Roger van Damme *
“I am only satisfied when my plates are perfect compositions. That candied apricot, that last dollop of cream, it all has to be in exactly the right place. When I see how people enjoy my sweet creations afterwards, I know it's right.” -Roger Van Damme
Roger van Damme is an outsider in the culinary world. He evolved from a pastry chef to a technically advanced and very creative top chef. It all started with his first shop 'Het Gebaar', a lunch shop where he served sandwiches, salads and pastries. At the request of his customers, he started serving warm preparations that he approached as a pastry chef: refined, eye-pleasing and tasteful. In 2003 Het Gebaar moved to the gardener's house in the Antwerp Botanical Garden.
Because his customers were short on time, he started serving starter and main course on the same plate. He turned them into dazzling compositions that did not go unnoticed. They earned him the title of Chef of the Year by Gault&Millau in 2009 and his first Michelin star a year later.
Roger continued to develop and innovate his dishes and patisserie. The ultimate accolade came in 2017 when he was named Best Pastry Chef in the world at the Best Chefs Awards. The Best Chefs Awards also gives a selection of the 300 best chefs in the world. Het Gebaar took 68th place in this list.
In recent years, he has spent a lot of time refining ancient French preparations. But one dish still stands out: the pancake, the common thread in his career. He has completely adapted that simple recipe to his own liking.
For years he dreamed of having his own 'pancake house'. He now gets that in the form of Desiree, the renewed version of the Antwerp icon Desiree de Lille, of which he is the creative brain. The familiar pancakes, waffles, 'smoutebollen' and 'lacquemants' will remain on the menu, but now with the 'Roger touch', together with his traditional patisserie. In Desiree he can completely lose his passion and love for the craft of his beautiful profession