Can you describe what you do?
I’m the head of my own little gourmet empire that includes a Michelin-starred restaurant (Dôme, open since 2003), a seafood bistro (Dôme sur Mer, since 2006), a bakery-patisserie (Domestic, since 2008 and a second Domestic since 2016).
Where you are based?
I was born in St. Etienne, France, and now live in the Zurenborg Area between Central and Berchem train station, right in the middle between Dôme, Dôme sur Mer and Domestic, on a small cosy square. This neighbourhood feels like a small village. I bring my kids to school by bike, I can talk with my colleagues in the different businesses that surround us, day and night because people work 24h a day between restaurant, pastries and bakeries. I spend a lot of time in my office, working for many different projects in different countries, but always based between the kids, employees and businesses. No traffic, no rush, no stress – like a small village. Travelling around twice a month is easy living next to the train station that brings me to the airport in 25 minutes! This mixture of private and professional life is perfect in a city like Antwerp.
Who do you work with?
We work with people of many different countries, languages, religions and ages. They keep me posted about things happening in Antwerp – places, trends, movements. Things I wouldn’t see if I weren’t surrounded by this mixture of kind and diverse people.
In Antwerp, young people can easily start their business and succeed.
How do you perceive Antwerp? In your view, what kind of city is it? Its people, its cultural landscape, its vibe?
I used to live in Paris. I loved the buzz of that city, but I didn’t have kids at the time. Every time I go back, I realise how happy I am in Antwerp, with the vibes of a big city like Paris but the cosiness of a village. It is a city of human size, cosmopolite, open, full of surprises. The city is both bourgeois and rebelle at the same time. I wanted to start a business in Paris a long time ago, before coming to Antwerp, but I wanted to do so without investors involved. It wouldn’t have been possible for me in other capitals. In Antwerp, young people can easily start their business and succeed. We understand Antwerp and its needs, we adapted our business to the clientele as well as the city and business-wise there was, and still is, a space for us.
To you, what is the best way to spend a weekend in Antwerp? If you had to take out-of-towners to one place that truly symbolises the city, what would it be?
With my family and friends from abroad, I spend time on the Saturday Vogelmarkt, where I buy flowers and other things for the restaurant. We have breakfast at Cuisinette Domestic before going up the MAS for an overview of the city. Walking down the Cogels Osylei in the Art nouveau neighbourhood where we live is always nice.
On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city?
I miss the green. I grew up in the countryside and spent my weekends in the mountains. I miss the big nature, and do not like the smell of Antwerp, neither do I like the drinking water. I’d also like to see less roadworks in Antwerp. They seem to last forever. And finally l would like to see more collaboration with the City of Antwerp, and by that I mean more than the congratulatory messages when we received a Michelin star, but helping the businesses get there, or at least not counter their chances.
A local legend, neighbourhood anecdote or urban myth?
A neighbourhood myth? The ‘bakfiets’ bike. You’re not a local unless you have it. But it’s never been my cup of tea.domeweb.be Photography Thomas Ost