Thierry Vanholsbeek is arguably the “Mr Fixit” of Belgium cuisine.
If there is a problem that needs sorting at a new or relaunched restaurant, the well-connected Thierry is your man.
Thierry has forged a career moving around the country trying to provide that much-needed spark to a new business culinary venture.
It was Thierry who helped launch the restaurant at the famous Atomium in Brussels and he was involved in a similar venture at Pairi Daiza.
In the past he also worked for eight years at the restaurant at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels where, as unit manager, he was in charge of no less than 350 people, serving up to 5,000 meals per day.
In was there that he was, indirectly, also responsible for meeting the dietary needs of political heavyweights like Barack Obama on their official visits to NATO.
“People have often asked me to help out and, once I have done that, I like to move on to the next challenge,” he says.
His impressive CV also includes having been, at the tender age of 22, the youngest head waiter at a 5-star hotel in Brussels.
But the passage of time persuaded Thierry that it was, perhaps, tihe right moment to put down roots somewhere.
That is where Momo la Crevette, an acclaimed fish restaurant in Waterloo, comes in.
It is here that the next chapter opens in the ever-changing life of this highly talented chef.
About six years ago, the restaurant came up for sale when the then ageing owner decided to retire. Thierry got wind of the sale and decided to take the plunge and take over what was, at the time, a rather dated restaurant.
Not long after taking charge, Thierry wove the same magic that had worked its tricks at so many other places, such as the Atomium.
The interior was redesigned, as was the menu and, voila, the place was transformed, just like the other eating places where Thierry had worked.
Today, the restaurant has come through the crippling impact of the health pandemic and has put itself on the culinary map, not just in Waterloo but much further afield.
The theme here – as the name of the restaurant might suggest – is very much all about shrimps. In fact, there are no less than 11 different kinds of ways they are served by Thierry and his team.
But the big difference at Momo compared with other such places is the variety of countries where its crevettes are sourced from.
They include Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Bangladesh, Madagascar, Japan and Argentina.
The range is, to be honest, bewildering.
These can be served as either a starter or mains, with prices starting from as little as €19. There is also the option of a platter, either small or large (six pieces) or what is called “Royal” (a selection of all 11 varieties).If shrimps are not necessarily your thing – and that would be a bit of a shame at this place! – then there is an equally big choice of other types of fish to choose from.
This includes sole, turbot, cod, bar and dorade.
At present, the menu also includes a couple of dishes deemed ideal for the autumn,including “le filet de Saint-Pierre facon Rossini.”
As you might expect from someone with the talent and experience of Thierry you really cannot go wrong here, whatever you choose from what is a quite extensive card.
Thierry himself learned his trade at a renowned hotel catering school in Namur, one of the best in Belgium, followed by a couple of years studying wine before moving into the culinary business.
He credits his father – and the UK style of management – with the all important managerial skills that he has now taken into running his restaurant in Waterloo.
But the “big secret” of his success at the restaurant, he says, is good old fashioned “freshness”, citing the daily deliveries of fish he receives from all over Europe, including from Scandinavia and the North Sea as well as further afield, such as north Africa.
This is clearly seen in the plate that arrives on the table in this lovely, atmospheric little restaurant, located at the heart of Waterloo.
Aside from the delicious starters and mains, the deserts and wine card are equally impressive.
Now aged 45, Thierry is happy to do his daily 110km commute from his home near Charleroi to maintain the fine reputation this restaurant still enjoys.
The delightful nautical theme already existed before he took over but he has taken the place, the food and service included, to another level entirely.
It is one reason why he has been rightly lauded with several top awards for his cooking.
Thierry has spent a good part of his highly successful career launching new restaurants but is now more than happy to have a place of his own. It is one that has already acquired a reputation for fine dining so, maybe, his days as “Belgium’s Mr Fixit” are over!