Portrait of Hans Snijders

Hans Snijders knew at a very young age that he wanted to become a chef. As a child, he baked biscuits with his mother, and he enjoyed it so much that he soon decided to attend the “Pastoor Jacobs” chef’s training college in Sittard. Hans Snijders has been working at Restaurant Château Neercanne since 1980, and was awarded a Michelin Star in 1985.

To find out more about Hans Snijders and his passion for cooking, we asked him a few questions.

What is your philosophy of cooking?
A good flavour, properly seasoned, not over-complicated, and finding the perfect combination. For example, I once tasted a sauce that was so good that I asked for second helpings twice. I was mopping up all the remains of the sauce on my plate with a crispy piece of bread, as it could have been seen as inappropriate to actually lick the plate clean! It doesn’t have to be the height of luxury as long as it’s properly seasoned, and the most important guideline is of course that fresh ingredients are the best start. You have to search for the best strawberry, the best entrecôte etc. And if it works, it gives a real buzz. For example, the freshest and firmest cod can send you into raptures.

What kinds of ingredients are a passion for you, and why?
Strawberries produced by our strawberry specialist Edith Boenne. I gorge on them when the first ones arrive in the last week of May! I just can’t keep my hands off them. And they just get tastier and tastier as the season goes on. Their flavour improves still further the more sunshine they get, without too much rain. That’s as long as you have the right variety, of course.

How do you describe your style of cooking?
French-oriented. On the other hand, a fine stamppot (Dutch potato and vegetable mash dish) made of Nicola potatoes and served with smoked mackerel is delicious too, as is stamppot with salted runner beans, but guests tend not to come especially for stamppot. We also try to keep in step with the seasons. However, if you can get the fattest, juiciest and tastiest cherries from a different continent, I do sometimes think to myself: why not. If you then consider the waste of energy involved in getting the products here, it can be a bit of a dilemma.  

What are your challenges?
The most important challenge has to be achieving the highest quality with your team, and ensuring that the work is socially responsible for my team. I don’t want to gain three stars by making people work for 12 to 14 hours and only paying them for 8. In my view, that’s not a healthy way to operate. You need to be constantly thinking of ways to do things differently and better with the same level of effort and energy. In other words: innovation through machines and materials, amongst other things. And last but not least: you cannot achieve something on your own, only together with a good team of colleagues! It is also a challenge to take a young employee, who arrives like a block of rough granite, and spend years chipping and moulding to turn him or her into a sparkling diamond. That’s the ultimate challenge. Ultimately, I want them to outshine me. But you don’t win Olympic medals with a gentle jog, so they need to train hard. "Practice makes perfect”, as they say, and I really believe they will make it.  

Of which dish are you most proud, or which dish is your number one speciality?
Braised veal cheek with truffle sauce. That’s one of my signature dishes, and has been on the menu for 15 to 20 years already. In those days, the challenge was to turn an unfamiliar cut of meat – which had become rather tough through the calf’s chewing – into a top-class dish. Many guests come back again and again for this dish – they have become regulars, perhaps actually thanks to this dish.

Curriculum Vitae    
Hotel Prinses Juliana, Valkenburg (NL)  
Trainee chef 
1972 -1974
Euromotel, Beek (NL) 
Demi-chef de partie 
1975 - 1976
Hotel Prinses Juliana, Valkenburg (NL)  
Demi-chef de partie    
1976 - 1976
Restaurant Chez-Septime, Liège (B) 
Demi-chef de partie    
1977 - 1977
Hotel Prinses Juliana, Valkenburg (NL)
Chef de partie
1977 - 1977
Restaurant Chez Septime, Monte Carlo (MC)
Chef de partie
1977 - 1977
Restaurant Castle Hoensbroek (NL)
Chef de partie
1977 - 1978
Hotel / restaurant Wittem Castle (NL)
Chef de partie
Sous-chef de Cuisine
1978 - 1979  
 
1979 - 1980
Restaurant Château Neercanne, Maastricht (NL)
Chef de Cuisine
 1980 - present

Miscellaneous  
1981: Dinner for the European leaders during the European Summit  
1983: Awarded the SVH title Maître de Cuisinier  
1985: Awarded a Michelin Star  
1991: Lunch for the European leaders during the European Summit
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