Dick Middelweerd (59) has been called the “sweetest chef” in the Netherlands. The chef and owner of star restaurant De Treeswijkhoeve in Waalre does not like to argue. “That bothers me for days.”
He also thinks it bothers his staff the most when they make a mistake. “Actually, I would prefer to comfort them then.” He told about it Wednesday night in the TV program ‘KRAAK vraagt door’ of Omroep Brabant.
Middelweerd combines his gentleness with perfectionism and ambition. The proof that it works hangs at the front door of his restaurant: two Michelin stars. They have been hanging there for ten years now. He is proud of them and doesn’t find it at all strange for someone who, as an adolescent, didn’t really feel at home in school and didn’t know what he wanted in life.”
Cook or baker
He had this vague idea that he wanted to be a radio DJ, but a vocational choice test pointed toward the kitchen: cook or baker. And then his life suddenly took direction. “From day one I felt: this is it,” he said. That feeling became even stronger when he started working in a starred restaurant. “I loved the ambition and discovered how good food could be.”
Middelweerd’s life took on even more direction when he met his wife Anne-Laura. Her parents owned a restaurant in Waalre. That’s where their future lay. Over twenty years ago, Dick and Anne-Laura took over the restaurant.
In 2006, they received their first star. The second in 2012 came oddly enough when Middelweerd took it a little easier after a mild heart attack. “My wife then said, ‘We’re going to work one day less,'” he says. But that actually gave room to further improve the restaurant.
It’s a lesson the Waalre chef also used when the restaurant suffered severe damage in a kitchen fire a year and a half ago. They had to close for three months. A disaster. “But we didn’t experience it that way.” His wait staff went on internships at other restaurants and came back with new insights. And in the kitchen, new ideas were tried out. Middelweerd: “We got all the cookbooks out of the attic and started picking them out together.”
So they got better, he thinks to himself. And that naturally leads to a frequently asked question: is a third star coming for the Treeswijkhoeve? “My life hasn’t failed if I don’t get it, but I always say: you have to strive for a third star, otherwise you’ll lose the second.”
He turns 60 this year and he’s looking backward a little more often, but also forward. How will things continue at the Treeswijkhoeve? The answer to that question lies in Copenhagen. There, his son Mats (25) now works in a two-star restaurant. He is the dream successor. Actually, the only question is when.
For Eindhoven News: Lila Mehrez