Karen is the owner of restaurant Cantine Copine and used to be the only female chef with a Michelin star in Flanders. Incidentally, she is not a fan of the term 'female chef', as she believes talent has nothing to do with gender.
Why do you think the male/female designation is unnecessary?
'There's no award for "best male chef", is there? I just think it's crazy that there's still a "female" category for so many awards and prizes. We're all chefs, we all have our talents and do what we love to do. What difference does it make if we're male or female?'
Do you extend this principle to your staff?
'Absolutely. When I hire someone new, it doesn't matter if they're male or female. What matters is that they click with me and the rest of the team. Their personality is the most important thing.'
What does the name Cantine Copine mean?
'Copine means "good friend" and that's what I want people to feel when they eat here: like going to their best friend’s house for dinner. It's about eating simple, good food in an unpretentious environment and not having to worry about what you're wearing. It's just a great place to enjoy a bite to eat with the people you love.'
Being a chef is hard. What is your experience?
'It is hard; we work long hours in this industry. Many women also combine this with a family. Things are heading in the right direction, like staying closed on weekends to create more free time. I do that as well. The benefit is that your staff are more likely to stick with you and the working hours coincide more with those of a "normal" job. That makes things a little easier.'