Close to the North Sea in Western Belgium is a charming fisherman’s house that’s been transformed into a restaurant called Willem Hiele. A lot of the produce used is grown on site and there are even chickens, ducks and roosters roaming freely in their own big space. There is also a swing set on the property. But this isn’t just any swing set. It’s the same swing set that the owner/chef Willem Hiele used when he was a little boy. Willem Hiele restaurant is the house he grew up in, completely transformed into a warm, cozy restaurant serving upscale Belgian food. The apple trees from his youth are still bearing fruit today and now he shares his passion for cooking and his childhood memories combining them into a pleasant dining experience.
For those who enjoy locally sourced, elevated dining, Willem Hiele is a special restaurant where the chef might even point to the yard and show you exactly where the ingredients on your plate are from.
Just a few days after returning home, I saw a friend’s live Facebook video by Eric Kleinberg, food photographer formerly from Chicago, now in Europe. The video took place on a fishing boat and they were on the way to dinner at Kadeau Bornholm. I recognized two of the people and amazingly, it was Willem Hiele and coincidentally the chef I met the day before. The group is called Tripping Chefs. Chefs, chocolatiers, bartenders and sommeliers go on culinary expeditions to discover exceptional places around the world.
Arrival and Tour
Shannah Zeebroek is Willem’s wife and is Front of House as well as a sommelier at Willem Hiele restaurant. When I arrived, she was standing at the head of the driveway to direct me in and greeted me with a warm, welcoming smile.
Willem showed me around the property so I could see all the produce growing at the restaurant. He had stories from his childhood and told me which plants and trees were there when he was young, and it was then that I realized this was his former home.
We headed back outside so I could start my lunch. It was a beautiful sunny day so I sat outside.
I was full after the venison so I passed on the rest of the meal but an example of one of Willem’s desserts is ‘Gariguette’ strawberry, consomme of rhubarb, pomegranate sorbet, lemon, berries, meringue.
Behind the Scenes