I often accompany my Dad to the International Houseware’s show in Chicago, as he is an exhibitor. For many years, Julia Child was the featured chef at the booth across from ours. She represented a cooking manufacturer and would create masterpieces for the buyers who walked by to taste. As we were a mere five feet away from her, she would often cook breakfast and lunch for us, too.
This past March at the International Houseware’s show, I met Chef Johan Halsberghe, the chef cooking in the same spot as Julia Child. He too cooked mouthwatering meals. However, while Child had gone to Europe to make a name for herself as a chef, Halsberghe who is Belgian did the opposite by coming to the U.S. Halsberghe has worked as a private chef for the Belgian ambassador to the United Nations and has cooked for a myriad of famous people including; the Queen of Belgium, Ban Ki Moon, the King and Queen of the Netherlands, and a few presidents and prime ministers from across the world.
His love for food was inspired by his grandfather, who was a baker, and by the age of eight, not only did he love eating sweets but also creating them. “I made my first batch of chocolate mousse with my grandfather when I was 8 years old. That was my favorite dessert to make with him. Over the following years, after I started making cookies, waffles and pancakes; I was ready for culinary school!”
His love for food was inspired by his grandfather, who was a baker, and by the age of eight, not only did he love eating sweets but also creating them.
Halsberghe started culinary school when he was 12 years old, and his grandfather’s dream was for them one day to cook and bake together. “Unfortunately, when I was 13 years old, my grandfather got lung cancer and in my 2nd year of culinary school, when I was 14 years old he died. I learned so much from him, and it made me determined to become a chef.” He explained.
While he grew up in Belgium, his grandparents had a house in the suburbs, located in a protected region, where building was not allowed. So, they planted apple and pear trees as well as a wide array of fruits and vegetables: potatoes, strawberries, leek and scallions. The quality of fruits and vegetables were unsurpassed according to Haslberghe. “I am passionate about food because I love to eat. I love to smell the vegetables and the fruits. It brings back memories from when I was a kid. For me food is life. The different flavors and textures make me want to cook and create new things every day,” he said.
Halsberghe who attended a top culinary school in Europe, completed an internship with Chef Edouard Loubet, whose awards include two Michelin stars. A few years later, he did another internship at “Oud Sluis” with renowned Chef Sergio Herman. His passion for creation and food is evident. Surprisingly he doesn’t use recipes, which I found out after eating a mouthwatering meal he cooked for me.
“I love cooking because it gives me freedom. Nothing is set in stone. I only have recipes for pastry because that needs to be correctly measured. I don’t have any recipe for regular cooking. Cooking is a feeling; it is not a measurement. With cooking you can add, adjust or change the recipe whenever you want. When I was 20 years old, I backpacked around the world. I felt the freedom of being able to choose any direction to explore, and I had good and bad experiences. My feeling with cooking is the same. The only thing with cooking is when you get more experienced, you have less bad experiences!”
Cooking is a feeling; it is not a measurement. With cooking you can add, adjust or change the recipe whenever you want.
Chef Halsberghe’s latest venture is the creation of his outstanding chocolate mousses, which come in three flavors; white chocolate, dark chocolate and hazelnut praline. These mouthwatering desserts are made from all-natural ingredients without preservatives and are available in stores and online. He decided to bring them to the market after working for the Belgian ambassador as a private-chef. “I could not find good chocolate in the stores to create my mousse, so I always brought chocolate back from Belgium. The guests of the ambassador’s raved so much about these desserts and kept asking where they could buy them. So, my wife and I decided to start our own company, MOJO Desserts, to meet the requests.”
These marvelous mousses are the result of a family recipe made using Belgian chocolate. They are definitely worth the calories, which surprisingly aren’t too many for a dessert this delightful. Bon appetite.