Restaurant De Groene Lantaarn
Jarno Eggen & Cindy Borger
The Northern part of The Netherlands has much to offer when it comes to gastronomy. You could easily spend a week or so in the area if you’d decide to visit a top chef every evening. A stop at the Chef of the Year of Gault & Millau 2018 was of course impossible to skip during our culinary trip in this tasty region. So we took this opportunity to have an interesting conversation with chef Jarno Eggen and sommelier and hostess Cindy Borger. It was an interesting chat about taste, craftsmanship and the passion for gastronomy. In short: it was a meeting that contained all the ingredients for a new story in the ‘Chef’s Secret’ series, the collab between The Best Chef and Hungry for More.
The Best Chef & Hungry for More (Chef’s Secret): Nice to meet you, Jarno and Cindy. We’d like to ask you how your career in the culinary world started off and how you decided to start your restaurant De Groene Lantaarn.
Jarno Eggen: Of course! It’s been a long time since I first came at restaurant De Groene Lantaarn. Back in 1999 I worked here as an apprentice. For the next eight years Cindy and I worked at restaurant De Lindenhof** in Giethoorn, under the wing of patron-cuisinier Martin Kruithof. It was in 2009 that we had a conversation with Martin about the future. After that conversation we realized that we wanted to start a new project on our own, instead of continuing a business that already had a certain identity and a good level of success. So we took over the place we are located now from the Jager family, who used to run a traditional restaurant and event venue here, serving classic dishes (often prepared at the table) and grilled foods. When Cindy and I started our business, we only had the support of two young chef apprentices. So we had to develop our own style, but we also had to make the evolution very gradually, in order not to frighten existing customers. That’s how we managed to keep attracting the guests that were already coming to this place as well as a new clientele.
Chef’s Secret: But you are moving in 2019? Why is that?
Jarno Eggen: The farmhouse where we are located now is very charming, but we felt the need to do a major refurbishment. Seen that we are renting the building and that it’s a registered monument, that would have been quite difficult. Also we felt the current domain is too big for us, and that’s a pity as many spaces are being hardly ever used here.
Cindy Borger: In the town of Staphorst we have found a beautiful property in a classic style, that has a really nice garden and even a mill that is still productive. It’s a fresh start for us. It’s a new beginning, but we don’t have to start from scratch as we do keep the knowledge and the experience we have acquired. It feels like starting something new, and in the same time continuing something that we have already built up in the past years.
Jarno Eggen: It will be so much work to get everything ready by next year, as we are planning to do much of the refurbishing works ourselves. But we are really looking forward to get started.
Chef’s Secret: What does chef Jarno Eggen represents in the gastronomic scene?
Jarno Eggen: I represent a cuisine that is all about flavour and top quality produce. By the way you prepare, combine and serve certain ingredients you can get the best out of it, while respecting the natural and authentic flavours of that product. Creating can never be more important than the intrinsic taste of a nice product.
I always work with products that are in season, as only these products can guarantee top quality. And for me it’s really important to work only with the very best that is available on the market. At the moment for example I’m using an Australian winter truffle, because I just think that’s a fantastic product. I wouldn’t easily create dishes with autumn or summer truffles, as these just do not have that outstanding taste.
What’s also essential to me is that we make everything our own at restaurant De Groene Lantaarn. Whether it’s the bread or the coffee bites, the boning and cutting of the meat or making a fresh bouillon, it’s all done by our team in the kitchen. We always use all the parts of the meat and wouldn’t buy just a filet or a bouillon, while it’s so much better if you can make it yourself. We’re not just chefs here, we also want to be artisans and craftsmen.
Only if you manage all classic and artisanal techniques, you can make a difference in every aspect of the gastronomic field. Quality is essential, both when it comes to produce and preparation. An that’s something you can only acquire if you have the necessary experience on technique and purchasing. I consider it highly important that young team members learn how to develop their skills and knowledge. It’s all about savoir-faire.
Chef’s Secret: Where do you find your inspiration?
