The restaurant chain Würst, opened by TV star chef Jeroen Meus in 2015, has declared bankruptcy. The chain, which originated in Leuven, also has branches in Ghent and Antwerp. Meus is a former fine-dining chef with the restaurant Luzine near Leuven, who after channel-hopping became presenter of a daily cooking show on the VRT, specialising in meals suitable for home-cooks. The programme, Dagelijkse Kost (Daily Bread), also turned Meus into a publishing sensation, and his cookbooks regularly topped the best-sellers list.
Then in 2014 he closed Luzine, and opened a more informal restaurant centring on gourmet hot dogs – or haute dogs as they were known. In doing so, he was following a trend among top chefs to descend from the lofty heights of Michelin and Gault & Millau to do something more popular. Three-star supremo Sergio Herman, for example, gave up his Oud Sluis restaurant and opened an upmarket chip shop. Other chefs like Kobe Desramaults and Geert Van Hecke also downsized – in Van Hecke’s case from another three-star establishment – to offer a more democratic menu.
“Everyone got the idea it would be easy to turn out something like that,” said Wim Ballieu, whose Balls & Glory meatball concept started life as a food truck at festivals. “But it isn’t easy at all.”
Even having the name of a star like Meus attached to the project was no guarantee of success, he explained to De Standaard. “Sometimes that has the opposite effect. Expectations are extremely high. It’s not so hard to get people to come for the first time, but the art lies in convincing them to come back more often.”
Earlier in the week, the three Würst restaurants remained closed with no explanation given. Then on Tuesday the commercial court in Leuven pronounced the company bankrupt. Meus himself, who customers complained was only present at the opening when the TV cameras were present, had already sold his share in the business. The court has now appointed an administrator to try to find investors to keep the company afloat.