’s for about two years, gain valuable experience and continue somewhere else to further develop myself. It all went different. The trust I got from Marcel increased and this unleashed a desire to become better every day. Competing and winning is in my character anyway. Since 2015 I’ve been the Chef at Calla’s and since 2017 the Michelin star is on my name as well.
What can you tell us about your vision and way of working?
When it comes to vision, we value three things highly: simplicity, pureness and freshness. I am not in favor of all kinds of frills. A dish should consist of the right amount of flavors, not too many flavors at once. When preparing a turbot fish you will always get a dish with a piece of fish that values the true taste of the turbot - instead of plating a small piece of fish with all kinds of other flavors on the same dish. Talking about fish, we really value the freshness and that is why we source locally and straight from the fishermen in Scheveningen, near Den Haag, during the weekdays.
"Travel to culinary hotspots makes me richer as a chef, inspires me to challenge myself and enables me to apply new things in my kitchen."
We’ve read you are into ‘French cuisine’. How do you differentiate and make sure your style is unique?
Our style is French cuisine with a modern twist, combining local and international ingredients. I believe we truly differentiate by making use of our own vegetable garden in Den Haag, ‘Laantje Voorham’. That’s where we grow our own herbs, vegetables, fruits and flowers. It is a continuous process of creating rare, unique ingredients. Things you would just not find at wholesalers and help distinguish our dishes with truly unique flavors and visual appeal.
What are the things you do to get new inspiration?
I go out for dinner at other restaurants a lot, especially abroad. Travel to culinary hotspots makes me richer as a chef, inspires me to challenge myself and enables me to apply new things in my kitchen. As soon as our holiday starts, we make a schedule with all the restaurants on our wishlist. Two years ago, that was pretty easy when we didn’t have our baby boy yet. Nowadays, more planning is required and our choices are more limited as he can’t join us everywhere. Before, we would easily go to San Sebastian and go to Michelin star restaurants for seven days in a row. Those kinds of trips gave me a tremendous amount of inspiration.
How do you keep in touch with other
(Michelin star) chefs?
I’m really proud to be a member of the Patron Cuisinier, since January this year. It’s a culinary association of chefs, all owning a high quality restaurant in the Netherlands and all with at least one Michelin star. You have to be nominated by another ‘patron’ to become a member. We come together three times a year and support each other in our entrepreneurial efforts and challenges. Once per year we also organize an exclusive, big dinner where we cook together for 350 guests, a remarkable experience.
Looking back on your years at Calla’s, when did you exceed your own expectations?
Becoming the owner of Calla’s was something I’ve never expected. In general, owning a restaurant was just something I never thought of at a younger age. Obviously that was just not in my mind when I started at the age of 16, but generally speaking it took a while before I recognized this would be a serious opportunity for me. Marcel, who was previously the owner of Calla's, slowly transferred the business to myself and is still a supervisor, although he doesn’t have the ownership anymore.
The former owner ran the restaurant together with his wife, and so are you.
Marcel’s wife joined in 1998, way before my time, but a few years later after starting Calla’s. Practically the same happened to me when my girlfriend Bianca joined the Calla’s team in 2014, as the head of guests relationships (hostess?). She takes care of hosting, the menu and increasingly she does the wines, although we have a sommelier at Calla’s and this isn’t really her core business. Whenever the sommelier is not there, she’s more than capable of taking care of the wines. Which is very interesting as she doesnt have a background in the hospitality industry.
What makes Neolea distinguishing for you?
I truly love the oil as it is very elegant with a little bitterness, its gentle artichoke taste with a slight pepper which is not too heavy, like with other oils. The fact that the oil is elegant, makes it perfect for our dishes. We currently use it for instance in a mashed potato dish, which we finish with Neolea’s oil to add a fresh, grassy taste to it. We also make powder of olive oil. It’s being served in powder granules and as soon as it is in your mouth it becomes oil again. I really love to use Neolea in cold dishes, as those are the dishes where taste is not being camouflaged.
Doing things differently, the unexpected but yet to your own rhythm are things that are at the core of Neolea’s DNA. What are things that are spontaneous or unplanned that you really enjoy, either at Calla’s or in your spare time?
I must admit that we are living a structured life, especially since our son was born. Sundays and Mondays form our weekend. We love to do the nice things together with him on those days, like visiting a petting zoo and being in the nature. On those days we always carry an herb bag with us, in case our son finds a rare herb. He found some elderflower lately, which we picked together and taught him to apply in a dessert dish at Calla’s.
Professionally, I really enjoy the unexpectedness of the Seafood Auction in Scheveningen. When I am there, I search for a unique, rare piece of fish which I can use to make a special dish outside of the regular menu to be able to challenge myself and be creative.
More information about Calla’s can be found at www.restaurantcallas.nl
This was the second interview with a star chef in a series of 3 interviews. Soon part 3 will appear with another chef with a unique vision and working method.