“Flanders is seldom associated with culinary achievement and top gastronomy, despite having more Michelin stars per inhabitant than anywhere else, as well as 167 recognized regional products and seven under European protection,” commented tourism minister Geert Bourgeois. “We have to present ourselves better in the market, both at home and abroad.”
The plan for 2014-2019 was developed by Toerisme Vlaanderen together with the five provincial tourism organizations, city and local authorities and private partners. It has three main themes: beer, chocolate and excellent food.
“Beer and chocolate may be clichés,” Bourgeois admitted, “but we’d be crazy not to take advantage of them. Our reputation for beer and chocolate will grow in the years to come, as we make the experience more interesting for the tourist. Together with that, we will work to improve our reputation as a region where you can eat well. Ask an American in a few years why he came to Flanders, and his spontaneous answer will be: our delicious food, beer and chocolate.”
The plan involves making food festivals more international and the continuation of campaigns such as the Young Kitchen Rebels promotion of 30 young chefs and the Vlaanderen Lekkerland ambassadors, where towns of culinary note are promoted by their province. “This new action plan is just the beginning,” said Toerisme Vlaanderen administrator-general Peter De Wilde. “The field is now wide open for the contributions of our partners.”
In related news, one of Flanders’ most famous chefs, Piet Huysentruyt (otherwise known as SOS Piet), has been awarded a Michelin star for his new restaurant in the Ardèche region of France. Huysentruyt opened Likoké last summer and in October was named “discovery of the year” by the rival guide Gault&Millau
Before achieving stardom as a TV chef and best-selling author of cookbooks, Huysentruyt had a restaurant with a Michelin star in Wortegem, East Flanders. He is due to make a return to Flemish TV screens soon with a new series on VIER.