As a child, Seppe Nobels (°1982) did what can be expected of a cook: he liked to stir in his mother’s pots. What’s more, he spent hours in his vegetable garden in Mechelen, where he grew his first tomatoes and radishes. Nobody could have imagined that in this small home garden the seeds were sown for what would later become a leading and inspiring urban farming story.
Seppe learned the culinary trade at the well-known Hotelschool Ter Duinen (Koksijde) and as a trainee in restaurants such as Folliez (Mechelen), Maison du Cygne (Brussels), Villa Bellerose (Saint-Tropez) and Osteria La Loggia (Sienna). He started his professional career in Absoluut Zweeds and discovered French-Provençal cuisine in Wout Bru’s Michelin-star restaurant Bistrot d’Eygalières. As a young man in his twenties, he took part in the ‘Best Junior Chef of Belgium’ competition, where he won four main prizes.
In 2007 he appeared as a cook in the TV show De wereld van K3. Together with the young ones he prepared simple but playful dishes and from that experience he wrote “Seppe’s cookbook for kids”. He is still very concerned about the eating behaviour of children. He recently worked out a Family Sunday concept which can be enjoyed by both parents and kids and he made contributions to several programmes on Ketnet, Flanders’ most popular youth channel. Seppe is determined to educate children about healthy and green cooking. That’s why he can regularly be found in schools all over the country for lectures and cooking demonstrations.
In February 2010 Seppe took up a new challenge with business partners Tim van Geloven and Ilse Cornelissen: Restaurant Graanmarkt 13, located on the lower floor of a stately home in Antwerp that combines a shop, a gallery and a restaurant. Since then, the kitchen of Graanmarkt 13 has been his culinary haven and home lab.
For Seppe, there has always been a strong link between cooking and the environment in which he lives and works. Each day offers new opportunities to cooperate and find the best products. They preferably come from the region or directly from the garden. His urban honey has become an indispensable part of his kitchen in which he also wants to take the ecological footprint into account. Graanmarkt 13 has its own urban agriculture project on the roof with more than 100 different herbs and some unknown vegetables. Other vegetables are grown sustainably on the outskirts of the city. Seppe is always looking for other seasonal ingredients from local farmers. It is therefore not surprising that in 2015 he was elected best vegetable chef in Flanders and that Graanmarkt 13 is among the top five best vegetable restaurants in the world. Respect for natural flavours and the better regional product determine the vision of his cuisine.
In recent years Seppe has written two cookery books in which his green signature is clearly noticeable. “Vegetables That Sparkle the Conversation” (“Best vegetarian book in the world” by Gourmand Cookbook Awards) and “Greens That Taste Like Friendship” have now been translated into English and German and are available in the better international bookstores (including Barney’s in New York).
Seppe is eager to spread the vegetable-inspired kitchen as much and as far as possible. He cooked for street children in the favelas of Rio de Janero, was a guest chef at the temple restaurant in the forbidden city of Beijing, accompanied the Belgian King and Queen in New Delhi when they were visiting India and took over Dimitri Zotov’s famous restaurant in Moscow for a few days. In 2016, Seppe was the head of the Tomorrowland Restaurant by Seppe Nobels at the world-famous dance music festival.
Last year Seppe set up a cross-border cooperation with Santa Clara 1728 in Lisbon, which was recently awarded ‘best new hotel of the world’ in Wallpaper 2018 and was mentioned in the Top 50 Hot List of Condé Nast Traveller Magazine. As a culinary advisor he is directing the Portuguese kitchen team and is responsible for the daily healthy vegetable breakfast served at the hotel.
In 2018, Seppe will be hosting Grillmasters, a new TV show on the Belgian channel VIER.