CINCINNATI — One Belgian most Tri-Staters would know the name of is Jean-François Flechet, owner of the popular Over-the-Rhine-based Taste of Belgium.
Unsurprisingly, Tuesday was a difficult day for Flechet, as he watched his home country cope with multiple, early-morning, deadly attacks in Brussels.
But he also said the Belgians have a unique way of coping with such a tragedy.
For Flechet, Tuesday was about monitoring what’s going on back home while also trying to keep his business going here.
“It’s really sad and upsetting,” he told WCPO. “It’s not something you really expect to happen in a place like Brussels.”
His family and friends are safe, Flechet said, but he added that his parents were pretty shaken up by the incident.
“My parents are a bit shaken because they were supposed to be in Brussels tomorrow,” he said. “So, with a 24-hour difference that would have been a very different situation. So they are fortunate that it didn’t happen to them.”
While keeping up with the news of the manhunt for who investigators believe to be the last surviving of the three suspects in the attacks, Flechet said he’s finding a bit of comfort in the editorial cartoons that have surfaced in the attacks’ wake.
He said it’s the way Belgians cope: with a little bit of artistic humor.
“In Belgium there is almost no topic that is too serious to make fun of or laugh about it,” he said. “It’s kind of an escape. So there’s been a lot of caricatures online by different Belgian artists, caricaturing the suicide bombers and basically capturing the reaction of Belgian people.
“And at the end of the day, life goes on and we will prevail and not them.”
And, Flechet said, Tuesday’s events will not deter him from championing his home country and encouraging everyone he can to visit.
“Make sure that you go there and visit the city,” he said. “Don’t listen to the naysayers in the media. It’s a beautiful city and, on average, it’s very safe. What happened today is an isolated incident, and it’s really, really sad.”
So as a nation builds itself back up after a brutal, deadly attack, Flechet will continue on operating what is arguably one of the most successful local restaurant chains in the Tri-State.