Wim Severein, perhaps best known for cooking up a Michelin star at the old Wereldmuseum restaurant, opened his own high-end establishment three years ago. Located on the first floor of the Rotterdam Marriott Hotel, The Millèn serves up Chef Severein’s signature seasonal, pure creations, made with authentic ingredients and minimal fuss. We talked to Wim about his passion, what the last year has been like and what it’s like to work in RCD.
Your restaurant has been in business for three years and has received a Michelin star, but of course you’ve also faced a lot of uncertainty in recent months. What has this been like for you?
“We got a Michelin star pretty quickly after opening this restaurant. That was brilliant, because it propels you right into this vibe of being a real business instead of just playing at being a restaurant. And then Covid shut us down. That was rough. In the beginning I was still trying to work out how to arrange things, but at some point you come to terms with it. We were also fortunate in being in the Marriott Hotel Rotterdam, meaning we could stay open somewhat longer. I’m happy I managed to hold onto all my staff: I couldn’t do it without them. Now, we’re looking ahead and I’m feeling upbeat.”
When you look outside at the spectacular station and the square in front, do you feel proud of this location?
“Oh, absolutely. It’s such a dynamic place. If you’re in the restaurant business, it makes you happy to see your guests happy, enjoying the view and having a good time. This is a place that never sleeps, there’s constant activity, even in these times. I think Centraal Station is a really beautiful building. And Kruiskade is a great place to hang out.”
We’ve read that you draw inspiration from international cuisines. Have you actually travelled the globe to collect ideas?
“Before I had my doggies, my wife and I liked travelling all across the world. But now, with dogs, that’s more difficult. In Asia and the Americas I went around to loads of markets and saw it all, and I brought some of those cuisines and flavours home with me. I always reach back to those experiences when planning new dishes or menus. Having so many nationalities and cool shops on Kruiskade is also very enriching for me.”
It’s no secret that you don’t like lots of bells and whistles on a plate and that you are all about simplicity. What drives your vision?
“Simplicity is the hallmark of truth. But a flavour also needs to have an unexpected twist. Combining flavours, presenting known flavours and adding flavours that do something slightly different – that’s what I love about what I do. My dishes are pure and honest, but I give them a spin that people can’t replicate at home. Our menu changes every month, and that keeps us all sharp. I also just can’t stand to keep churning out the same thing.”
Your restaurant is in the Marriott Hotel. What’s that relationship like?
“Excellent. I’m very pleased with our partnership. And that was the basis for this project. We wanted a win-win situation, and we got it. They wanted a nice restaurant in the hotel, and guests staying in their 282 rooms are potential diners for me. On weekdays we get mostly business guests; at the weekend people come out for the full dinner experience.”
Do you need a fat wallet to eat in a Michelin-star restaurant?
“Anyone can afford it, it just depends whether it’s worth it to you. Our lunch menu is thirty euros, which I think is a fair price. You get amuse-bouches, two lovely dishes, plus sides. It can still be a lot of money, sure, but I think it’s mostly within people’s means. We respect the products and don’t dress everything up with caviar, and I hope that way we’ll reach a more diverse group of people. And I hope to see more of locals at our restaurant!”