At restaurant The White Room, chef Jacob Jan Boerma – the three Michelin-starred chef of restaurant De Leest – transports his cuisine from the quiet and tranquil countryside to the vibrant city of Amsterdam. The restaurant is part of the NH Collection Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky, the first NH Collection hotel of NH Hotel Group in the Netherlands. As gastronomy plays a prominent role in the experience at NH Collection Hotels, it was an obvious choice to house a fine dining restaurant here. With Jacob Jan Boerma as the driving force and Signature Chef behind this project, and the young Randy Karman as Chef de Cuisine, The White Room has become as a unique and highly valued restaurant. Here, they lift an elegant, yet accessible cuisine to perfection. Together with the sour nuances and spices Jacob Jan Boerma is known for, they give substance to the illusion of white, in accordance with the similarly-named restaurant. The young team’s mission is to offer recognisable flavours in an unexpected way. Being rewarded with a Michelin star within 1.5 years after its opening, the chefs and their team seem to have succeeded with their mission perfectly.
19th century class with a touch of gold
The Krasnapolsky hotel is located in Dam Square, in the very heart of Amsterdam. As one might expect of a luxury business hotel, it boasts its own fine dining restaurant named The White Room. With chef Jacob Jan Boerma as the eatery’s Signature Chef, they’ve managed to develop a unique concept at an extraordinary location. The dining room of the restaurant is listed as a monument and is considered to be the oldest restaurant in Amsterdam to have managed to keep its original state. History and the future connect with one another thanks to the modern styling of this unique and monumental restaurant. The name ‘The White Room’ is derived from the historical name of the room ‘De Witte Zaal’ – the Dutch translation for The White Room. It’s rather striking to know that the dining area wasn’t white in the beginning, but had walls painted some shade of mint green, a truly old-fashioned colour. So, in line with its original name, the team decided – with the official approval of the authorities, of course – to paint it all white. The result is an exquisite setting with a luxurious feel, showcasing a white base with touches of gold. The restaurant’s colour scheme is also reflected in the tableware with golden cutlery, the perfectly stiffened white table linen, the chairs and sofas which are upholstered in high-quality fabrics and fresh white flowers to finish the whole table setting. The authentic wooden floors and crystal chandeliers conclude the picture perfect.
When the pupil becomes the chef
Jacob Jan Boerma, appointed Signature Chef, leads the team at The White Room restaurant. The team that fulfils his vision in Amsterdam is led by the young Chef de Cuisine Randy Karman, Maître Bram Hommes and Sommelier Isabel van Bueren. Together with them, Jacob Jan Boerma wants to reach a broad audience with a style that comes from his heart.
With Jacob Jan Boerma, The White Room has one of the Netherlands’ most famous chefs by its side. Falling under the spell of cooking and good food at an early age, he opened his restaurant De Leest in 2002 – which was finally awarded the highly prized three Michelin stars. Hungry for more, he eventually spread his wings to Amsterdam to become the creator of The White Room. Together with his team, he translates the inspiration he finds at home into the menu in Amsterdam.
The current Chef de Cuisine of The White Room, Randy Karman, started his career working at several top restaurants. With the experience of working as Chef de Partie in the kitchens of De Leest – where he met Jacob Jan Boerma – and as Demi Chef de Partie at restaurant Bord’Eau, he has already broadened his culinary horizons. With his new culinary adventure at The White Room restaurant, he’s determined to take things to the next level.
Meet chefs Jacob Jan Boerma & Randy Karman
Although the restaurant is linked to Boerma’s name – restaurant The White Room by Jacob Jan Boerma – he insists on doing the interview together with his Chef de Cuisine Randy Karman. “After all, Randy is the one who makes it all happen here, every single day”, emphasises Jacob Jan.
Chef’s Secret (The Best Chef & Hungry for More): Can you tell us the story behind The White Room? How did you come up with the idea and concept?
Chef Jacob Jan Boerma: The hotel is located in the historical centre of Amsterdam, namely at Dam Square, which is one of the oldest squares in the city and also a popular visiting place for tourists. A few years ago, I was approached by the hotel with the request to revitalise the restaurant. Back then, this 19th century space had lain empty for some time. As with every project I feel passionate about – apart from my restaurant De Leest – I wanted to create a place that’s accessible to a broad audience. So, price-quality wise, the concept had to be perfect and the food had to be of an outstanding quality.
