As a child, Seppe Nobels (°1982) did what can be expected of a cook: he liked stirring in his mother’s pots. Moreover, he spent hours in his small city garden in Mechelen, where he grew his first tomatoes and radishes. There, the seed was sown for what would later become a leading and inspiring urban farming story.
Seppe first learnt the culinary trade at Hotel School Ter Duinen (Koksijde), and later in restaurants such as Folliez (Mechelen), Maison du Cygne (Brussels), Villa Bellerose (Saint-Tropez), Osteria La Loggia (Sienna) and Wout Bru’s Bistrot d’Eygalières (Eygalières). He began his professional career in Belgium at the restaurant Absoluut Zweeds, and as a youngster in his twenties, he took part in the “Best Junior Chef in Belgium” competition, where he won four top prizes.
In February 2010, Seppe started a new challenge, together with his business partners Tim van Geloven and Ilse Cornelissen: Restaurant Graanmarkt 13, in the basement of a stately Antwerp building. Since then, the kitchen of Graanmarkt 13 has been his home and culinary lab. It is a kitchen with vegetables in a prominent role, and with respect for natural flavours, regional products and sustainability.
For Seppe, cooking is inextricably linked to the environment in which he lives and works. Every day, he goes in search of the best products. Preferably they come from the region or directly from his own garden. That is why Graanmarkt 13 has its own urban agriculture project on the roof with more than 100 different herbs and some unknown vegetables. The other vegetables are grown sustainably at the edge of the city. Seppe looks for other seasonal ingredients at local farmers.
In 2015, Graanmarkt 13 was named the best vegetable restaurant in Flanders in the green Gault&Milau. In 2018, Graanmarkt 13 is listed as the highest-ranking restaurant in the Benelux in the Best Vegetables Restaurants of the World© list. This will be the case again in 2019, when Seppe’s kitchen will also be added to the prestigious 50 Best list, which lists the 50 best restaurants on earth. Graanmarkt 13 is included in the list of 50 best discoveries – to watch. One year later, Seppe is elected Belgian Culinary Personality of the Year, and is also included in the Order of the Mastercooks of Belgium. And in early 2021, a new award follows: Seppe Nobels receives a green Michelin star for his vegetable-inspired cuisine and sustainable culinary philosophy.
2021 will also be a year of new culinary adventures for Seppe. Since 2017, he has been working at Hotel Santa Clara 1728 in Lisbon, which was crowned ‘best new hotel of the world’ by Wallpaper a year later. As a culinary consultant, he manages the kitchen team there, and is responsible for the healthy vegetable breakfast. In April 2021, Seppe leaves Graanmarkt 13 and opens pop-up restaurant ‘Instroom‘ in his hometown Antwerp. In this social-culinary project, a mixture of a training centre and an experience restaurant, he surprises guests with dishes from the home countries of refugees and asylum seekers – but always façon Seppe’s. In other words: he serves a personal fusion kitchen 2.0. ‘Instroom‘ becomes a success story and Seppe decides to make it his flagship restaurant. Because of his social inspiration, his culinary work with non-Dutch-speaking newcomers and his commitment to sustainable employment, Seppe is named Man of the Year by Weekend Knack at the end of 2021.
Seppe also wants to spread his vegetable-based cuisine as widely as possible. For instance, he cooked for street children in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, was a guest chef in the temple restaurant in the forbidden city of Beijing, accompanied King Philippe and Queen Mathilde on their state visit to India, and took over Dimitri Zotov’s renowned restaurant near the Red Square in Moscow for a few days.
But in addition to this, Seppe Nobels also has a particularly big heart for culture. In 2016 Seppe was head chef of the Tomorrowland Restaurant by Seppe Nobels at the world-famous techno festival, in 2017 he cooked as head chef of the International Jazz Festival Middelheim & Ghent, in 2018 he was guest chef of the Breugel exhibition at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, and in recent years he has also been active as chef and culinary curator of Paradise City, the most sustainable music festival on earth.
Seppe, of course, writes cookery books about his vegetable-inspired cuisine. At the end of 2021, he becomes the first Belgian ever to win Het Gouden Kookboek, the most important culinary-literary prize in the Dutch-speaking world, with his cookbook “Een Kookboek“. And he is also present on television, such as in the cooking reality series ‘Restaurant Misverstand‘ (cooking with young people with ementia, EEN, March-April 2022) and ‘Grillmasters’ (VIER, 2018-2019) or in ‘Het Bord van Morgen’ (Canvas, 2018), a series about the food of tomorrow.