Sodexo invited Dutch Chef Immanuël Van de Fliert to cook on campus on March 6 and 7 as part of Sodexo’s Global Chef Program.
“The food is excellent, it really is. There’s so much infusion of different profiles and cultures,” said David McKay, director of dining services at Eastern Washington University. “The great thing about having a passion for food and making it your way of life [like Van de Fliert] is that you’re able to travel and gather essences of the cuisines of different countries.”
Van de Fliert prepared lunch for a variety of Whitworth faculty and students in the Crow’s Nest on March 6. The next day, he replaced many of the usual stations in Sodexo with his own dishes.
“It’s not nice to say, but I think the main difference is Americans don’t cook with taste,” Van de Fliert said. “It’s a little bit flat all around, American food, like the burgers and pizza and those things. What we do in my country, we eat a lot of flavor. When I’m eating something, I like to know what it is and what I’m tasting. Here in America when you close your eyes, you don’t know what you’re eating. I hope to [teach] the chefs that a little bit.”
Another difference between American and Dutch cuisine is that the Dutch generally eat healthier, Van de Fliert said.
The Global Chef Program gives some of the top Sodexo chefs from around the world an opportunity to travel to different countries and share the cuisine of their cultures with universities in other countries. It is one month program and each chef goes to six to eight schools.
“I’m learning a lot about food from America, and a lot about the kitchen, how they work here,” Van de Fliert said, “I’ll take [what I’ve learned] back home, and maybe I’ll change some things back home.”
The meals he prepared included: beschonken champignons met kruidensaus, “drunken mushrooms,” which are fried in beer batter and herb sauce; kabeljauwfilet met kaas-kruidenkorst, wortel, aardappelkroketjes, which are cod with cheese and herb crust from the oven, carrots and potato croquettes; and poffertjes met aardbeienroom en poedersuiker, tiny pancakes with strawberry cream and icing sugar.
“The goal [of the program] is to bring various cuisines to expose the students to various cultures from outside the United States, and to experience the authentic food of that country,” Whitworth executive chef Timothy Grayson said.
An important part of the program is that it gives Americans exposure to authentic cuisines, rather than Americanized foods, such as American-Mexican restaurants, Grayson said.
“I think that students seem to be really interested,” Grayson said. “I think it’ll be really good. I mean, the students here are nice, good people that are open to different things. A lot of students travel overseas anyway, on missions and things of that nature, so a lot of students are interested in international culture and events.”
Whitworth is Van de Fliert’s seventh stop on his tour, just after a visit to Northwest Nazarene University. His final stop will be Carroll College in Helena, Mont., on March 10, 11 and 12 before flying back to the Netherlands.
“It’s America, and it’s nice to be here, but five weeks for missing my family is very long,” he said.
Van de Fliert has worked at Sodexo for 10 years, and is now the manager of Sodexo in the Netherlands. He works at Utrecht University near Amsterdam, and trains and supervises the staff there. On a normal day, he prepares lunch and dinner at the university. He also creates the menus for the Netherlands branch of Sodexo, which is the largest catering company in the Netherlands and serves everything from universities to hospitals to factories.
Van de Fliert has been cooking for 25 years, having started when he was 15.
“Every day I learn something. I like to learn and I like to experience tastes from somebody else,” he said.