bite — Mark Silverstein
Mark Silverstein isn’t interested in food as art. As he puts it, he just wants to make food that he wants to eat. To my delight, apparently he and I want to eat the same things.
Silverstein began cooking at the age of nine, and by secondary school he was preparing dinner for his family on a nightly basis. After cycling through a series of kitchens (and other jobs) between Boston and New Jersey, he and his Flemish wife moved to Antwerp 10 years ago.
De Broers van Julienne had already been open for more than a decade when Silverstein saw the sign in the window advertising for a keukenprins (kitchen prince). He knew he qualified. Eight years later he is still the cook at De Broers, serving up delectable vegetarian cuisine in this well-known Antwerp establishment.
Silverstein has introduced a variety of new recipes, and, with his background as a pastry chef, he has quadrupled the number of desserts on offer (sadly, not all at the same time). The restaurant has a chic design where you can comfortably tuck in for lunch or dinner, enjoying one of their many beautiful quiches or Moroccan cuisine. You can just as easily stop in for a coffee and accompanying (gorgeous) dessert.
One year ago, the American cook starting pitching in at another local venue: 22b-zoet zout & zo. Familiar with Silverstein’s skills, Ingrid De Decker knew who to ask when she decided to start her own eatery. He now spends one-quarter of his week as the master behind their baked goods. The speciality is a selection of dessert bars, including carrot cake, lemon squares and “congobars”, a butterscotch brownie (my personal favourite and also available at De Broers). He’s also responsible for their baked savoury dishes, such as lasagne and moussaka.
22b follows a format similar to the chains Exki or Foodmaker, but with a cosier atmosphere (De Decker and her husband have backgrounds in architecture and designed the place themselves). It’s truly a family business – De Decker’s mother, a former caféowner, contributes to the menu from time to time. You can find a selection of pastas that De Decker will cook for you, along with soups, salads and a variety of breakfast cereals and viennoiseries. It’s food that Silverstein wants to eat, that I want to eat, and that soon you will want to eat, too.