Jarno Eggen: That question is spot-on. We have developed so many dishes through the years that are really good. And the difficult part is making choices. Although you want to keep on renewing the menu, you also want to keep the strongest creations.
To be inspired we like to go dining at other places as much as possible. We just planned a trip to Milan for example, and our planning is already full of nice restaurants we want to visit. We have to admit gthere’s always the fear of missing out on something interesting. So we travel as much as possible on our days off, as we want to be in the restaurant ourselves when we are open.
Chef’s Secret: Although your cuisine is rather classic, you manage to present it in a contemporary way by adding a twist to the dishes. How does that work?
Jarno Eggen: Most of the time I start creating from something authentic from the farm or from traditions or habits from the past. I then aim to present it in a modern and refined way. I’ve got much respect for authentic artisans like bakers or butchers. That are also the type of products I really love myself. I prefer things a little more classic. Quality is of utmost importance for me.
An example of my own interpretation and my inspiration is the gift that we offer our guests after dining at De Groene Lantaarn. We surprise them with a bread that refers to my youth. In the town I was born, there was a bakery named Oegema. I used to buy some tasty bread rolls there, because of the fantastic smell. Inspired by their cheese sandwiches I created a similar bread for our guests. We present it in a pretty box that they can take home with them. The bread itself isn’t sophisticated and elegant enough to serve it in our restaurant. But it’s oh so delicious, so people really enjoy having a piece the day after they had dinner at De Groene Lantaarn. It has to remind them of the nice gastronomic experience they had the day before in our restaurant.
Besides that I always follow the flow of the seasons and I want to stay open to develop culinary creations by chance. There’s for example an appetizer with flavours of ham and cheese that I created when all of a sudden I realized how those two flavours match so incredibly well. Or another appetizer that is made of licorice and passion fruit, that was created when I tasted both flavours combined and I got this wow-effect. There’s also a kind of subconscious inspiration by the way. Mostly it comes from typical smells like that of the bakery, the vegetable store or the pharmacy (where I got the inspiration for a cherry dessert I will prepare for you as well tonight).
Chef’s Secret: Are there certain products that you adore working with?
Jarno Eggen: Definitely! All seasons are so beautiful in their very own way. I just love porcini, truffle or langoustine. But with products like tongue of veal of sweetbreads you can also create very nice dishes. The latter are very popular amongst our guests by the way. When it gets colder outside nature spoils us with mushrooms or cabbages. I also adore to use fresh herbs in my creations, as long as I can find them in the area. If it’s made in an artificial way, I don’t feel like using it in my dishes. In short, I can say it’s the variety and richness of the seasons that is so interesting to me.
Chef’s Secret: In 2018 you received the title of Chef of the Year in The Netherlands. How does that feel?
Jarno Eggen: It was a bit of a surprise to me that I got this award, but I’m of course very happy with this acknowledgement. It’s always nice that people come to your restaurant because they really want to taste your food, and not just because they’re hungry. That’s why we want to be very personal in the way we run our business. Our guests really appreciate it when the chef is present in the restaurant and they also like to have a chat with me, so that’s why I go and greet them when I have the chance.
However, we have only been able to get to the point where we are at now, because we have been patient. Our evolution has been gradual and we never forgot where we came from. We’ve always wanted to be independent, so we’ve built up everything ourselves, without the help of external investors. Although things take longer then, for us it was still the best way to go, as we really like to do things our own way. I’d rather be a small boss, than a big slave.
Nevertheless, it’s not only about your own growth. It’s just as important to share your knowledge and experience with the younger generation. We’re very lucky to have such a strong team, of which many people have been with us for many years. That’s the very best way for a steady, ongoing improvement. By passing things through to your team, they get more independant each day, and that makes it possible for me as a chef to work even harder to get every little detail right.
Chef’s Secret: What if you weren’t a chef?
Jarno Eggen: If I wouldn’t be a chef, I’d probably have been a farmer. I remember the hard work, the freedom, the fresh air at the countryside from when I was younger. It was an amazing atmosphere, full of joy and warmth.