Chef Randy Karman: As Amsterdam is a truly cosmopolitan city, there are no less than 500.000 people passing through Dam Square on a daily basis. That’s why we wanted to create an accessible restaurant, so that the different types of people who are passing by and looking through the window want to have dinner here. It’s true that they usually experience some sort of wow-factor when entering the majestic white-gold dining room, but they always feel right at ease thanks to our fairly relaxed service. I also try to serve some dishes myself, so I can experience the vibe of The White Room and connect with our guests – which, by the way, is very much appreciated by them.
Chef’s Secret: How would you describe the cuisine and cooking style of The White Room restaurant?
Chef Randy Karman: I worked for a year as Chef de Partie in Jacob Jan’s restaurant and learned a lot over there. The dishes here at the White Room represent a well-balanced mixture of his cuisine, combined with my own style. So, I would describe it as a fresh style with a lot of sour flavours and overall, light cuisine.
Chef Jacob Jan Boerma: I would add that we focus on a product-based cuisine, where we try to present the products we use in the best possible and respectful way. Randy is the type of chef who brings the experience he has gained from travelling the world into the kitchen of The White Room. He creates flavour experiences in his own way, without losing the sour flavours, elegance and depth of the dishes. And that’s what I really love about him as a chef.
Chef Randy Karman: We also try to work with seasonal produce and let nature guide us in selecting our products. We create dishes based on the products and ingredients nature provides us at a certain time in the year.
Chef’s Secret: Does restaurant The White Room have a signature dish or are there certain products you love working with?
Chef Randy Karman: As I really love working with seasonal products, I use roe deer quite often in winter time. Lamb is also one of my favourites. It’s only available for a limited time in the year, but as long as my suppliers can provide me with the best meat, it’s a top-quality product that I really adore.
Chef Jacob Jan Boerma: Let’s face it, the Netherlands has a broad selection of top quality products available. Our country is almost completely surrounded by water, so why shouldn’t we use what the North Sea has to offer? Furthermore, the Netherlands is a vegetable-focused country. We have a lot of suppliers near Amsterdam who provide us with the most flavourful vegetables.
Chef’s Secret: Where does your inspiration come from to keep creating new dishes?
Chef Randy Karman: Of course, I find my inspiration now in a completely different way than when I worked at De Leest. There, we went searching for new herbs and spices in the woods; with the White Room, we’re located in the heart of Amsterdam. But you would be surprised how much inspiration you can find in a city like this. For instance, a couple of days ago I went to the market and discovered a whole range of vegetables I would never think of in the first place. In addition, we’re also very lucky to be in an international city where we have many suppliers nearby who provide us with the best Asian products, for example.
Chef’s Secret: Jacob Jan Boerma is the Signature Chef of the restaurant. How does the synergy work between you and Chef de Cuisine Randy Karman? Isn’t it quite challenging to work in such a set-up?
Chef Jacob Jan Boerma: The White Room is a concept that has been proposed to me, but I don’t do this on my own. I really want to transform the restaurant into some sort of breeding ground for young chefs, as well as for young maîtres and sommeliers. In the end, they are the future of the world of gastronomy. On the one hand, they require the tools supplied by their mentors. On the other, they need the chance to be able to fully express themselves in their creations. I think that Randy is the perfect example of this philosophy. Since he became Chef de Cuisine of the White Room, he has started to develop his own style further and he manages to leave his mark on the dishes, without losing the respect for the cuisine he has picked up in the past. That’s the kind of synergy I wanted to create here. Moreover, it’s quite funny how I often see certain preparations of Randy’s and think ‘Damn, why haven’t I cracked this specific technique or why don’t I know about that type of product’. But that’s the proof that Randy is developing his skills and cooking style, seeking to become a better chef.
Chef Randy Karman: I mean, it’s really unique being just 25 years old, but having a three-Michelin-star awarded chef who has my back. I know that when I prepare a new dish, he will always give his honest opinion, explaining where there’s room for improvement and demonstrating how he would handle it. For me, this kind of collaboration works perfectly.
Chef’s Secret: Nowadays, Dutch gastronomy is appreciated worldwide for its refinement and flavours. Is that reflected in the type of guests that come to the restaurant?
