As Instagram is of great inspiration to me, Denise was one of the feeds I’d been following for a while and one day I saw a post of Antwerp where she was staying in the cutest hotel. I thought you know what, would be great to feature her on my interview category so I asked her if she would be up for it and lucky me she said y e s! Later did I find out she did all of the food photography and some recipes for Monique’s cookbook too!

Age: 26


Profession: Culinary Journalist

Why so passionate about food?
I was born in Brabant, where food plays an important part in enjoying life. I took several cooking classes as a child and liked to bake cakes and apple pie with my mom. But my real interest for cooking and restaurants developed when I left home and moved to Amsterdam. I discovered how I love working in the kitchen and how great dining out and exploring new hotspots can be.

When and why did you start
I started my site at the end of 2012. I am a culinary journalist and often combine text and photography in my work. With my own site I have the complete freedom to share the recipes, dishes and places I personally love most. TLT stands for the little things than can turn your ordinary meal into something special. That’s because I believe it’s usually the little things that truly make the difference. Original flavor combinations, extra attention to styling and useful shortcuts can really lift a dish.

Who taught you how to cook?
My mom taught me the basic stuff and I also learned a lot from workshops and courses. But I really learned most from just doing. Experimenting in the kitchen, learning from mistakes (oh yes, I do have collapsed meringues and grainy sauces in my kitchen!) and tasting everything.

Where do you get your inspiration from to cook?
Trips abroad always provide me with the most culinary inspiration. I visit cities like New York and London as often as possible, since my work requires me to stay on top of food trends. I never leave without enough inspiration to last with me for months. It’s the things I eat in restaurants, talk about with locals and see around me. But inspiration can also come at home. I read a crazy amount of food magazines, culinary websites and cookbooks and am lucky enough to dine out pretty often.

I saw that you also do a lot of food photography, for cookbooks too. Tell me how did it start and do you do this a lot?
I have always combined writing and photographing. To me, it’s the perfect combination of thinking and creativity. And yes: I did the food photography for ‘The Culy Way of Life’ and also wrote part of the recipes for this book. Such a great experience to see my pictures and recipes in print!

What food photography tips can you give other food bloggers?
Try and experiment. A lot! See what difference light can make to a dish. Take a close look at the work of professionals. And take your camera with you whenever you have the possibility.

Most memorable moment in the kitchen (good or bad)?
Last Christmas we had a wonderful and very relaxed meal with the family. I prepared most dishes for that dinner in advance: it’s a way of cooking I prefer for such festive occasions, since it saves you so much stress. Dessert was a meringue roll with roses, pistachios and raspberries from Ottolenghi and turned out beautifully ( Such an impressive dish!

What is your fave cuisine?
That totally depends on my mood. Italian, Middle-Eastern and Japanese are always good though. I’m a sucker for sharing dishes, since I often have a hard time deciding and want to try as much as possible!

What is your fave Meal?
I love king crab legs (even better than lobster, if you ask me), especially when eaten in the sun, with some garlic bread and a glass of Chardonnay. I’m always in for a good risotto too. Or simply a slice of good freshly baked sourdough bread with salted butter. Difficult to beat that!

Favorite take out place?
If I decide to take out instead of cooking myself, it often means I’m in for fast and comfort. A pizza from the Pizzabakkers is always good, just like those delicious fries from ‘t Wethoudertje. And I would never say no to sushi!

I saw a picture on Instagram and you have lots of cookbooks. But still my question remains what is your fave cookbook? Why? And which recipe from that book?
It’s almost impossible to choose, but I’m gonna say ‘Forever Summer’ by Nigella Lawson. That book showed me how inspiring and honest cookbooks can be. Nigella can convince me to cook almost anything and I love her approach towards enjoying food. My favorite recipe from that book is for zucchini fritters, which I often make with goat cheese instead of feta. And I shouldn’t forget the chocolate and raspberry pavlova. I’ve been crazy about pavlovas ever since!

Do you have a guilty pleasure when it comes to food? tell us
Well, I really don’t feel guilt and food should have anything to do with another, but I know what you mean with the term:) While I usually prefer good quality dark chocolate, there’s something about the ‘Kinder Surprise’ eggs that’s hard to resist. I doubt if they’re even real chocolate, but those eggs just bring back some good memories.

Do you have an ideal culinary destination and what would the trip look like?
I would love to go to California, drive route 66, dine at Chez Panisse and taste local wines while enjoying those breathtaking views. I’m also very curious about Australia and New Zealand, since I’m a huge fan of the “laid-back fusion” style of people like Bill Granger and Donna Hay.

What 3 ingredients would we always find in your kitchen?
Several bottles of good extra virgin olive oil; can’t live without it! A variety of cheeses: goat cheese and Parmigianino are always there. And fleur de sel, because what’s a kitchen without salt?

What are your favorite hotspots?
Too many! In Amsterdam I love Wilde Zwijnen and Rijsel, because they offer consistent excellent food for pretty affordable prices and have great service (really important to me). MOMO is great for Pan-Asian food. In London I always go to NOPI, in Paris it’s Septime I adore, and in New York I love Lupa, Joe’s Pizza and Murray’s Cheese Bar (and so many more…).

What other interests do you have we don’t know?
I have danced intensively from the age of six to twenty. I did ballet, jazz and show, performed with my own group and also worked as a teacher and choreographer.

Fave quote?
‘Just do it!’ Because sometimes you just need to do, instead of thinking everything out. It’s also true for my approach towards cooking. Just start and experiment, you’ll learn by doing.

Dish you master + recipe?
Who doesn’t love a good chocolate mousse? The sprinkle of salt in this recipe makes all the difference. Just remember: it’s about the little things!

Recipe for Luscious Chocolate Mousse

chocolate mousse TLT 298x300 - Talking 2 Denise Kortlever

– 4 eggs
– 4 oz. (120 gr) dark chocolate (70%)
– 2 to 4 teaspoons of sugar
– sea salt

Break the chocolate into pieces. Place them in a bowl over a pan with simmering water (au bain-marie).
Let the chocolate melt.
Take the bowl off the heat.
Separate the eggs. Beat egg whites in a clean bowl until soft peaks form.
Add the sugar (to taste) and mix until whites are completely stiff.
Mix the egg yolks into the melted chocolate.
Add a quarter of the stiff egg whites and mix well.
Carefully fold the remaining whites until everything is combined.
Divide the mousse over four cups. Leave to set in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
Sprinkle over some sea salt just before serving.

For more interviews, have a look here! Happy reading