From cello to cooking: A vibrato of tastes


Anne Marie LauwersAnne Marie Lauwers used to be a professional cellist before she started creating melodies in the kitchen. The strings made her travel around the world and she enhanced her preferences and palate, until her interest in tastes definitively led her to the gastronomy realm as she studied to be a chef at a Brussels school. She arrived in the largest Caribbean island and dared to cook in this peculiar land where she feels at home. Today, both creativeness and inventiveness tested on a daily basis seduce her and even stop her from sleeping. This Belgian-born and Cuban-hearted woman, with a restaurant named after her, is going to direct the concert of menus for the intermezzo and gala dinner within the framework of the 17th Habano Festival. The idea: a taste-laden journey with infl uence of Asia, Europe and those Cuban ingredients that she cannot stop adding.

You came from a totally different reality and education. How was the encounter with Cuba and how much has it meant to you?

The first impact was related to the resources, the ingredients. Everything is diff erent here and, since the very beginning, I had to be inventive because of the lack of many basic elements. That difficulty brought about an experimentation process and the result was a mouthwatering fusion cuisine. This reality had a marked infl uence on me.

I no longer work with recipes taken from the Internet or cookbooks; I only consult them. Sometimes I cannot sleep because I’m thinking about a recipe and I can even feel it in my mouth, which is weird and wonderful. Counting on my team has been a key element, a great joy. It’s diff erent back in Belgium, especially when it comes to working, but you never feel that fellowship. In Cuba everybody wants to learn, provide support and make things. Unconditional feelings and love yield results.

You are responsible for two of the most important dinners during the Festival. Why are they going to be so special?

I’ll use meat with eastern aspects, just like marinade, ginger and sesame. The French touch will also be present, as that’s my base. On the other hand, I’m going to serve lobster, since I love it. I’m going to smoke it, nobody has done it before: it’s a very special process carried out with the smoke of tobacco leaves. That came to my mind during one of those sleepless nights. Many people told me I couldn’t do it, by I did. I will also work with natural salmon from a Scandinavian recipe. The menu will include paté con foie gras marinated with Porto, duck magret and pistachios. We will dish out sirloin of white tuna with an Italian ingredient and basil, with fi sh mousse as a small side dish gem.

I’ve also made emphasis on the dinner set. People eat through their eyes. When a dish is being brought, seeing it there is pleasing, and that happens right before you taste it. Therefore, we’ll use colorful plates to support the presentation. Is it difficult to prepare dinner for such demanding patrons?

Sometimes I’m afraid of finding somebody who doesn’t like my preferences, which is something that guides my cooking style. I try to prepare everything in a general way, keeping in mind that there are many influences and personalities out there. The patron’s subjectivity and state of mind are key aspects. I’m very demanding as far as my outcomes are concerned. I try to get things balanced and put myself in the patron’s shoes, imagine the reaction. I always cook as if I were doing it for the king of Belgium. There is no diff erence of public, I either do it right or I don’t do it at all.

After all, are music and cuisine alike?

Yes. In the first place, all the work comes through if you have the talent to master the technique. And in both cases you are on the podium, on stage, you work for the public as a chef or a cellist. As for the sensations, it’s pretty much the same. When everything is fi ne, it’s the same feeling of pride, the same satisfaction, which gives you joy. Cooking is composing. They are two artistic expressions. With the cello I’ve played many Cuban songs with variations, and with my dishes I play international cuisine from the tessitura of Cuba. And there is a whole lot more coming up.