Tell us about Oud Sluis, your family restaurant. “My maternal grandparents started it in the 1950s and my parents took over in the early 70s. It’s a small farmhouse in a small city on the Holland-Belgium border, near Antwerp. Seventy-five per cent of the guests are Flemish. My father ran Oud Sluis like a typical seafood restaurant and was famous for his mussels in white wine sauce. I worked on the weekends, washing dishes, helping my mother serve, cleaning mussels and cutting vegetables.” What do you remember most about your childhood? “On my parents’ free days, they picked me up from school and we had a good lunch or dinner in a nice restaurant. When I worked in Oud Sluis, my father taught me the basics and I worked hard, but when we became a Michelin-starred restaurant, we focused on the food and vibe of the restaurant.” Did you know you wanted to become a chef? “I went to culinary school and pushed hard, so in my last year I was top in my class. I interned in a two-Michelin-starred restaurant, the best in Holland at the time, and went back there after graduation. But after about seven months my father told me to come home because he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.” What was it like to return? “When I came back to Oud Sluis in 1990, I put new dishes on the menu, but no one ate them; everyone came for my father’s food, so I was frustrated. After a few years, my mother said, ‘OK Sergio, we see talent in you and you can do your own thing.’ The restaurant became busy, but in the winter, no one came. I cried in my bed wondering if what I was doing was right. But I believed in myself and kept going. “We got media attention and then Michelin stars – one to two, two to three. For a restaurant from southern Holland, far from Amsterdam, Michelin stars were huge because at the time Belgians didn’t look to the Dutch for fine dining. For me, it was just the beginning of showing them what I could do.” Why did you close Oud Sluis in 2013? “I got my third Michelin star in 2005 and closed my restaurant eight years later because it was a small place in a small town and there were 18 of us chefs working in a small kitchen. I wanted to push myself to be better. Gault Millau [the French restaurant guide] gave me 20 out of 20 points, I was on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, and the only thing I could do was go down. I wanted to open a new kind of restaurant and travel. My younger brother took over Oud Sluis.” What did you do after that? “In 2010, I had opened Pure C Bar & Restaurant, a fine-dining restaurant [in the Dutch seaside resort of Cadzand-Bad] that has two Michelin stars, then, in 2014, I opened The Jane [in Antwerp], which also has two stars. I opened AIRrepublic in 2017, which has one Michelin star and is a brasserie-style kitchen, and then I opened Blueness, a Japanese bar and restaurant, in 2018 [both in Cadzand-Bad]. “I have also opened six French fries shops called Frites Atelier. In Belgium when you talk about street food, French fries are number one. I take them to the next level, with good music, good quality food, good home-made sauces. Not everyone can afford to eat in a two- or three-Michelin star restaurant.” Do you know much about Japanese food? “I know a lot about Japanese food, but I had never been to Japan until 2018. I went to Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo. Japan was at the top of my bucket list for years and what I saw was unbelievable in terms of hospitality, perfection, products. At Blueness, we don’t make classic Japanese dishes, but we work with local products and give them a Japanese touch.” What’s next? “This year I’m going to be 50, so in the next five to six years I want to give the best of myself by opening a small restaurant where I personally cook. These days I’m in management meetings and create dishes for restaurants, but I don’t cook much. “A year ago I cooked for 12 people at one of my guest’s homes. I served them the food, describing the dishes, and the host was crying. I asked, ‘Is everything OK?’ He said it’s so special you’re here now because the only way we can get you into the kitchen and see you cooking is at home.’I said to myself, that’s what I want again, to cook for a maximum of 18 people for eight to 10 days a month. The restaurant will be called The Farm and open in 2021.” Do your children know how to cook? “I have four children. My oldest son is 20 and in July he started working in one of my restaurants. My daughter is 14 and she likes painting, drawing. Noah is 10 and likes music, likes to perform, and my youngest son is eight and he wants to eat everything, he wants to cook with me. I think he might become a chef.” Sergio Herman was recently a guest chef at Caprice, in Central .