Chef Jacob Jan Boerma: I truly believe that we owe this to Michelin, The Best Chef Awards and certain other culinary listings and platforms. Through these channels, Dutch cuisine finally has a ‘face’ and international chefs notice our passion and discover our vision and style. In the Netherlands, we’re on our way to the top and reaping the benefits of our efforts. It’s amazing to see that there are now so many top restaurants in the country. I’m really excited about the fact that we are a part of the story, and get to put the Netherlands on the map as a destination for foodies. And yes, we do feel the impact of our international recognition in the type of guests that visit our restaurant.
Chef’s Secret: What’s next? What are your further ambitions and goals for the future?
Chef Randy Karman: Since I was promoted to Chef de Cuisine, I’ve set some goals for myself with regards to my first year here. I really want to put my mark on The White Room restaurant and hold on to our Michelin star. In addition, I find it very important to please our guests and give them an excellent culinary experience. From there on, I want to improve my skills and keep on growing as a chef.
Signature Chef Jacob Jan Boerma and Chef de Cuisine Randy Karman paint on a blank canvas in Amsterdam. With the utmost respect for the best ingredients the Netherlands has to offer, they follow influences from all over the world in a pure, honest and pristine cuisine. The dishes contain a variety of flavours: sweet and sour – for which Jacob Jan Boerma is internationally renowned -, bitter and fresh. The ingredients are given a refined style in their recipes and recognisable flavours are teased out in an unexpected way. With an elegant yet accessible cuisine, The White Room aims to offer everybody a culinary delight.
At The White Room restaurant, guests can either choose to eat à la carte, or opt for one of the following menus, created by chefs Jacob Jan Boerma and Randy Karman: ‘Impression’, ‘Sensation’ or ‘The White Room’. With the guarantee of stimulating your senses, the chef and his team promise an extraordinary experience. In addition, they serve a fresh lunch menu on a daily basis. Of course, all menus can be accompanied by a selection of carefully chosen wines, either classics or surprising new ones. Many of the wines presented are produced organically – with love and care – and have a charming story. Sommelier Isabel van Bueren takes guests on a journey and loves nothing more than to personally advise them about picking that special gem from the list. Furthermore, all selected wines represent pure products which fit in with the renowned acidic flavours of the chef and his team.
We start our experience at The White Room with a range of appetizers:
- Macaron made of parsley, combined with a gelée of parsley and parmesan cheese, a mayonnaise of parsley and a gel of balsamic vinegar.
- Eel, with a mayonnaise of tarragon, an eel mousse, lemon gel and smoked ale.
- Various structures of onion, ponzu and some crispy filo pastry.
- Pumpkin with dashi and coquilles St. Jacques.
The appetizers are followed by a dish with octopus and chlorofyll tomato.
Then, the chefs serve us a dish with trout, cucumber, lime and ginger.
Another delicious fish dish follows: North Sea crab with avocado, kaffir lime and caviar.
Chefs Jacob Jan Boerma and Randy Karman serve us a langoustine with rooted chervil and Tom Ka Kai.
Before we move on to a meat dish, we sample a dish of cod, beetroot, celeriac and garam masala.
Next up: a dish featuring roe deer, kohlrabi, gnocchi and hazelnut.
Our first dessert consists of mandarin, chocolate, cinnamon and sponge fingers.
We finish our Sensation menu by sampling a dessert with lemon, goat’s milk and dulce de leche.
Our experience at The White Room ends with a selection of coffee bites in which we recognise the citrus flavours that were used throughout the menu.
Restaurant The White Room is set in a beautifully renovated 19th century dining area, inside Hotel Krasnapolsky right on the vibrant Dam Square in Amsterdam. Here, chef renowned Jacob Jan Boerma is the Signature Chef and driving force behind the project. Together with his Chef de Cuisine Randy Karman, they manage to stay true to Jacob Jan’s original and characteristic flavours – sour nuances and spices – while also adding some flairs of Randy’s personal style. The result? Fresh dishes with a certain elegance and interesting flavour combinations.
Restaurant The White Room, Dam 9, 1012 JS Amsterdam, the Netherlands | +31 20 554 9454 | www.restaurantthewhiteroom.com | firstname.lastname@example.org | facebook.com/ TheWhiteRoomAmsterdam | facebook.com/jacobjan.boerma | facebook.com/randy.karman.7 | instagram.com/thewhiteroomamsterdam | instagram.com/de_leest | instagram.com/randykarman
Interview: Sarah De Hondt
Text: Carline Roggeman
Photography: Adriaan Van Looy