#CHEFSSECRET – Joris Bijdendijk, Rijks, Amsterdam

Having dinner at a restaurant located in an extraordinary location, is something that’s sought-after more and more in recent years. In 2014, restaurant RIJKS opened its doors in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam – the Dutch national museum of arts and history that exhibits a collection of masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and many other famous artists. Joris Bijdendijk has been the restaurant’s Executive Chef right from its inception, but he’s up to more than just being the chef of this beautiful restaurant. On the sidelines, Joris Bijdendijk introduced the “Low Food” movement and started a second restaurant named Wils. At RIJKS the chef and his young, emerging team get their inspiration from ingredients grown on Dutch soil, while also making use of the many international flavours that have influenced the Dutch cuisine across centuries. Awarded one Michelin star in 2017, RIJKS is not only worth a visit for its unique location, but also for its exquisite cuisine.

A Work of Art

The Rijksmuseum is located at the Museum Square in the Amsterdam South borough, just a stroll away from Vondelpark. With a collection dedicated to arts and history, including masterpieces by Rembrandt and Vermeer, the museum is definitely a must-visit if you’re planning a trip to Amsterdam. RIJKS certainly complements the Rijksmuseum’s fine reputation. As you step foot into the restaurant, it feels as though you are walking into a luxurious brasserie. The beautiful, wooden parquet floor, the black-brown tables, and cream-coloured chairs provide a warm atmosphere in the dining area. Add draping white table linen and cutlery set comfortably on the table, and it is evident that Chef Joris and his team have chosen to implement a relaxed atmosphere at RIJKS. The restaurant offers no less than 120 seats, which makes RIJKS the largest Michelin-star-awarded restaurant in the Netherlands. The pinnacle of the space is the majestic open kitchen where you can watch chef Joris and his team prepare scrumptious plates in the heat of the moment. So, if you want to experience the true RIJKS vibe, take a seat at the marble bar for front row seats to enjoy the spectacle yourself. To put it briefly: no expense was spared to craft this restaurant with international appeal in a city so rich in culture.

Team RIJKS: the new generation performing at the highest level

At RIJKS restaurant, they carry the same philosophy as in the Rijksmuseum: quality, authenticity, and uniqueness, and it’s clear these values are held by the chefs and brought into the kitchen, the interior, and the location. Restaurant Manager Simone Blokker and her team provide the perfect service, while long-time Executive Chef Joris Bijdendijk and Chef de Cuisines Ivan Beusink and Yascha Oosterberg promote authenticity by cooking with products made on Dutch soil. The kitchen team is inspired by the many flavours that have influenced Dutch cuisine throughout the century.

Meet Chef Joris Bijdendijk

Executive Chef Joris Bijdendijk is not only in charge of the day-to-day management at RIJKS, but he is also involved in numerous other projects. Feverishly passionate about his profession, he recently opened the doors of his second restaurant Wils. There, you can experience the true primal force in the kitchen: the fire. In addition, he also promotes the Low Food movement, which continues to grow year after year.

Chef Joris Bijdendijk: Well, I think that it’s a more and more common phenomenon. A lot of famous world-class museums currently have their own restaurants. Take the Guggenheim in Bilbao for example with its Michelin star awarded restaurant Nerua, or restaurant Neolokal in Istanbul, which is a part of the city’s SALT Galata cultural complex. To me, having a proper restaurant perfectly fits the concept of the Rijksmuseum here in Amsterdam.

Chef’s Secret: Does the museum inspire you to come up with new dishes?

Chef Joris Bijdendijk: Of course. The museum is a source of inspiration. Besides being inspired by our local farmers and suppliers, I also get my inspiration from different spheres, like arts and culture. It’s obvious that I spend a lot of time at the museum, but not necessarily to look for inspiration. Without realizing it, I do get inspired by everything I see, feel, hear, or smell there. I believe you can stimulate and train creativity. But in my case, it comes quite naturally, in an intuitive and impulsive way. I used to be the type of chef who thought up a completely new dish first, before I actually started to make any preparations. As the famous Dutch artist Karel Appel once said, sometimes it’s better to just start instead of thinking it all out first. I made a change and started working with his philosophy in mind. This also has a lot to do with trust. After a while, you become more confident with what you’re doing. That’s a part of the process that you have to go through, but ultimately this method of coming up with new dishes works really well.

