Ten years of ambition
Onno Kokmeijer's and Arjan Speelman's journey in Ciel Bleu Restaurant started ten years ago. When Onno was asked to lead the restaurant, he immediately knew that he wanted to have Arjan as his right-hand man. Their friendship dates back to their college years, when they worked together during various traineeships. The mutual respect grew and they realised they could learn a lot from each other. Thus, a bond of trust has grown.
A strong team
Onno and Arjan proved to be a great team. Although they are opposites, they complement each other perfectly. Chef the Cuisine Arjan is creative and concentrates on combining flavours. The approach of Executive Chef & Manager Onno is more practical: he makes sure that any dish can be prepared every night, even when the restaurant is fully booked. Arjan provides the general picture, while Onno refines the recipes and focuses on the visual aspects – the arrangement on the plate, the type of tableware, and the way of serving. This difference between Onno and Arjan’s way of thinking results in the most creative recipes.
The chefs came a long way since their appointment in 2003. Onno Kokmeijer: “Ten years ago, when Arjan and I came to the Okura, the restaurant looked different than it does nowadays. Our ambition was to bring innovation to the culinary concept of the former classic French restaurant. The first step to achieving this was enlarging the menus and making over the interior.” And so it happened. In the summer of 2007, right before Michelin awarded the restaurant its second star, the interior of Ciel Bleu Restaurant was completely renovated. A Chef’s Table was created, making a long-time dream of Onno Kokmeijer come true: “Guests can now literally watch the ambitious kitchen team in action, a great chance for us to have personal interaction with our guests.”
Not only the restaurant got a complete makeover; the culinary concept also got a new boost. The chefs let go of the classic French cuisine and introduced a more innovative way of cooking. Because many international guests find their way up to Ciel Bleu, it is important to keep track of culinary developments outside The Netherlands as well. Therefore, Onno and Arjan sample many different cuisines and get inspiration from travelling to other countries, including England, Spain, France, Italy, Japan, China, and the United States. They spend a lot of time together in the kitchen and try to continuously innovate to overwhelm their guests. It’s not just the food that has to be surprising; it’s about the total experience. Pasquinel Kolk and Noël Vanwittenbergh are responsible for the restaurant. With lots of enthusiasm and flair, they know how to catch the attention of the guests by sharing knowledge for their profession. Surprisingly, innovation and an eye for perfection have been the basis of Ciel Bleu in the past and will be in the future.