Belgian resto flies the flag for gender equality

We hear a lot about gender equality but there’s one businessperson in Brussels who is actually practising what she preaches.

Katia Nguyen is all for “girl power” at the restaurant she runs in Ixelles.

So much so that almost all the members of her team are female. Not only that but each are beautifully decked out in quite wonderful traditional Vietnamese costumes, many of which have been brought back to Belgium directly from Vietnam.

Katia prefers for her front-of-house team to be women as they understandably look that bit more elegant and dashing in their delightful tunics which are usually white in honour of the name of the restaurant – L’Orchidee Blanche, or “white orchid”.

So, while there will usually be at least one male in the kitchen expect to be served by one of these lovely ladies, several of whom have worked for Katia at the restaurant for many years.

They include chef de sale Thuy, a 20-year veteran here, Huong (16 years), Yi (10 years) and Linh.

The resto is now one of the acknowledged best Vietnamese restaurants in the country and one which Eurocrats at the EU institutions some 4km away now regularly make a beeline for.

In the past, the Vietnamese Embassy in Brussels even selected L’Orchidee Blance to help promote “Vietnamese Culinary Week” in Belgium, the idea being to showcase those Vietnamese restos here which serve “typical” food from the country.

If you are unfamiliar to Vietnamese cuisine, first bear in mind that in the north it is salty, spicy in the centre of the country and sweet in the south. The offerings here, whatever you choose, are mouth-wateringly good and the prices are very reasonable too.

Back in 1986, when it opened in what was then a quiet Brussels neighbourhood, the owner Katia, who hails from South Vietnam, could not have realised what a huge success it would be.

This month the restaurant, which means “White Orchid” (fresh orchids are on the tables and often adorn a cocktail or a plate) marks its 36th anniversary, a real milestone in this industry, and it has come a long way in the intervening years. It is now a byword for fine Asian cuisine, so much so that it was awarded the prestige title of “Best Asian Restaurant in Belgium and Luxembourg” by the renowned food guide, Gault and Millau. Quite an accolade.

Despite the awful health pandemic that wrought havoc in the hospitality sector, its “army” of loyal customers are flooding back to sample the wonderful delights concocted by a highly talented, Vietnamese-born team.

In Vietnam it is quite typical to find women, rather than men, in the kitchen so the (mostly) “all female team” here honours a long-standing Vietnamese tradition.

There’s such a collection of tunics now that there is even a fashion show at the restaurant each year showcasing these quite lovely costumes.

The food is just as nice, with a great (and large) choice of authentic Vietnamese cuisine,including delicious red and green curries, fish and meat dishes, plus specialities of the house such as “la fondue Vietnamienne Imperiale.”

Considering the top quality, the prices are very reasonable particularly compared to many places in Central Brussels.

Katia herself says, “We try to serve delicious food and provide a nice, polite welcome. This is why we are so successful.”

Looking to the future the ever innovative Katia is full of enthusiastic projects, including inviting foreign chefs to her kitchen in order to “merge Vietnamese gastronomy” with those of a chef’s home country.

It’s all part and parcel of Katia’s long time philosophy, best summed up by her motto: “if you do something, do it with your heart”.

L’Orchidee Blanche,

Chausee De Boondael, Brussels.

02 647 5621

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Staff Reporter

Staff Reporter

EU Today's Staff Reporters cover a wide variety of topics, involving the EU, its institutions, and its 27 member states.

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