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Authenticity and top quality
We meet with Marc Renaer, a very ambitious entrepreneur. Since 1989, Traiteur Gilbert has displayed a large assortment of house-made fish dishes and fresh seafood on its 20-metre counter.
Located on Frans Desmidtplein square in Knokke-Heist, the shop’s fish pâtés and other dishes are still prepared in-house by a 7-strong team in the traditional manner and according to their own recipes. It is clear that this catering business is run like a well-oiled machine and is always spick and span. From cutting vegetables to cleaning fish, every activity has its own place. Marc shows us the areas for cold preparations, pre-packed preparations and hot dishes prepared on the cooker. He often does the cooking himself.
Entrepreneurship requires the willingness to take risks, and the Titeca team has the right vision for the future and is always on hand to give advice.
Marc has written down his own recipes over the years. “All ingredients are carefully weighed before a dish is prepared. We never improvise. If a customer buys a specific dish on several occasions, its flavour should always remain the same.” Marc and his wife strive for consistent quality.
A modest expert
Modesty is one of the virtues of this traditional caterer, and the counter is full of authentic flavours. People often don’t realise that although caterers have a lot of expertise, they have often become mere retailers. They buy in some preparations and sell them on in addition to a few house-made specialities. This is not the case for ‘Mister Gilbert’, as Marc is called by his customers.
Marc was trained as a chef at Ter Duinen catering school in Koksijde. He is a very modest man, but after some insistence he tells us where he mastered the art of haute cuisine. “For 11 years I worked as a chef in several renowned restaurants in Belgium and abroad. I was taught by three master chefs: Pierre Wijnants (Comme Chez Soi – Brussels), Michel Coppens (Restaurant Michel – Groot-Bijgaarden) and Gaston Lenôtre (Restaurant Pré Catalon – Paris).” The experience he acquired is still noticeable in Marc’s dishes.
Since 1989, Traiteur Gilbert has displayed a large assortment of house-made fish dishes and fresh seafood on its 20-metre counter.
“Together with my wife, I took over Traiteur Gilbert, located on Meerminlaan near Rubensplein square, in 1989. Business went well, but we wanted to attract more customers in winter. Five years later, in 1994, we relocated Traiteur Gilbert to a wonderful new shop on Lippenslaan. This is where we received our customers for 18 years.”
A fresh start at the gateway to Het Zoute
“When the lease for our shop at Lippenslaan was terminated after 18 years, we had to get over the initial shock. We began to look for a new location and in 2011 we decided to take a leap in the dark. We rose to the challenge and opted for new premises located on Burgemeester Frans Desmidtplein, the gateway between Het Zoute and the centre of Knokke. We successfully developed a contemporary and daring concept! We made the crucial decision to keep the name, since it allowed our customers from all over the country as well as their children and grandchildren to find their way to our shop. We have also welcomed numerous new customers.”
Entrepreneurship, craftsmanship and a bit of luck
We ask Marc what he would advise to young entrepreneurs. “Begin carefully, then take a few major steps and seek advice. We have been clients of Titeca Accountancy for 5 years now. They set out guidelines for us and help us decide on the next steps, investments, etc. The Titeca advisers weigh everything in the balance and provide advice from an overall perspective. Entrepreneurship requires the willingness to take risks, and the Titeca team has the right vision for the future and is always on hand to give advice. They help us look forward and plan for the future. Together with my wife, I have resolutely opted for consistent quality and a real quality label.”
Marc firmly believes in providing restaurant-quality dishes to his customers. He has built up his business systematically, together with his staff. “Running a business requires talent, craftsmanship and a bit of luck. Eventually, you reap the rewards of what you have invested.”
Marc is still passionate about his job. He and his wife have never had much free time. Mrs Renaer has cared for their 3 children with passion and relaxes on the beach from time to time. Marc plays golf and rides his bike once in a while, but he hasn’t had the time lately.