An ode to the seasons.
At the Keistraat in Utrecht you will find the 17th-century Polman’s House, which boasts a beautiful ceiling in its largest room. In early 2020, restaurant Hemel & Aarde (Heaven & Earth) opened its doors here and, under the direction of chef Rene van der Weijden, brings a culinary ode to the seasons. With a score of 14.5 points, his culinary skills are clearly appreciated according to the connoisseurs of Gault & Millau.
From the very beginning, Rene van der Weijden has been involved in Hemel & Aarde’s signature cuisine. From the restaurant’s basement kitchen, he works with whatever nature has to offer in that season. His respect for nature is profound, and this forms the basis of his distinctive culinary principles. The menu changes with the seasons, and vegetables always play a central role. Ingredients are sourced as locally as possible, and he particularly enjoys spotlighting underappreciated products
Rene's passion is evident in the exciting layering of his dishes. He loves simplicity on the plate and complexity in the preparation. He employs various classic cooking techniques and, for example, applies butcher techniques such as dry aging to vegetables. “During the pandemic, I was inspired by Noma’s fermentation manual. At home, I experimented with the fermented fish sauce Garum and learned how to cultivate my own Koji, from which I then made miso.” Since then, the lactic acid bacterium lactobacillus has become his greatest friend, and in the kitchen of Hemel & Aarde stands a red mobile cabinet that maintains a constant temperature of 61 degrees Celsius. In it, Rene fervently ferments to add more depth to his sauces, or he lets bananas ripen for weeks until they turn pitch black and taste like vanilla and cocoa. This makes the magic cabinet one of the most important pillars in his kitchen.
At Hemel & Aarde nothing goes to waste. Making the kitchen more sustainable is a must and a journey of discovering flavors at the same time. “Take celeriac for example, how do you prevent the peels, ends, and foliage from ending up as vegetable waste in the trash bin?” With enthusiasm, Rene tries to take his sustainability mission further and find ways to incorporate the ‘waste’ into his meals. “Now is the time to truly make a difference and show and let people taste that it is possible!” A telling example is the new life given to Hemel & Aarde’s seasonal beers. “As a result of the pandemic, these beers remained unsold, but fortunately, they did not go to waste. Together with a local brewer, the remnants were converted into alcohol and were upgraded to become our own gin, which is now on the menu at Hemel & Aarde’s cocktail bar. A must taste!”