Marijn Coertjens needs few presentations in the sector. In his professional career he has shared professional experiences with figures such as Marc Ducobu, Susumu Koyama and Joris Vanhee, among others. Of all of them, he has learned knowledge and a rigorous and passionate attitude with which he has matured as a chef. Its popularity became more noticeable after the stellar step by competitions like the World Cup of Pastry (bronze) and especially the World Chocolate Masters (bronze). But in reality, he has treasured experiences in 11 more competitions.
The Four Seasons of Hong Kong has been his penultimate destination for more than five years, but for the last few months he has been the owner of his own bakery and chocolate shop in Ghent (Belgium), accompanied by the chef Christa Muyldermans.
Reviewing this bulky curriculum with him, the engine that motivates him immediately emerges: the desire to evolve. That takes him from Waterloo to Tokyo, from there to Honk Kong and back to Belgium again. It is also what drives his frequent participation in championships, although now he confesses that he enjoys more as a coach of the other chefs or as a juror.
As Marijn Coertjens himself explains, what makes the difference from one proposal to another, for example in his professional career, is not so much the chef who performs it as the audience to which he is destined, their culture and the context in which those creations are enjoyed. In this visit of the Belgian chef in the pages of So Good, we notice this constant evolution in the interview we did with him, and in the proposals he shares with us, inspired by his favorite colors.
Photos by: Debic
Your past time in the contest arena has been remarkable, are you disappointed not to reaching the top of the podium (CMP, WCM)?
At the CMP bronze was a very good place, I couldn’t be happier at that time. As a chef, I was not ready to win a competition like this. At the WCM, I was ready, and it was a sad day. The disappointment will always be with me. On the other hand, I’m a person who will challenge himself all the time, I need that, so I will keep pushing myself but not in competitions anymore.
Are you hunger for more? Shall we see Marijn Coertjens again in a competition box? Is there supposedly an age for everything?
I think there is not an age for everything, maybe rephrase it to “there is a time for everything”. After all the competitions I did, I feel good coaching people who want to go the extra mile in doing a competition. I think you will see Marijn Coertjens back in a competition box but maybe it would be as a judge, or unpacking tools for motivated newcomers on that scene.
Pastries and chocolates are making people happy around the world. The only big difference is the culture. In Belgium we have a chocolate, pastry and bakery culture. It’s something we know from when we were little kids. Every special occasion there would be something from the bakery shop
If you have been offering your signature pastry for 5 years in Hong Kong and now you have moved to a quite different place like Ghent, does this mean that pastry is something globalized and that can it be enjoyed anywhere in the world?
For sure pastries and chocolates are making people happy around the world. The only big difference is the culture. In Belgium we have a chocolate, pastry and bakery culture. It’s something we know from when we were little kids. Every special occasion there would be something from the bakery shop. When I travel I see a lot of good pastry and chocolate around the world, the difference is not in the chefs, the difference is in the people that are eating our creations and their perception and habits of enjoying it. In Hong Kong many people would go to a different shop every time, where in Belgium many people are loyal to their bakery shop. This makes a huge difference for me and so I think that Ghent is not as massive fast pace as Hong Kong, but that doesn’t mean that this place is less interesting. Here we have customers coming every day, a few times a week, this creates a connection with your customer.
What part of your repertoire do you enjoy more making it –buns, pastries, entremets, bonbons?
I like change, that’s why we touch different aspects of our profession in our place. I enjoy making pastries as much as bonbons and travel cake as much as croissants. I enjoy the full concept of sweets. I know many people link me with chocolate but to define myself as a chef, I’m a pastry chef specialized in chocolate work.
How important is for you innovation and creativity?
Creativity and Innovations make our profession interesting and evolve. So, they are important motivators. I think it’s important that what we do with it makes sense. Many times, ideas will just stay in my head for a long time, just because the time is not right, or I don’t have the time. Then when they come out, makes the creation more mature I feel for myself. If looking back our professions have evolved a lot the last 15 years and it seems to go on a fast pace. We can only applaud people who pushed the boundaries over this time, chefs like Stephan Klein and Stephane Leroux who take those 2 small words to another dimension. For me the most important part is to question ourselves in what and how we make our creations. Question ourselves in the same way as we question other chefs when we see or taste their creations. Sometimes when we judge our own creations we are milder then when we judge the work of others. I think this is because we know the work behind and the situation it is made in, with the creations of others we don’t know this.
For me the most important part is to question ourselves in what and how we make our creations. Question ourselves in the same way as we question other chefs when we see or taste their creations. Sometimes when we judge our own creations we are milder then when we judge the work of others
You often have surprised us with brand new techniques and cutting-edge results, what else is remaining yet to discover? What do you think it will be like the pastry in the future?
We are constantly evolving in our profession. There is a lot of sharing these days, think of Facebook, Instagram and all the masterclasses that are happening around the world. We see that are a lot of different things are happening and perception around the world of pastries and chocolates are changing. At the same time, I believe that where chocolate and pastry are deeply rooted in the culture, the tradition will last and new sensations of sweets will live alongside the traditional creations. I think this would be a good balance and makes that the customers can chose at the moment what they are looking for. One week they will go to the bakery shop buying their tart or entremets, the other time they will stop at a food truck which sales funky waffles. The moment will decide what the costumer will buy. If you think about it it’s the same as Breakfast and lunch have evolved: you are in a rush you grab something on the way, you have time you make it yourself or go to a restaurant and when you are at an event you choose something different.
You will find these four recipes in so good #20