From a short term internship to success – American chef Alex at Rouge Tomate
Alex Joseph is something of a rarity in Brussels – an American chef who also happens to be doing rather more than producing burgers for Belgians.
In fact, the award-winning Alex is doing a lot more than that.
As chef/owner at Rouge Tomate, he is pioneering latest culinary trends coupled with an eye on sustainability and nutritious eating.
Evidence of his talents come with the clutch of top awards he’s acquired – and he is still in his early 30s.
In 2015 Alex won the title of ‘San Pellegrino Best Young Chef’ for the Benelux region, and he was voted fourth best young chef in the world at the international final in Milan.
That is some accolade but, judging by the quality and dishes he creates in the basement kitchen at Rouge Tomate, it’s one that is richly deserved.
Alex, who hails from Graton in California, had previously worked in top restaurants in New York and San Francisco before he arrived in Brussels.
He came only for an internship that was supposed to last just three months. In May 2009, he joined Rouge Tomate as executive chef and ten years later he is now the owner and chef of his own top restaurant.
Alex says the food (and his team, which includes staff from Brazil, France and Portugal) reflects the cosmopolitan feel to Brussels.
Though still under-rated by many, Brussels is a city, he says, that “once you get to know it is easy to fall in love with.”
Alex is “always amazed” at how much love Belgians have for their food, adding, “It seems to be a part of the culture to have great ingredients, market fresh produce, meats and fish are all readily available. I also believe that because Belgians are typically a well travelled people, they have a good sense of quality on the plate.”
He adds, “In a cosmopolitan city like Brussels we are spoiled for choices for exquisite places to dine.”
Under his expert guidance Rouge Tomate now certainly falls into that category.
A lovely dining experience at this converted 19th townhouse starts with some truly delicious appetisers such as potato crisps with crab inside and salmon egg on top and crisps with smoked eel.
The pleasure doesn’t stop there and another lip-smacking appetiser is waffle with blue cheese and onion, plus the Japanese stock infused with butter.
The exquisite presentation equally matches the quality of the food and perfectly sets the scene for what is to follow.
The a la carte changes every three months, partly to reflect the changing seasons but also to allow Alex to regularly refresh and update the choice for guests.
The current menu was last updated on 28 September and features some very tasty starters, including new additions such as Jerusalem artichoke soup served with grey prawns and almonds and also beef and foie gras carpaccio which, along with the fried octopus is the most popular starter here. Both are a real treat.
As well as regularly rotating the menu, Alex also likes to play around with dishes that remain on the card.
From the current selection of starters one example is the poached egg with mushrooms and brioche. Alex has tweaked this by adding truffle espuma which makes a lovely dish even lovelier.
An example from the mains is mushroom and truffle oil risotto which is now flavoured with red wine.
New dishes making an appearance on the menu include monk fish,spiced duck breast and (this being the start of the game season here), boat fillet and over baked pumpkin (another autumnal speciality).
For those who like such information, the most popular mains dishes are the pumpkin raviolis and Parmesan crusted rib eye.
The same policy of adapting dishes applies to the deserts with this month’s newcomer being the medley of berries. It joins an already impressive choice of sweets which also include a mouth-watering passion parfait, a marvellous Madagascar ganache and a super seasonal sorbet.
Soon-to-appear on the menu will be more winter vegetables like artichoke and pumpkin.
There’s also a “discovery menu” (€55 or €80pp) and a 6-course “chef’s menu” (both by table only and before 10pm).
Mention should also go to the hard-working and welcoming staff here, including Manuel, front-of-house manager, along with Axelle, Davide and Pablo.
The restaurant, which also boasts a sizeable terrace and chic bar, is always busy not least at midday when there’s a very good value €35 lunch option comprising a starter, mains and tea/coffee.
If you dine in the evening, why not pop upstairs afterwards to the cocktail bar serving some great drinks in a lively but relaxed atmosphere.
That tentative 3-month stage that has turned into a near decade for Alex has proved a real bonus for this city’s culinary (and now nightlife) scene.
Good to know:
- Name: Rouge Tomate
- Address: Avenue Louise 190, Brussels
- Contact: 02 647 7044