He already runs four restaurants in the Netherlands, and next year master chef Justin Niessen (33) will open a fifth on his native island of Curaçao. Justin has a dream. “Caribbean cuisine in different locations around the world, like no one has done before.”
Justin Niessen was in Curaçao at the beginning of October for the launch of his cookbook ‘The New Caribbean Cuisine’. Refined soul food, according to the publisher. Running five restaurants wasn’t something he thought about before.
When Justin arrives in the Netherlands in 2007, aged eighteen, and starts at the hotel school, he is determined to do something completely different. His father then runs a bakery and restaurants. “I thought it was way too hard work,” says Niessen. “But it is my passion, it is in my blood.”
So in 2023 he is working 24/7 as a master chef, restaurateur and entrepreneur. He owns Just Rotterdam and the three Mondi restaurants in Amsterdam. And then there are the preparations for Mondi Curaçao. “We will bring a few of our chefs from the Netherlands to start up the restaurant. For example, I am now working on determining the recipes.”
Caribbean meal in the air
Niessen expects that construction of the beach club will start at the end of January. This is only possible if the construction work on the second Corendon hotel, The Riff, no longer causes any inconvenience. From January 3, travelers can already taste Niessen’s meals on board the Corendon flights between Amsterdam and Curaçao.
The core of the ‘Mondi concept’ is a mix of Caribbean and Latin American atmosphere and dishes. “We receive many guests from that region in Amsterdam. Nice music, nice ambiance. People immediately feel at home.”
Traditional Curaçao cuisine gets ‘a twist’, as is the case with more and more restaurants on Curaçao. He mentions his stobá with truffle risotto as an example. Or his quesillo with mango, red pepper and caramel.
Mondi means unexplored area in Papiamentu, the wilderness. “For us, Mondi represents the undiscovered, the freedom to try new things.”
The Curaçao master chef and entrepreneur has developed his restaurant concept in a short time. The first Mondi opened in 2021 in a nineteenth-century building in Amsterdam Oud-Zuid. This is followed by the restaurants in Badhoevedorp and Amsterdam Nieuw-West. This was possible thanks to close collaboration with Corendon founder Atilay Uslu; Mariska Nunes and Kiana Cova.
Niessen sees the branch in Curaçao as a ‘new challenge’. “We have developed our own production line in the Netherlands. In a central large kitchen we prepare everything you can make in advance, such as sauces and marinated meat. Our resturants place their orders there. On location, the chefs can concentrate on the fresh products.”
How sustainable is the restaurant? According to Niessen, Curaçao’s Mondi will use local products. However, a lot will be flown in from the production line in the Netherlands. “We want more locations around the world. Then you have to consistently deliver good quality.”