S.Pellegrino ‘Hungry Chef’, stop number 2: Frederic Chastro. Together with his partner Adriana, he is the driving force of Sōma restaurant in Antwerp. Taste, aesthetics and a personal approach, that’s the core of Sōma’s philosophy. It’s a unique concept with only 16 seats and an open kitchen, where Frederic and Adriana pamper their guests.
S.Pellegrino ‘Hungry Chef’: Frederic Chastro and Adriana Zafiris of Sōma restaurant in Antwerp
Just a couple of months after the opening of Sōma in 2017, it’s probably the restaurant that will be named the most when you ask people what’s the place to be for a lovely lunch or dinner in an extraordinary setting. Things are going great for chefs Frederic Chastro and Adriana Zafiris. One of the cherries on the cake is the nomination of Frederic for the prestigious S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition, that will take place in Milan on the 12th and 13th of May 2018. More than enough reasons to pay Frederic and Adriana a visit, as part of our S.Pellegrino ‘Hungry Chef’ tour.
With only 16 seats Sōma might be the smallest gastronomic place to eat in Antwerp. Frederic and Adriana welcome their guests in the living room of their centrally located, historical house with authentic elements. No traditional division between the kitchen and the dining room here, since both chefs like to cook and to service the food to their guests. The result is a unique and intimate experience.
For the interior design and styling of the restaurants Adriana and Frederic looked for partnerships with different craftsmen and artists, who are also put in the spotlight by naming them on the back of the menu. A true eyecatcher on the table is the knife that was created especially for Sōma, in collaboration with Studio Blade.
In general the interior design is sophisticated, with custom made tables and a harmonic combination of light and dark colours and warm wooden elements.
At Sōma they really like symbolism, which is already clear in the choice of the name and the logo. In Greek Sōma means body. And the stimulation of all the senses and the body, is what you should experience at Sōma. The logo is a circle that is not fully closed and the stripes are uneven to respresent there’s always room for change and evolution. We can also see the four initials of their names in the logo. The number four is the common thread in their symbolism, as it also refers to their four nationalities (Belgian, Greek, French and Columbian) and their four hands in the kitchen.
Chefs Adriana and Frederic
Both Adriana and Frederic had worked at Wout Bru, before they met when they worked together at Hotel Domaine de Manville in Baux de Provence. After that they went to work at L’arsenic in Lyon, the concept of the renowed chef Christian Têtedoie, that empowers young talent by giving them the opportunity to independently run the bistro, without needing to invest heavily financially. Their talent and skills did not stay unnoticed and in 2015 they won the Trophée Jeune Talent Rhône-Alpes of Gault&Millau. A couple of years later is was time to come to Antwerp to start Sōma as their new project.
Curious to find out more about their passion and ambition, we set up an interview with Frederic and Adriana for our S.Pellegrino ‘Hungry Chef’ tour.
Hungry for More: Sōma is quite a unique concept. Can you tell us more about the idea?
Frederic Chastro: We are always looking for evolution and excitement and now we can unite our vision and skills at Sōma. On the plate you’ll find a classic, yet contemporary French cooking style that is all about taste. There are only à la carte dishes on the menu, since we want people to feel at home and to eat like they’re at home. It’s not always the easiest option, as there are days that all people seem to want the same food, which can be challenging in terms of stock management. When creating a recipe, we always start from the beauty and power of the product. Our portions are all but small, and they are built up around meat or fish, accompanied by certain garnitures and side dishes.
Adriana Zafiris: By using all the parts of the product we can work sustainable and optimize the cost. When we buy meat for example, we don’t just buy the filet, but we use other parts of the meat, like the bones or offal, as well.
Hungry for More: Such a personal approach must be quite intense. How do you handle that?
Frederic Chastro: It’s really important to try to keep a good balance. We choose to open the restaurant for three months and then close for two weeks to relax and to work on the new menu. In the long term we are ambitious of course, but we’d really like to keep our approach personal.