Chef’s Secret: Can you tell us a little bit more about the concept of RIJKS?

Chef Joris Bijdendijk: RIJKS is located in the Rijksmuseum, which focuses on our country and its history, but also includes some art pieces by foreign artists. Our culinary concept is an extension of the museum’s concept, and that’s why we try to look for the best ingredients right in our neighbourhood. If we want to put, for example, pigeon on the menu, we try to find a species raised in the Netherlands first. If we can’t find one here, then we will look beyond our borders, but we’ll always try to start locally. Thanks to our search for the best local ingredients and the input of our farmers, we’ve managed to develop some great high-quality products here in the Netherlands like dry aged duck or vegetables that we grow in a certain way. But we ultimately focus on the most important things that remain – serving our guests flavourful food and making sure that they enjoy their time at RIJKS. If that requires a touch of Piment d’Espelette or other foreign ingredients, then we’re not afraid to add it to the dish.

Chef’s Secret: How would you describe the cuisine and cooking style of RIJKS?

Chef Joris Bijdendijk: As our cuisine is an extension of the museum’s concept, it has the same key values: simplicity, authenticity, quality, and unity. We’re really searching for simplicity on a plate and I truly believe that it’s the chef’s job to add value to the products in order to create the perfect dish. We use that kind of philosophy quite often in our cuisine and we’re not afraid to serve dishes that consist of only one or two ingredients. In those kinds of dishes, it’s the flavour that speaks for itself. Our beetroot dish is living proof of this as it used to be a dish where the beetroot was prepared in different ways. We then asked ourselves “What’s this dish all about?”, “What’s the essence of this dish?”, and so, we reduced the amount of preparation, limited the number of ingredients, and just kept the best kind. We focused on that one style and together with the sauce, managed to develop the best version of that dish. It may appear like an overly simplistic dish, but it provides a burst of flavour with every bite. Besides the simplicity, I also prefer a cuisine that isn’t too heavy. We don’t use many carbs here at RIJKS…not intentionally though, it just happened to turn out that way.

Chef’s Secret: Is there a certain moment that has been crucial to your life as a chef?

Chef Joris Bijdendijk: I believe that as a chef, you’ll experience some sort of crucial moment every three to five years. For me, my first monumental moment happened at the age of 16. I was working as a dishwasher at a restaurant when I saw the chefs experimenting in the kitchen. At that very moment, I knew what I wanted to do with my life: become a chef. Afterwards, I wanted to take my journey to the next level, so I started working at Ron Blaauw – that opened up a whole new world for me. Then, I decided to go to France where I stayed for six years to learn the basics from the masters. I always compare the path of becoming a true chef to finding the best-fitting pants. In the beginning, you copy a lot from other chefs who you’ve been working with and it almost feels like wearing a pair of pants that don’t fit you properly. But then you start growing and you end up finding a cooking style that perfectly complements you. Finally, I started working here at RIJKS and I think that this is the place where I discovered who I really am as a chef. So, RIJKS is my best-fitting pair of pants (smiles).

Chef’s Secret: Apart from being a chef, you’re also involved in many projects. How do you manage to juggle everything, while still maintaining the quality of your food?

Chef Joris Bijdendijk: Let’s be honest, it’s not easy to juggle everything and I struggle with that every day. What’s most important is to have the right people around you. It’s really all about the team and building a long-term relationship with them. When a strong rapport is built, you can always count on them, even when you’re not able to make it to every service. Besides that, other projects like events, writing culinary books, and organising Four-Hands Dinners are also important in developing your network as a chef and staying up-to-date and relevant.

Chef’s Secret: Dutch gastronomy is booming. In your opinion, what’s the reason for this?

Chef Joris Bijdendijk: It all started in the 80s with top restaurants and chefs like Cas Spijkers. These chefs educated some incredible current chefs such as Sergio Herman and Jonnie Boer, who in turn have educated the new generation of chefs. It’s like a domino effect, and we continuously reap the benefits of that. What’s also quite remarkable is that currently, we have gastronomic restaurants of all calibers. On one hand, you have restaurants like Ciel Bleu and the Librije – to me, those kinds of restaurants are the definition of haute gastronomy – and on the other hand, you have places like RIJKS which exude a more casual vibe, but have also been awarded with a Michelin star. Overall, I believe that the current generation of chefs is well-equipped and talented and that’s the reason why the Dutch gastronomy is booming.