Chef’s Secret: What plans or ambitions do you have in the near future?
Jarno Eggen: We try to keep improving day after day. In our new location in Staphorst we want to have a restaurant that’s even nicer than our current place. And of course we want to keep on spoiling our guests. In order to have the best possible contact with our guests, we’ll bring the kitchen and the dining room closer together at the new location. As a chef I keep working on dishes that are more and more refined. And last but not least, we want to invest in our family. Our kids are five and seven years old and we don’t want to miss out on seeing them grow up. So we want to spend as much time as possible with our kids.
Chef’s Secret: Thanks, Jarno and Cindy. We wish you the very best with all your plans and the upcoming move to Staphorst. We’d love to visit you another time at the new location of course.
Signature and à la carte dishes or Jarno’s recommendations on the menu
The menu at De Groene Lantaarn is built up of seasonal elements. Guests can choose between signature and à la carte dishes or they can go for the tasting menu. The latter is also available in a vegetarian version. During our visit chef Jarno takes us on a culinary trip, serving his own favourite dishes on the menu. So no classical menu for us, but the choice of the chef.
We start with a range of refined appetizers.
Macaron of licorice, foie gras and passion fruit.
A bite of squid, olive and jalapeño.
A tartlette of mackerel and capsicum.
A classic ham and cheese combination.
A crispy bite of pork and cucumber.
A crispy bite of pork and cucumber.
Then the bread is served in a way that reminds the chef of the time he spent working on the farm as a youngster. In a knapsack we find different kinds of bread: a typical bread with a powerful taste and a classic brioche that shows the savoir-faire (to say Jarno’s knowledge) of the French cuisine. Together with the bread we are served lightly salted butter on a typical stone from the region Drenthe. The taste of the butter is strictly related to the temperature. According to chef Jarno that needs to be rather cold. Last but not least there’s also a bouillon of roe deer in this course, what also refers to Jarno’s youth when he was working at the farm where soup was eaten every day.
The first dish is the famous “Toast with black sprinkles”, it’s caviar on a crispy potato rösti with crème fraîche and onion.
Then we taste mackerel, foie gras, kohlrabi and herbs from the garden.
Full of balanced flavours is the next dish: cod and bacon. This type of bacon has been smoked for six weeks and has been ripened next, which creates a unique and delicious flavour. The fish is combined with a preparation of beetroot and a classic white wine sauce with Japanese influences. The plate is topped off with a cracker with the same flavours in another presentation. Nice to know is that this dish is served in a plate that has the shape of the province of Drenthe, where restaurant De Groene Lantaarn is located.
Next there’s poached lobster, small ravioli of lobster and carrots from the garden and a sauce of lobster and thyme.
For once chef Jarno presents a dish that he used to prepare when he was still working together with patron-cuisinier Martin Kruithof of De Lindenhof** in Giethoorn: sole, celeriac and Australian winter truffle.
Coming up: a vegetarian creation of risotto with beetroot, raisins, liquid pearls of blue fourme d’ambert cheese, flowers and herbs from the garden and caramelized pumpkin seeds.
A dish that is very popular among the guests is the tongue of veal with vegetable rolls and an Asian dressing.
Our favorite is the regional roe meat from the local hunters. It’s served with caramelized chicory, sheep cheese, potato salad and vegetables from the garden.
The first dessert is a surprising combination of sorrel with raw string beans and an almond cream.
The second dessert is composed of strawberry and verveine, with a panna cotta upside down on top. This is combined with ice cream of coconut and lime, a taste of red pepper and a drop of olive oil.
Last but not least there’s a dessert with filled cherries and a herbal taste, that reminds a bit of the smells of a traditional pharmacy. This is served with lovage and orange ice cream.
The coffee bites are all homemade, delicious and not too heavy.
Restaurant De Groene Lantaarn, Hoogeveenseweg 17, 7921 PC Zuidwolde, Netherlands, +31 528-372938 | email@example.com | | De Groene Lantaarn op Facebook | Jarno Eggen op Instagram