How does the North Sea taste? Jean sur Mer is exactly the right place to find out. The food truck from Antwerp offers everything from classic bread rolls with fish to shrimp croquettes and meals with several courses. All of the delicacies to make a seafood connoisseur’s heart race. The specialty of the owner, Jan Kegels, is the “Kibbeling”. This is a Dutch fish dish in which white fish such as cod is cut into small pieces, coated with batter and then deep-fried. The golden-brown fish snacks are served in a dish with tartare sauce, in buns as a fish burger or as tacos with fresh vegetables.
The two old Mercedes-Benz 508 D form the heart of Jean sur Mer. Jan has transformed them into a mobile Mecca for fish lovers. The Belgian sells tasty delicacies in and around Antwerp from these classic vans. The two vehicles from 1985 and 1987 originate from the Dutch and German armies and were previously used as ambulance vehicles. In his garage, Jan equipped the classic vans with a cooker, deep fryer and everything else he needs to prepare fish. Now the vans are used to serve all manner of delicious foods.
A food truck makes you flexible. You can decide what you want to do and what you don’t.
The trucks prove that they are anything other than dinosaurs, even after 32 years: when Jean sur Mer opened in 2010, they were the first food trucks in Belgium. Jan had an easy time deciding between a food truck and a restaurant: “A food truck makes you flexible. You can decide what you want to do and what you don’t,” he says. This is possible due to the vans’ relatively low operating costs and their mobility.
In the beginning, both trucks primarily served their Kibbeling in public squares and at festivals. “I had to invest time to make a name for Jean sur Mer,” explains Jan. “Because we were the first food truck in Belgium, we gained a lot of attention from the press.” This helped Jean Sur Mer to rapidly become very popular and soon gained the business idea private customers. Nowadays, the classic vans from Jean sur Mer are primarily found at business events and private parties. Here, they offer more adventurous cuisine such as ceviche, a traditional Peruvian dish made of raw fish marinated in lime juice with a variety of spices and vegetables. “It looks like a painting on a plate,” says Jan enthusiastically. The focus on catering also has financial reasons. “Being hired for events is an easier and more reliable business,” explains Jan. “You know how much you earn and how much food you have to prepare.”
Jan is optimistic about the future. “We still have a lot of opportunities ahead of us,” he says. Jan and his helpers have already made one of these reality: Those who cannot visit the food trucks can still enjoy Jan’s Kibbeling delicacies. Jean sur Mer has recently begun selling its original Kibbeling batter mixture, which customers can use to quickly prepare their own fish dishes. But this is by no means the end: In future, Jean sur Mer intends to sell even more products at supermarkets, even beyond the borders of Belgium if possible. The flavor of the sea could soon be available far from the North Sea coast in all its facets – thanks to Jean sur Mer.