Chef’s Secret: What’s next? What are your further ambitions and goals for the future?

Chef Joris Bijdendijk: First of all, I really want to put the Netherlands on the map as a culinary destination. Take France for example, it’s the type of destination that people visit purely for its gastronomic offerings. I want to achieve the same for the Netherlands, and I want RIJKS to become a place that embodies what the Netherlands has to offer.

Furthermore, we’ve just launched the Low Food movement which represents the Dutch cuisine. With our movement, we want to make Dutch food culture a primary mover when it comes to forward thinking on topics like sustainability and inclusion. In a world where food security and the sustainability of the food and agricultural systems are two big themes, I believe that the food movement has an important role in changing our food culture. The Low Food Movement will therefore act as a networking agent and platform where new ideas are created and implemented. In 2020, we will be organizing a symposium to share our knowledge and organise different workshops to discuss various topics like diversity. In addition, we will be launching a foundation called Low Food Lab. With the lab, we would like to investigate how gastronomy and culinary techniques can offer solutions to societal challenges in our food system. We will explore the potential of new, forgotten, not yet explored, or undervalued products in the Netherlands. I truly believe in our project and I want it to get enough attention, because after all it concerns our future.

Chef’s suggestions

Although Chef Joris speaks of simplicity in his dishes, the creativity and spontaneity of his creations immediately captivates the eye. Simplicity can rather be interpreted here as purity. As it takes quite a lot to achieve that type of refinement, we would say that his dishes are therefore complex in their simplicity.

At restaurant RIJKS, guests can choose to eat à la carte or experience the full cuisine of Chef Joris and his team by going for the Rijkstable menu – a tasting menu of six signature dishes. We chose to sample the chef’s suggestions, wanting the full experience of Joris’ Low Food philosophy and his way of creating ‘simple’ dishes.

We began our experience at RIJKS with a langoustine appetizer, accompanied by a curry cream, trout eggs, cabbage dashi, and nata de coco. The strength of this appetizer lays within the combination of the texture and temperature.

Then, Chef Joris presented us a dish of scallop with radish and codium. This dish felt like it came right out of the Rijksmuseum’s collection. A beautiful piece of art with some colourful accents.

Next up was a dish that included oxtail, wild mushrooms, ‘poffertje’, and smoked ox heart. With its rich and earthy flavours, it was a true flavour bomb.

We continued with a millefeuille of beetroot, Tomasu (24-months) beurre blanc, and parsley oil. This dish completely reflected what Joris meant by simplicity. Every ingredient was built up around the beetroot, in order to do justice to it.

Before we got to the dessert, Joris served us a dish called the Holy Trinity of ‘Leidse’ milk: Leidsche cheese, buttermilk sorbet, and ‘Blaarkop’ butter cake. This dish was an original and delicious alternative to a cheese plate and initiated the perfect transition from salty to sweet.

Our final dish at restaurant RIJKS consisted of barbecue pear, pear cider ice cream, bay leaf, and crème crue.

In short

RIJKS, located in the Philips Wing of the Rijksmuseum – right in the heart of Amsterdam – is not only unique because of its location, but it gives even more thanks to its cuisine. The four cornerstones of Executive Chef Joris Bijdendijk’s cuisine include: simplicity, authenticity, quality, and unity. In the search for simplicity on the plate, his prime mission is flavour, and it’s exactly that richness that you sample in every single dish you’re served.

Practical information

Restaurant RIJKS, Museumstraat 2, 1071 XX Amsterdam, the Netherlands | +31 2 06 74 75 55 | info@rijksrestaurant.nl | www.rijksrestaurant.nl | facebook.com/RIJKS.restaurant 
facebook.com/jorisbijdendijk | instagram.com/rijksrestaurant | instagram.com/jorisbijdendijk

Interview: Sarah De Hondt
Text: Carline Roggeman
Photography: Adriaan Van Looy

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