2006 DC Rising Star Bart Vandaele’s favorite playground has always been the kitchen. As a toddler in his family’s restaurant in Belgium, pots and pans were his toys. At only 12, Vandaele enrolled at the Culinary Institute for Restaurant and Hotel Management in Bruges, Belgium, where he embarked on a six year program of academics and culinary externships in both cuisine and pastry at Michelin-starred Belgian restaurants.
After completing his formal education, Vandaele spent a year at the Zeebrugge Naval Base working as a line cook at the officer’s kitchen before taking on a commis chef position at the one Michelin starred Piet Huysentruyt in Wortegem-Petegem, Belgium. After three years of work under Chef Huysentruty, Vandaele was moved up to Second Chef, responsible for the kitchen in the chef’s absence and teaching cooking classes. He held the position for three years before moving to two Michelin-starred Restaurant Scholteshof in Hasselt where he held a Sous Chef position for a year under the renowned Roger Souvereyns. Vandaele’s restaurant experience took a turn when he became the Executive Chef for the Head of Delegation of the European Commission to the United States in Belgium, which led to his next Executive Chef position at the Royal Dutch Embassy. During his six years at the embassies, Vandaele created a daily changing menu and organized luxurious lunch and dinner parties for senators, governors, ambassadors, and lobbyists.
During a stroll around the Eastern Market neighborhood of DC in 2003, Vandaele saw an empty retail space that felt right for his next venture. With a Belgian design team, Vandaele oversaw the compltete gutting and redesign of the space to suit his Belgian roots. As Executive Chef of Belga Café in DC, Vandaele acts as a Belgian culinary ambassador, using American and Asian ingredients to build dishes that celebrate the rich history of Belgian cuisine and beer. His Endive Sushi begins with the boiling of the classic Belgian vegetable in nutmeg and curry-scented water. The endive is marinated, wrapped in Prosciutto di Parma and served with an orange-cardamom gelée and tobiko.