Between 4pm and 5pm things calm down in the La Source kitchen while the team takes a break. They meet in the kitchen’s new lounge area to grab a bite to eat and chill out before it all kicks off at 5pm. Then, tension mounts as the team works quickly and precisely to prepare, concentrating intently and hardly uttering a word. The chef’s instructions are answered by a swift nod and executed immediately. Every movement is made under his watchful eye. Not a single plate leaves the kitchen without his approval. ‘I trust my team completely, but the ultimate responsibility lies with me. So I check every plate before it reaches the table. Then, if something does go wrong, nobody else can be held accountable.’
From 7pm they wait for the first guests to arrive. The Maître and his team greet the guests, take their orders, ask about any allergies or personal preferences and find out how much time the guests have to enjoy their meal – an important detail for the rhythm of the kitchen.
Ralf Berendsen: ‘In a Michelin-starred restaurant, we take the expression ‘prepared à la minute’ literally – often even seconds matter. Kitchen and service therefore have to work together like a well-oiled machine – there is no time to make mistakes. If there is a mishap, our staff have enough experience and creativity to come up with a solution promptly and keep the customers happy. We take every comment or complaint very seriously. The customer is always right, that is not up for discussion.’
The chefs hang up their aprons between 11pm and 11.30pm. The team can finally relax as they sit down together and review the evening, discuss operations and any opportunities for improvement, and look at the bookings as they plan the next day. At midnight a successful day comes to an end. Tired but content, the staff say goodnight and go home.
Ralf Berendsen: ‘Of course we are well paid for our work. But the guests’ appreciation is just as important to us. It is their recognition that motivates us to give our best every day. In a 2-Michelin-starred restaurant everything simply has to be perfect, from beginning to end. Our guests visit award-winning restaurants regularly – their expectations are high, and rightly so. I often joke with my staff that our work is on trial every day and is judged by a jury of experts. That includes not only what is on the plate, but also their experience with the server and the presentation of their meal. Every little element plays an important role, from the restaurant décor and atmosphere to the quality of the porcelain, cutlery and glassware.’