Inspired by the elegant Belle Époque period, and with the refined flavors of the Nouveau-Niçoise cuisine, THE DUCHESS opened October 2015 in Amsterdam’s historical KAS Bank building. As W Amsterdam’s marquee restaurant, THE DUCHESS boasts London stylings balanced with Viennese grandeur. Dining beneath sky high ceilings with accents of gold and marble, THE DUCHESS is a luxurious sanctuary in the bustling heart of Amsterdam.
Renowned for creating cutting-edge food and drinks concepts, The Entourage Group is transforming high-end hospitality in the Netherlands and beyond, which is made evident with their restaurant, THE DUCHESS. First conceived by creative entrepreneur Yossi Eliyahoo of The Entourage Group, THE DUCHESS has delighted critics and was recently awarded its first Michelin star.
We dropped by THE DUCHESS to meet its passionate head chef, Jeffrey Graf – a Canadian native who brings with him a multitude of international culinary influences plus a knack for creativity. We chatted with him about his role at the restaurant, the pride he takes in his team of chefs, and the sacrifices one makes in the esoteric world of fine cuisine.
Where did you grow up, and how does it influence your cuisine?
JG: Growing up in Vancouver, I was exposed to foods from many different cultures at an early age. Canadian cuisine is inherently world cuisine and my palate was definitely influenced early on by the exciting flavors of the Pacific Rim, East India, and Europe.
When did you know you wanted to become a chef?
JG: I was only working a few months in my first kitchen job when I knew this was what I wanted to do. I fell in love with the rush of a great dinner service, the teamwork, and the after-hours socializing that followed it. The more I learned about the classic French kitchen and the great chefs working around the world, the more I knew I wanted to be a part of it.
What’s the hardest part of the profession?
JG: Missing everything. Seriously, we miss dinner with our family almost every night of the week. Not to mention birthdays, holidays, and long-weekends. These are our busiest times in the kitchen and it’s all hands on deck.
And the most rewarding part?
JG: It was initially most rewarding when I got to see a guest truly enjoy the food that I had prepared—someone having that special moment with friends or family, that we as chefs give up to partake in and instead create it for our guests.
In the last few years, however, I have had more satisfaction and inspiration witnessing the success of members in my own team, young chefs that are realizing that they love cooking food and are getting pretty good at it! Many great chefs have helped to teach me this craft over the years and I am starting to realize it is time for me to give back.
What makes THE DUCHESS special?
JG: For me, it’s the people working here and the people coming here to celebrate that keep the lifeblood of this restaurant flowing. My wedding reception was hosted here, I won a Michelin star here, and some of my best friends were made here. I spend more hours here than anywhere else. THE DUCHESS is home for me.
What’s your favorite dish on the menu?
JG: Chef’s don’t usually have a favorite dish on their own menu, each has its specific role to play. I guess there are a few that have a special place in my heart. The lobster salad with avocado and king crab was the first dish I created for the menu as head chef. It was an instant hit and has become a signature best-seller for us. This dish will stand out in my memory for a while.
Do you listen to music in the kitchen? What’s your go-to album?
JG: There are circumstances when music is allowed in our kitchen during preparation. Then I like to switch it up a lot between anything with a bit of tempo. Classical is nice during the quiet early mornings, and anything by the Whites Stripes or the Black Keys is always appreciated.
What would be your Last Supper, the end-all-be-all?
JG: I was waiting for this question. Like most chefs, I don’t crave the fancy world of lobster, caviar, and truffle in my downtime. It’s the comfort food that will always mean the most to me. My last meal would have at least one good hamburger, french fries with ketchup, my mother’s homemade chicken wings, and my wife’s shepherd’s pie. Maybe some sushi… and a pound of bacon.