Indian summer with Peter De Clercq

Bien cuit.

I wasn't quite sure how I was going to get Peter De Clercq on my plate: Saignant? A point? Bien cuit? Turns out he is all three. A rough diamond with a very straight face. Straightforward and very engaging at the same time. Pure meat on the plate. A true-blooded man with a record of achievements to his credit. Why the man still does not have a Wikipedia page, nobody knows. One thing is certain, Peter knows what he wants: to make people happy.

What struck me immensely is the tranquillity he exudes while there is also a tropical volcano inside him. We met among wooden boards and surfboards at Lakeside Paradise in Knokke: a lovely piece of paradise with a central lake for wakeboarding. Outside, in other words, where real life takes place. Make no mistake, we didn't come to play sports. The cackling water was ready and soon souls were exchanged. A beautiful afternoon with a beautiful man.

Peter on the grill.

Your children are quietly taking over the torch. Is it hard to let go?

My children are purebred entrepreneurs. So my DNA does reside in them. In early July, I sold my part of the restaurant (Elckerlijc) to my ex-wife and the kids. Everything started in between lockdowns. Living constantly next to the grill and being face to face with fire day in and day out made me live twice as hard. My daughter said: 'Daddy, this is not for you anymore.' And she was right. It dawned on me that my daughter is the scepter in the hall and my son has been taking over my job for more than five years. Yet it never gets hot under their feet. I am as proud as a kite when I see them busy, so taking a step back was a logical consequence.

So do you have other ambitions besides the restaurant?

There is still a lot of TV work, both in Belgium and the Netherlands. But that doesn't make a person rich. I really enjoy giving BBQ workshops. That makes people happy and it makes me happy too. I will mainly focus on BBQ at people's homes. Not so much full-scale catering, but rather as a BBQ chef or guest chef.

Your team is your strength. Do you have a personal connection with your employees? How do you keep the hierarchy in place?

My team is my family, but for me it only comes full circle when everyone works hard and matches well. The fact that the team is very young and dynamic ensures that we understand each other without words. Each of us is passionate about the business and that is necessary to keep such a big boîte straight. Our maître also has shares in our business. That helps, of course.

Is your fame mainly due to the 2003 victory in Jamaica?

Roasted, grilled leeks. Heaven!
Peter De Clercq

Actually no. That world title contributed very much but everything in started with the publication of my first BBQ book, anno 2000. At that time, there were no books that had anything to do with BBQ. So it was a first, but then the swine fever, dioxin crisis and mad cow disease reared their heads. Not exactly convenient for people in the meat business. We were having a very tough time financially, but the book and our regular customers kept us going. The book led to the first episode on TV and that's how the ball got rolling. And to this day, it is still rolling.

What other chef can make your mouth water with his dish?

Waterlanders would be a better word. Piet Huysentruyt of Likoké once served crab with blood sausage. I got tears in my eyes and simultaneously noticed that Piet, grinning broadly, was peering behind the corner. 'Yes!' he shouted, 'Now I got you!' Since then, we became good friends. I also got the chance from him to act as a guest chef in Likoké. He himself was amazed by my ability. Our creativity swings wildly, which makes us respect each other all the more.

You are very entrepreneurial yourself: cooking on TV, writing books, marketing merchandise, running a restaurant and most recently: opening a new shop in Knokke-Heist. Is all this Peter De Clercq or is there a whole machine behind it?

Entrepreneurship really is in the De Clercqs' blood. When I was 14, I came to Knokke every weekend to work for a butcher. At that time, my love for Knokke became very clear. I made my own marinades, sauces and spice mixtures there and gave them to customers. I noticed that not everything in the world was free and started putting a price on all my concoctions. From that point, everything led to EldurApi, my second company that focuses mainly on merchandise and products.

Men who eat meat are tough. What is your Achilles tendon?

Besides my children, without a doubt, my ex-wife Anouk. She was there from the beginning and keeps things straight. I tend to be impulsive and take risks. She is down-to-earth and keeps my feet on the ground. That combination is fantastic. She runs Elckerlijc like no other and lets me do my thing. Although we are separated, we still respect each other and are very complementary. I can't manage without her. She is my strength and my Achilles heel.

Daughters Naomi & Axelle.
My Achilles' heel? My ex and my children.
Peter De Clercq
Delicious dish from the Elckerlijc

What is your favourite vegetarian dish?

I'm a huge fan of vegetables anyway. My 'pépé' and 'mémé' used to grow their own vegetables, so I rotated very quickly. My favourite vegetable is roasted, grilled leeks. Very simple, but delicious. Tip of the day!

You have a great fondness for the sea. Why is that?

I used to go to sea a lot. Sailing. But the sea air, that smell, the iodine. Man, that's powerful. I get into my car after a hard service, exhausted, tired... but once I have passed Lapscheure, a nostalgic holiday feeling overwhelms me. Yes, Knokke-Heist is very important to me, especially during spring. Then the weather is favourable and the crowds are not yet present.

Which BBQ appliance should we buy.

The big question is 'what do you want to cook'? I spend as much time making charcoal as I do grilling itself. I prefer to work with an ordinary fire pit, but if I have to choose, I opt for the Yakiniku. A Japanese version of the Green Egg and ideal for preparing decent dishes, grilling actually. Price-quality is the best choice.

All those hours on the grill, it's hard work. Where do you get your kicks when you pull the door behind you?

When you turn 50, you reportedly have a midlife crisis. I can totally agree with that as I then bought myself an '89 vintage Porsche. My adrenaline starts pumping as soon as I even step into it. The feeling of that engine under your behind, the sound, the drive itself... All a big cluster of kicks that I enjoy immensely time after time. Cars really are my passion. Yes, I'm a real guy!

As a final key question, which beautiful meat would you like to go on a date with?

(Thinks for 3 seconds) With someone I know personally: Rani De Coninck. We spent time together in Crete for a TV programme. Her personality, her smile, her spontaneity... Someone who is like that in life, that's beautiful. And her looks help, of course. A woman out of a thousand I would love to spend my life with. A one-night stand is also allowed!

Rani De Coninck, Peter's dreamdate.

New shop: Soto.

Soto is Peter's new headquarters. Soto is Japanese for 'outside'. Although he still runs the restaurant on weekends, his shop in Knokke is his new job. The idea is simple: let people enjoy the outdoors. Outdoor living. You will find everything for cooking outside, but also deco, accessories, furniture and of course: barbecues. We attended the opening and saw that it was good. Life begins outside.

More than 100 recipes.

Just before the summer, Peter's new book 'BBQ & OUTDOOR' was launched. A must-have for the enthusiast who loves pure dishes on the grill. Don't let this BBQ bible pass you by. More than a hundred mouth-watering recipes. From classics to contemporary gourmet dishes. Ready to smoke?


BBQ & Outdoor
25.99 €


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