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Best chocolatier in Flanders is Olivier Willems of Ostend

05:15 26/10/2020
From Flanders Today

Flanders' best chocolates come from a shop in Ostend, according to gastronomic guide Gault&Millau. The organisation has just released its latest Finest Chocolatiers in Belgium and Luxembourg guide and singled out Olivier Willems as the best Flemish chocolatier.

Willems began his business aged 21 in his hometown. His recent creations have drawn inspiration from Ostend’s most famous son, artist James Ensor: pralines flavoured with Earl Grey tea and fleur de sel and featuring designs in the style of Ensor’s paintings.

Gault&Millau praised him for “the art of titillating the taste buds with pralines that seduce as much by their taste as by their design” and for producing refined chocolates “with flavours both intense and balanced”.

Back in 2017, Willems caught the Gault&Millau judges’ eye with a praline he called PoppoLou Rocks, flavoured with the local PoppoLou beer, caramel and acai berry. The guide named it the most innovative praline in Belgium. His atelier was also listed in the 2018 and 2019 editions of the guide.

“We like to be creative and often work with local suppliers,” Willems told Het Nieuwsblad. “We are pleased that these efforts are now also recognised with this wonderful title from Gault&Millau.”

The awards were announced at a presentation of the guide at Brussels Expo this week. Also among the prizes was Goût Fou, a boutique in Zele, East Flanders, which was named Discovery of the Year, a new title aimed at newly established chocolatiers.

The owners of Goût Fou were praised not only for their revamped classics but for the look of their shop ©Made in Oost-Vlaanderen

Niels Segers and Justine Lanoo met when Lanoo gave a demo at the academy where Segers was studying to become a chocolatier, and they set up Goût Fou together this year. They take inspiration from classic desserts such as Sachertorte and lemon meringue and transform them into chocolate bars.

“We are very happy with the recognition,” Lanoo told Het Nieuwsblad. “We didn’t expect to be in the Gault&Millau guide so soon, but it’s nice to see that their experts appreciate what we make.”

“We were surprised not only by the beautiful boutique with workshop,” the jury said, “but also by the level of quality offered by this young couple. They are looking at famous classics from a new perspective.”

The best chocolatier in the Brussels region, according to the guide, is veteran Laurent Gerbaud, while Benoit Nihant of Awans takes the title in Wallonia. This is the fifth edition of the guide, which this year lists 97 chocolatiers in Belgium and Luxembourg.

Photo: Olivier Willems/Facebook

Written by Flanders Today