Chef Bart Vandaele
Wielding a mastery of traditional Belgian cuisine and a flair for contemporary and provocative dishes all the way from Washington, D.C. Vandaele, he has been knighted in the Order of Leopold II and currently serves as brand ambassador for Belgian beer Stella Artois, is now a contestant on season 10 of Bravo’s “Top Chef,” taking the food scene in the nation’s capital, as well as his culinary heritage, to new heights. “I’ve become known as ‘the Belgian guy’ for putting Belgian food on the map in D.C.,” he says. “Over the years, I’ve pushed hard for the recognition of Belgian cuisine and beer, which are now becoming popular across the U.S. I’ve received a lot of compliments from Belgians visiting D.C. who say they can’t find this level of food back home.”
The Belgian-born chef opened his first restaurant in 2004 in the then up-and-coming Eastern Market neighborhood, anchoring and establishing Barracks Row as a restaurant corridor. “Beyond hearty stews and comforting sweets, Belgian food has a fun, sexy side,” he says. “I want to elevate dishes my way, with a little bit of American attitude mixed in.”
The son of a Flemish chef from Roeselare, Belgium, Vandaele grew up appreciating traditional yet innovative regional cuisine. At the tender age of 12, he began his training at the Culinary Institute for Restaurant and Hotel Management in Brugge, embarking on a six-year program of academics and culinary externships. He further honed his skills at renowned Belgian restaurants including Piet Huysentruyt and Restaurant Scholteshof, the latter of which received two Michelin stars while Vandaele served as sous chef under respected Chef Roger Souvereyns.
The chef relocated from Belgium to Washington, D.C., in 1997 to serve as executive chef for the European Union’s head diplomat to the U.S., followed by a stint as executive chef at the Dutch Embassy. He prepared meals for heads of state and notable D.C. politicians, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, H.E. Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, and former United Nation Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Vandaele’s accomplishments include: Rising Star by StarChefs.com (2006); ‘Knighthood’ by the Museum of Belgian Brewers and the Brewers Guild of Belgium (2009); awarded the Belgian decoration “Ridder in de Orde van Leopold II” or “Knight in the Order of Leopold II” (2010); Master Cook of Belgium (2012); Beer Bar of the Year by Cheers magazine (2010); established Belgian Restaurant Week (2011); National Brand Ambassador for Belgium brews Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, Leffe Blond, and Leffe Brown (2009-present).