Freek is a wild picker and chef: ‘I know exactly where our products come from’

Freek is not your average cook. He is one of the few chefs in the Netherlands who picks his own ingredients and processes them into beautiful and organic dishes. “I know exactly where all our products come from”.

De Gouwenaar had never before felt the need to work in Gouda’s catering industry. “Many restaurants sell the same things. There are a number of large suppliers who supply al Gouda catering with products ”. This prevented Freek from using his talents as a chef. After a while of traveling, he decided to look for a restaurant in Gouda. Freek now works as a chef in De Kleischuur. “De Kleschuur focuses on organic and local food,” he says. This view fits well with Freek’s view.

wild picking

In addition to cooking, Freek is very passionate about nature and all the treasures that can be found there. “We get products from all over the world, but we often do not know what can be found here in nature.” Freek gathers a lot of ingredients through wild picking, which he uses in his dishes, which he makes for De Kleischuur. Wild picking is the collection of edible and nutritious plants from nature.

It is clear that Freek has gained a lot of knowledge about wild picking over the years. He talks with great enthusiasm about the various edible plants and flowers. “You see the appearance without appearance everywhere. Once you know them, you see them everywhere,” he says. “The wild garlic is also a well-known plant. The plant has a mild garlic taste, and you can eat anything from this plant. The leaf, the flowers and the green buds in the middle ”.

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Wild garlic © Anne-Wil Rozendaal

While picking in the wild, Freek is aware of what plants he is picking. To prevent a four-legged friend in dire need from getting in front of him, he picks the plants that grow further from the path. Despite the amount of knowledge Freek now has, he remains cautious. “If I’m not sure what kind of plant it is, I always use a book or app to check if it’s edible.”

As a fanatical runner, Freek travels dozens of kilometers each week in Gouda and the surrounding area. He runs at least one marathon a year. This hobby turns out to be an excellent combination with wild picking. During his long runs, he is always looking for beautiful and edible plants to pick. “I then keep an eye on how far certain plants have grown and where there are beautiful places to pick in the wild,” he says.

Local food

Healthy and organic food is very important to Freek. “I also just shop in the supermarket, but you have to be aware of what you put in your body,” he says. “Often we do not know where our food comes from”. Freek is trying to change that in his work. All products he uses come from South Holland. In winter this is more difficult, but even then all products are from Dutch soil. “I can find out exactly where each ingredient comes from.” Freek even gathers part of it. “Sometimes my work day starts with picking in the morning, and then I use it again in the restaurant in the evening.” Freek uses his wild feed a lot when he makes Miso’s, Shoyu’s, Garum’s and Kombucha’s. To get the perfect, deep taste, such a paste must mature for several months. This requires a little patience, but that way he can also use it during the winter months. “You don’t learn this way of cooking in the chef’s training,” he says.

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Freek in action © Anne-Wil Rozendaal

Sometimes nature gives Freek a hand. During the storm in the spring, many branches of the poplar were blown off. This was a great opportunity for Freek. “I then cut the buds off the branches and made poplar bud ice cream from it. Usually the buds are too high in the tree ”.

Freek proves once again that nature in front of your home or around the corner has a lot more to offer than you might think. Are you curious about what delicious things Freek chooses and makes? So be sure to keep an eye on his Instagram.

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