Traiteur Gilbert, a counter filled with authentic taste
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We met Marc Renaer, a very content entrepreneur. Since 1989, Traiteur Gilbert has been serving fresh fish and his own fish preparations, side by side in a 20-meter counter. There is no shortage of choice here.
When you walk into this catering store on the Frans Desmidtplein in Knokke-Heist, you wouldn't suspect at first glance that all the fish pâtés and fish preparations are still prepared by a team of 7 in the workshop behind the catering store, true to tradition and always exactly according to their own recipes.
I'm sure it's quickly apparent to you, this caterer store is spic and span even on a weekday, a veritable well-oiled machine. Cutting vegetables and cleaning fish, everything has its place. Marc shows the cold preparation area, the prepacked preparation area, and the hot preparation area at the stove. He still often stands at the stove.
Weighted & weighed
Marc wrote out his own recipes over the years. "With every preparation, everything here is weighed and measured. We don't work with the wet finger. What the customer buys today may not taste different tomorrow." Marc and his wife strive for consistent quality.
Modesty is what adorns this house of tradition, authentic taste is what the counter is full of here. You don't think about it anymore, many caterers have enough expertise, but have often become traders. They buy some preparations and sell them alongside some of their own specialties. Not with "Mr. Gilbert," as Marc goes over the tongues with the customers.
Marc studied to be a chef at the hotel school Ter Duinen in Koksijde. He is very modest about it, but after some prompting he tells where he mastered high-level cooking. "For 11 years I worked as a chef in some famous restaurants at home and abroad. Three great masters taught me the trade: Pierre Wijnants (Comme Chez Soi - Brussels), Michel Coppens (Restaurant Michel - Groot-Bijgaarden) and Gaston Lenôtre (Restaurant Pré Catalon - Paris)." Those lessons learned still translate into Marc's dishes.
"Together with my wife, I took over Traiteur Gilbert in 1989 in Meerminlaan at Rubensplein. The business was doing well there, but was somewhat under-visited during the winter. Five years later, in 1994, we moved Traiteur Gilbert to a beautiful new store on Boulevard Lippens. There we were able to spoil our customers for 18 years."
A new beginning, the gateway to the Salt
"When our lease in the Lippenslaan was not renewed after 18 years, we had to swallow. We started looking for new premises and in 2011 we jumped at the chance. We took up the new challenge and opted for a new business on the Burgemeester Frans Desmidtplein, the gateway between the Zoute and Knokke city center. We opted for a contemporary and daring concept, with success! This time the store name moved with us. Again a fundamental decision, because our customers and their children and grandchildren, customers from all over Belgium, found their way back to our business. We also welcomed many new customers."
Entrepreneurship, craftsmanship & a dose of luck
We ask Marc what he himself would recommend to young entrepreneurs. "Start carefully and make some big steps and get advice. We have been a customer of Titeca for 5 years now. They set the course for us and think along with us about the next steps, investments, etc. Titeca's advisors put everything in the balance and give advice from a helicopter view. Entrepreneurship is about having courage, the Titeca team has a good vision of the future and is always ready to give advice. They look into the future and anticipate our future plans.
I myself, along with my wife, resolutely chose consistent quality, a real quality label." It is Marc's life and his conviction to continue offering that restaurant quality. He systematically built his business, including staff.
Marc still loves to do it, it's his passion. There was never much free time for him and his wife. Mrs. Renaer took care of their 3 children and occasionally went to enjoy a few hours at the beach. Marc went golfing and biking from time to time, but too little lately.