Being part of the three Michelin star pantheon is not something many chefs can claim – especially not if they’re self-taught and have no background in hospitality. That’s what makes Viki Geunes engineer-turned-chef so exceptional. Alongside Viviane Plaquet, his wife and business partner, Geunes has trailblazed a unique path within the Belgian (and international) fine-dining sphere over the last three decades.
Born in 1972 in Neerpelt, northeastern Belgium, Geunes opened his first restaurant, called ‘t Zilte, in 1996. The venue, located in Mol – a town one-hour drive east of Antwerp – that his simple yet detail-focused style of cuisine was born. Since then his style has evolved, with more innovative techniques allowing him to interpret ingredients in a refreshing and contemporary way, creating intense flavours and cementing the chef’s trademark playful style.
2004 was a pivotal year for the chef; among numerous accolades, Geunes earned his first Michelin star and was named ‘Young Chef of the Year’ by Gault & Millau. He was then hailed ‘Best Chef of the Year’ in 2009 after receiving his second Michelin star in 2008. A few years later, in 2011, ‘t Zilte relocated to Antwerp’s Museum aan de Stroom (museum by the stream), where Geune’s reputation and signature cuisine was consolidated, as he was able to reach a wider audience.
In 2020, Geune and Plaquet’s daughter, Gitte, joined the team. This new stage was marked by two key events: the restaurant’s rebirth as Zilte and, later in 2021, the award of a third Michelin star. Having joined the prestigious Relais & Châteaux network this year, Zilte is now one of only three restaurants with the top Michelin nod in Belgium. It was during a trip to Rioja in 2008, organised by importer La Buena Vida, that Geunes first came across the Remírez de Ganuza project and Remírez de Ganuza’s wines have featured in Zilte’s wine list ever since.
Viki Geunes’ perfect pairing
Carafe (Wild duck, fermented blueberry, red beet, sakura, young pine cone)
The smokey duck meat – roasted whole with a filling of smoked hay – is covered in a malt, syrup, mirin and soy sauce glazing, creating a sophisticated interplay of flavours. The truffle scented gravy and mille-feuille of puffed beetroots with salted sakura leaves add earthy complexity. The tangy fermented blueberries and pine cones (pasteurised in maple syrup, ginger syrup and soy sauce) provide texture and a flavour edge.
Fincas de Ganuza 2016
88% Tempranillo, 9% Graciano, 3% Mazuelo; 14.5% abv
Produced with hand-harvested-and-sorted grapes from selected sites in the foothills of Sierra Cantabria and aged for two years in 225-litre oak barrels (85% French, 15% American). Aaron Moeraert, head sommelier at Zilte, explains that this relatively young wine, because it retains great freshness and a perfect balance between primary and secondary flavours, pairs well with the juiciness of the duck’s pink meat and the complexity of the multiple garnishes.
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