There’s something fishy about this portrait
As someone who lives and works in the arts, I have a keen interest in art in all its many glorious guises. The visual arts, naturally. But also film, music, books, and – perhaps not surprisingly to those who know me - the culinary arts.

Food is a great passion of mine and when done well I feel it can inspire and wow people just like any great art should. How expert chefs expertly play with the flavours, textures, and colours of their ingredients. How they entice diners with exquisite plating techniques that look as pretty as a picture. This is art of the highest order, and really not too dissimilar to what I do on with my paints and canvases. 

Artist Frank De Decker painting chef Sergio Herman

And if we’re talking about great food prepared by great chefs, you don’t get much greater than Michelin-starred Dutch chef Sergio Herman who’s regularly hailed as one of the top 50 chefs in the entire world. I’ve followed Sergio’s career for a long time and have had the pleasure to meet him and eat at several of his restaurants in Holland and Belgium on a few occasions. He’s given me such joy with his food that I wanted to return the favour. So, I painted Sergio his very own portrait.

My finished portrait of chef Sergio Herman

For this artwork, I wanted to tie the food aspect into the portrait in a unique way. I knew Sergio had begun his cooking career working at his father’s restaurant, which specialised in mussels. As I live on the Belgian coast, I thought there was a cool seafood link to have fun with here. I headed over to one of my favourite local seafood restaurants and bought a sack-load of empty mussel shells. I took these back to my studio, bleached them clean, and crushed them in a bucket. This mosaic of mussel shells would form the backdrop of the portrait, creating a link between the man, his youth, and his art.

Bucket of mussel shells

I really wanted to capture Sergio’s famously temperamental personality. He’s a man of fierce passion for food, and things are known to get heated in his kitchen from time to time. I chose to depict him in stark contrasts of black and white, which I felt represented his duality: the delicate approach he takes to his food versus his fiery moods. Once the portrait had been painted, I glued the shell pieces on the canvas. I loved the effect it created. The shells really glistened and sparkled when they caught the light. It was a portrait truly worthy of a celebrity chef.

Gluing mussel shells to my piece of art

Early last year – pre-pandemic of course – a friend and I took a journey to Sergio’s Pure C restaurant in Strandhotel Cadzand-Bad to surprise him with the portrait. He was genuinely taken aback by the painting and was full of praise, joking that “at least my hair looks good.”

Presenting finished portrait art to chef Sergio Herman

Always the gentlemen, Sergio treated us to a delicious taster menu of delights from his kitchen as a token of his appreciation. It was wonderful to meet up with this legendary chef once again and I was over the moon with how happy he was with the portrait.

You can also check out my other original portraits available for purchase.

June 22, 2021 — Frank De Decker