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24.11.2016 | Words by: Ben Rogerson.

There is a new menu in De School’s café, formed by our new head Chef in the café – Ray. I sit in the Café in anticipation of meeting him, every time you’re sat there something has changed. New chairs, more space, new colours, new artwork, more candles here, less there, an improved and ambient playlist, more lighting, different people. Ray joins me at the table and sits calmly in front of me. You wouldn’t think he’s new, he seems at home; the chair appears to shape itself for his ease.

He begins talking me through the structure of the new menu and its dishes. Chefs can seem mysterious (especially to those who know nothing of the works of a kitchen) and I begin to speculate. He possesses a collection of aesthetically pleasing and worldly hand tattoos, a secret ingredient behind each perhaps? He’s wearing a hat, and my Disney-Ratatouille intoxicated mind begins to think of creative Parisian cooking Rats - I ask him where the true origin of his dishes has sprung.

His answer is characteristically calm and assured. Like many human Cooks Ray has been collecting ideas across his life. It began with the Indonesian influences of his parents and has culminated in 12 years of cooking experience in Amsterdam, including several years of Caribbean inspired kitchen at the MC Theatre. There was a break in his journey though, he spent a couple of youthful years as a car mechanic, before deciding the knife fit more comfortably within his tattooed hands. He mentions the appeal of the factories in north Amsterdam, unsurprising yet amusing given his background as a mechanic, he’s been residing there for many years.

So why did Ray choose De School? He likes to try new things, new projects, he doesn’t like to remain static, and De School’s café is the next challenge. The interconnected and diverse nature of DS, and its location in an outer-zone of Amsterdam makes the stream of visitors unpredictable – and this demands an adaptable chef. ADE showed this, one second you’re feeding some creatives of a new exhibition, next its a DJ, or some dancers after a long elated night, or even taking care of some tired legs after a competitive outing at RA's Charity Cup in Het Gymlokaal. It should be pointed out though, even Ray’s most succulent dishes wouldn’t have been enough to comfort Dixon, after his shameful sending off and early exit from the football tournament hosted at De School. It just goes to show – you can’t win them all… (He looked great in Dutch orange though.)

Fortunately though, Ray’s got it covered. He’s been collecting ideas for many years and brings a range of these to the table. The French Toast, Burgers, Sesame Chicken wings and Sweet Potatoes have been hot favourites to date.  He describes his effect on the menu as simplifying and refining, he’s cut back on overcomplicating certain dishes and focused instead on purifying the dishes to his standards and adding in new trademark dishes he’s learnt across the years. After several mouth-watering descriptions of his food, he began a substantial explanation of his cooking techniques - I’m left assured of his ability, but owing to my distinct lack of knowledge of cooking techniques, I was like a dog listening to classical music. The food speaks for itself though - Ray possesses the latest pair of creative hands taking De School forward into the end of its maiden year. New sports, new sounds, new arts, new chef, new menu.
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