I don’t even know where to start, food has really influenced every part and age of my life. I always watched when my mother, was cooking at home, I loved it so much and I was always ready to lick the pots. If you have Southern roots much of your life revolves around food.
My first memories must date from when I was about 3 years old. My Spanish grandparents had their own orange and lemon trees, cornfields, big juicy round tomatoes and I walked around among the chickens. As a child I grew up in Antwerp, my father was a baker and I still get nostalgic with the smell of raw dough. Freshly baked croissants, simmering jam, real creme patissier and the smell of bread that has just come out of the oven gives me an indescribably comfortable feeling.
The best moment, the most nostalgic moment is the end-of-year period. Every year I was allowed to help decorate the Christmas stumps and the little tarts. I remember so vividly how I was allowed to put eyes on the marzipan small figures and how I was allowed to rotate the little tartes in a bowl with chocolate sprinkles. That feeling was so great so powerful! Our pastry was the most beautiful in Antwerp, for me the most beautiful in the whole world! I was so proud when I looked at the bakkers window packed full of pies, little tarts and stumps. An indelible memory of my childhood.
My mother taught me how to cook and I was inspired by my grandmothers. No matter how difficult the times were, none of these women ever cooked cans or bought ready-made meals. When my mother remarried, I also got hard-working grandparents. They have been growing potatoes and strawberries in Ranst all their life! Now I help my father Willy to harvest the grapes from his vineyard so we can make our own wine each year.
My mother, who is Belgian, comes from a fishing family. My aunt Rosette recently told me that her grandfather wrapped the freshly caught fish from Ostend in newspaper and sent it through the post to Borgerhout where they live. She remembers who fresh and good the fish would tatse and they never got sick from it! Those were different times!
My Spanish grandparents along my biological fathers side emigrated to Belgium in the 60s. My grandfather worked in the mines. They earned extra money by cooking and serving at a doctor's home. When I was just born, they returned to Spain and never returned. They lived on the Bay of Biscay, Ribadesella a beautiful fishing village in the north of Spain. My grandfather has now turned 90 and my grandmother 84, they now live in the city of Oviedo.
A few years ago my sister Sofie convinced me to go back to our Spanish roots. The trip became a personal search that left a deep impact on me. Looking at my families history on both sides I realized that I was missing a part. From that point on my sister Sofie and my brother Tonio travel to Spain each year.
In 2014 I started my food blog Bites & Walks that brought me into contact with the beautiful boutique hotel Julien. I cooked, wrote new recipes, led the breakfast, the banquets and the private parties. I have worked passionately for years. I was proud to welcome and serve national and internationally renowned artists, fashion designers, photographers and especially people like you and me, food lovers!
I have trained many young people, passed along my passion and encouraged theirs. In the meantime, it was time for my own project. For years I walked through the streets of Antwerp. So many souls have lived and worked here. I wanted to know more about the city and how our ancestors could live and survive here. Our food culture is one to be proud of and it is up to us to pass it on!
Bites & Walks originated from passion and love for my hometown. Antwerp is one big museum, there is so much to discover every day and food has been bringing Antwerp people together for years. Do we actually realize how much history is hidden in a dish, some are even centuries old. Heritage is not just a building that we visit or a painting that we view, heritage is something you also eat and drink every day!