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Mike Vrijdag is chef at restaurant LEV by Mike in Winterswijk, the Netherlands. After his bakery course and chef's training, Mike worked at several hotels and star restaurants. In 2011 he decided it was time for his own establishment and he opened the doors of restaurant Strandlodge, which was awarded a Michelin star in 2015. In 2020 Mike decided to change things around. He transformed Strandlodge into his current restaurant: LEV by Mike. We asked Mike some questions to get to know him better, about his culinary career, his favourite ingredient to work with, and much more.
Mike, how would you describe your cooking style?
My style can best be described as international regional cuisine. I really like to use products from my own environment and then give the dish a Mediterranean or Asian twist. I literally live and breathe everything that has to do with food, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Everything in my surroundings comes through to me in the shape of a dish. A cow in the meadow doesn't look sweet or cute to me, but either tasty or not. But that can also happen in a regular supermarket, or through a song.
What's your favourite dish to make?
My favourite dish is always the newest one on our menu. I quickly get tired of a dish if I've already made it 100 times.
What is your favourite ingredient to work with?
In general, I enjoy working with the obsolete parts of an animal. Give me beef for a stew, a piece of the neck or a cheek, it has more character than a hare or loin.
I really like to use products from my own environment and then give the dish a Mediterranean or Asian twist.
LEV by Mike
Who is one of your top suppliers or producers?
“De Olde Goarden” in Winterswijk. This is a care farm 200 meters away from our restaurant. They work with people with congenital brain injury and they grow incredibly good vegetables for me. The farm offers their disabled team members a day job, and they are very proud that they can deliver to us. That makes me feel good.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your culinary career?
The start of a new business. Working 130 hours a week and everything still going bad. But the longer I do this job, the better it gets.
Which gastronomic trend are you excited about the most?
I think that all trends leave their mark. I select what I think is great and I forget the rest. I do think, for many years already, that you don't have to get everything from a distant country and that you should be proud of your own place on this planet. That does not change the fact that I am not tempted to buy top ingredients, even if they come from far away.
If you could only eat one dish for the rest of your life, what would that be?
Dutch lettuce hearts with carabineros, goose liver curls, truffle, creamy crustacean cream, and confit tomato. Furthermore, I’ve always had a thing for pickles, Amsterdam onions, and sweet and sour vegetables in general.
What’s one thing in the area that guests have to see or do?
The Mondriaan museum. Mondriaan lived in Winterswijk for several years and his house is now a museum. Many people find nature beautiful here as well.
Thank you, Mike.
Book your table at restaurant LEV by Mike
Taste chef Mike Vrijdag’s excellent modern Dutch cuisine for yourself at restaurant LEV by Mike in Winterswijk, the Netherlands. Make your lunch or dinner reservation through our website – it only takes a few minutes.