Hungry for More: Frederic, you are nominated for the finals of the S. Pellegino Young Chef 2018. How does that work?
Adriana Zafiris: We were already talking about participating for some time. When we took the step, Frederic was selected and qualified in the semi finals in Den Haag. Now he has been trained by the Belgian National Culinary team, with Peter Goossens as Frederic’s mentor and coach.
Frederic Chastro: The challenge in the competition is to create one signature dish. We chose to work with rabbit, as it combines different elements that refer to our roots. We use a South-American corn paste. The meat is prepared in leaves and we are using techniques from the French, Columbian and Belgian cuisine. Also a strong, dark beer of the brewery Het Nest from Turnhout and Belgian chicory are used in the recipe. For us it was also important to use all the parts of the rabbit (filet, heart, liver, kidneys and bones) and to use herbs and condiments from the natural habitat of the rabit.
Hungry for More: Will this dish be on the menu at Sōma?
Frederic Chastro: Many people ask that question, but unfortunately the answer is no. This dish was created especially for the S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition. At Sōma Adriana and I cook together, although you can also find our philosophy in the dish we have created for the competition.
Hungry for More: Are there certain products that you really like to work with?
Frederic Chastro: We always like to have our signature dish on the menu. It has a powerful taste and the umami flavours that we really like. We think foie gras is a really nice product. At the moment we serve it in a combination with meat gravy, mustard, onions and fresh herbs. The signature dish changes by updating the condiments and garnitures, depending on the season, but the basis remains the same. In general we can say that simple top quality products have the best flavour.
Adriana Zafiris: Another signature creation is the Sōma cocktail that represents the combination of our four nationalities. It contains Belgian Red Devil Gin, ice cubes of Columbian limes, French thyme and Greek olive oil.
Hungry for More: Are there people that you really admire or that inspire you?
Frederic Chastro: In Belgium there’s of course Peter Goossens, who is the coach of Frederic in the S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition. But in fact there are many chefs of a certain level that I consider an inspiration. One very unique chef is Alexandre Mazzia of Restaurant AM in Marseille. He has lived in Africa for a long time, which was an inspiring experience for him. He is known for his special flavours like chocolate, broccoli, tuna and so on. And there’s something about him and blue shoes… (laughing).
Adriana Zafiris: Anne-Sophie Pic is one of the few female chefs with three Michelin-stars and I admire her for her refined and feminin style. Gastronomy is still a men’s world, so you have to be extra confident and motivated to build a carreer as a women.
Frederic Chastro: I do not fully agree, as I think there are many good female chefs. In my opinion it doesn’t matter if you are a male or female chef, it’s all about passion and teamwork.
Hungry for More: Are there certain trends in gastronomy that you think are really interesting? What will be the next big thing?
Frederic Chastro: An interesting trend is the evolution in the French pastry. Desserts nowadays can be so refined that they can easily stand up to the main course, which is new and fascinating.
Hungry for More: Bedankt voor jullie interesse ideeën. We wensen jullie nog heel veel succes!
Food at Soma
Curious to know what magic Frederic and Adriana show on the plates? We are! So it’s time to taste and to take some pictures.
The Sōma Signature cocktail is made of Belgian Red Devil Gin, ice cubes of Columbian lime, French thyme and Greek olive oil.
There’s a starter with snails, mousseline, shallot, fresh herbs, croutons and a parsley and lemon sauce.
A classic in a contemporary form, that’s the raw yellowfin tuna, veal filet, capers, radish and thyme. The meat is cooked at low temperature for 24 hours. The plate is topped off with marinated vegetables, radish, white wine and pepper flavours.
The dessert is ‘souffle glacé’ with vanilla ice cream, chocolate souffle, jacked grains, salt and Greek olive oil.
Flavour, aesthetics and a personal approach, that’s a promise Sōma certainly knows to keep. Be sure to reserve one of the desired seats to experience the culinary indulgence that Frederic Chastro and Adriana Zafiris have to offer.