Jason Blanckaert is a culinary bad boy. He earned his Michelin Star in his twenties, and left it behind to go on his own with J.e.f. To open a restaurant in the midst of a recession is a ballsy move. But as with everything, Jason defies convention, trusts his gut and never looks back.
Accompanied by two foodie friends I brave a frosty night [-16C!] to have dinner at Jason’s full restaurant. The cozy dining room is without frills and furnished with salvaged materials. Our friendly host Famke [aka Jason’s girlfriend] explains the menu: white pudding, black salsify, oxtail, pork belly, buttermilk, lemon verbena, etc. Jason has an eye for old school and seemingly forgotten ingredients.
I start with a salad of sea bass, leek, orange and horseradish. Continue with pork belly, egg, green herbs, potato & celeriac. And finish with a valrhona araguani chocolate, Pimm’s liquor & orange dessert. Not a crumb left.
I get to meet the man behind the food: down to earth, young, with a sparkle in his eye and a sharp wit. “Why did you start cooking?” ”I like knives.” ”What’s next?” ”Retirement in my Tuscan villa.” But his goals for j.e.f. are without irony: cooking affordable food and a place where friends get together. Simply perfect.
Jason’s food is exciting, full of flavor, beautiful and without fuss. He doesn’t need to hide behind expensive ingredients or rigid culinary tradition. It’s as if he is rebelling against his star-studded past. He creates excitement around food you wouldn’t normally expect; he’s given humble food a whole new purpose.
In times of crisis, people seek comfort in the traditional. It reminds them of simpler times. Jason’s making vintage food chic again. Awakening a new generation, by making the unpopular popular. But in his own way. A rebel with a cause …
J.e.f.: Lange Steenstraat 10, 9000 Gent, T: +32 (0)9 3368058
Jason is the third Flemish Foodie.
Ghent as a foodie destination in The Guardian