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Sofie Dumont “Paradise City is both beautiful and good for your belly and your ears.”

She is an award-winning Belgian chef, best-selling author and TV Chef on VTM. Sofie Dumont innovated the Pop-Up Restaurant of Paradise City last year and is back with a new, rich and colourful yummy 3-course dinner experience for our 2017 edition.

It’s on a sunny week day that I met Sofie in Halle, a lovely city just fifteen minutes away from Brussels. Dressed in white with a splash of colors, she was drinking a refreshing café-frappé on the terrace of a café. She greeted me with a big smile and invited me to join her under the morning sun for our interview.

This is your second time with Paradise City, is it different from your usual cooking journeys?

This is the only festival I work with. Everything Paradise City does is close to my own values — ecological, sustainable, organic food etc — I believe it’s the only festival that offers that to people. Plus there is a wonderful line-up! The festival is both beautiful and good for your belly and your ears.

Have you noticed a difference in the food habits of people over time? What do you think people will eat in the future?

It depends how aware you are about what you eat or how aware you become. Food choice today has become so large (gluten-free, allergy-free, vegan,…). Some people are just interested in the price, but most people want to eat good food coming from a sustainable and responsible source. It’s the same for me too, especially if I eat meat, I don’t go to the supermarket — I find a place where I know the animal has led a good life and was killed respectfully.

How did having your daughter change your behaviour towards food and cooking?

Two things happened in my life which drastically changed my food habits and influenced my cooking — the birth of my daughter and the death of my father at 60 years old. My father was a bon-vivant but he ate too much. He was eating quality food, going to fine dinners, drinking good wine with friends — he is the one who educated me and my siblings to eat so well. But too much of those big plates with a massive piece of meat and two salad leaves, and it becomes bad for you. If I knew back then what I know today I would tell him “Daddy, eat less”.

Healthy food choices are important to me. I don’t do dietary cuisine, I cook food based on taste and quality. This is what I wish to share with my daughter, clients, friends and everybody.

Any cooking secret?

Time management! I’m a Chef but I’m also a Mom. Every day my daughter goes to school. And myself, I also have to eat three times a day! I think everyone has this problem, when you go home after a long day, you are tired and don’t want to prepare food. But if you got this drawer full of nuts and some fresh vegetables you can cook yourself a good meal in less than fifteen minutes.

What do you think people come to seek as food experience at you dinners?

I think people come with an open mind and heart to experience and explore. Especially at Paradise City, it’s still a young festival, one which could inspire many others. You can feel the audience is happy and proud to be there, open to fully enjoy their experience.

Tell us more about your Pop-Up Restaurant at Paradise City this year.

It’s going to be a beautiful open space with big wooden tables. The tables are made of tree trenches which come from the Castle — the Duke wanted to cut some trees down, so we took them.

I will also be closer to the guests this year, be more up-front and less backstage, coming to each table and explain the menu.

It’s going to be a full vegetarian menu with some red salmon. The ingredients are locally sourced by nearby agricultures and in season. Well cooked and seasoned vegetables with an extra punch are just delicious! When you are finished eating, you will feel full — without that heavy stomach — and ready to go back on the dance-floor.

Can you quickly walk me through your latest and future projects?

I have my TV show and I continue writing books of course. But everything is going to be online soon! I have a whole team working with me, we are still busy observing what works and what works less.

I also try to inspire my followers on Instagram and other communities — it’s all about taking things in our own hands, choosing good food for a good health.

In the future I hope to continue everything that is educational. And apart from food, it’s about promoting a safe life for everyone. Having cultures moving in the same direction. It’s really something close to my heart. It’s also important that there are Festivals you can go to to change your mind, but which are also busy in setting a good example.

Will we see you dance at Paradise City after you service?

Yes! absolutely (laughs). I danced there last year, It was so much fun!

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