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The milestone of Caroline Baerten

What started as a personal lifestyle and belief grew into the very first vegan fine dining restaurant in Belgium that now has a Michelin star. As a trained chef and botanical mixologist at humus x hortense in Brussels, Caroline Baerten proves that gastronomy and sustainability can go hand in hand. “We are a gamechanger in the hospitality industry.”

Runs the world’s best vegan restaurant

Caroline Baerten and her husband Nicolas Decloedt, who both completed their chef’s training at the culinary institute Ter Duinen, are pioneers in bridging the gap between gastronomy and sustainability. Caroline: “When we started our project in 2008, plant-based cuisine was still unknown territory for most. It was something for alternative-lifestyle enthusiasts and flower power people. We wanted to move beyond that, and I’m proud to say we reach a very broad audience with humus x hortense today, welcoming 10,000 guests each year. I consider it a personal milestone that we succeeded in making our sustainability narrative more mainstream.” In 2019, humus x hortense was voted best vegan restaurant in the world by We’re Smart Green Guide.

Connecting with likeminded people

For Caroline, sustainability is all about connecting with likeminded people. “Together with organic farmer Dries Delanotte we have completely eliminated the food loss between the field and the restaurant. When he is left with too many tomatoes, for example, we not only use them in a dish, but I also serve a Bloody Mary. And a local partner makes passata, which we in turn use for our staff meals.”

“I consider it a personal milestone that we succeeded in making our sustainability narrative more mainstream.”

Caroline Baerten ©Kris Vlegels


Caroline and her team want to turn the hospitality industry around. “We’ve noticed that we’re already having an impact. By questioning the way things are done, we are implicitly challenging other chefs and restaurant owners”, she says. “Adding plant-based dishes to the tasting menu, for example, is a first step. There’s a shift in the way people think about plant-based food in general, too. Even with a lot of restaurants still offering fish or meat, more and more guests consciously choose plant-based options. That changing mentality is very satisfying to watch.”

“By questioning the way things are done, we are challenging other chefs and restaurant owners.”

Caroline and Nicolas’ Michelin stars testify to society’s gradual shift in mindset. While humus x hortense received a Michelin star in a separate ‘green’ category back in 2021, the restaurant was awarded a classic Michelin star in 2023. “Suddenly, you get this boost in credibility that opens doors – we’re no longer just ‘that vegan restaurant in Brussels’. The 2023 Michelin star helps us get our message across to an even bigger audience.”

“Our Michelin star helps us get our message across.”

A breath of fresh air

Caroline: “We also spread our philosophy by speaking at conferences, inspiring plenty of people – and vice versa. Questions from the audience get us thinking and help sharpen our vision. I also love the opportunities for cross-pollination that arise at these conferences, because shared values, such as sustainability, can lead to great collaborations. For example, I’m currently looking for biodegradable vacuum bags for our restaurant. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to meet someone at a circularity conference who could help me with that? When you work in the hospitality industry, you spend most of your time between the four walls of your restaurant. So, it’s very nice meeting other chefs – it’s a breath of fresh air that keeps me going.”

Schouwburg Kortrijk - (c) Mark Depaepe

What’s your milestone?

Set it with a conference in Flanders.

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As a service of VISITFLANDERS Convention Bureau, our experts reflect together with you on the positive, long-term impact of your conference. Want to know more about this exclusive service, free of charge for your association? Click the button below.

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Caroline Baerten ©Kris Vlegels
Caroline Baerten runs the world’s best vegan restaurant.