An Interview with Femke & Myrthe

What is your role at The Dylan?
Femke: We organize dinners, weddings, meetings, and all sorts of get-togethers. Whatever the event, we are here to make them as unique as possible.
Myrthe: Most of our job takes part prior to the day itself. Once the event starts, we hand over the responsibility to the operations. That is how both departments do what they’re good at.

So, could you tell us why you’re good at this job?
Myrthe: Well, ever since I studied Hotel School, I’ve always loved organizing projects. It’s amazing to create memorable experiences, while maintaining an ever-strong eye for detail.
Femke: I could only agree. I have done a few minors abroad that required strong organizational skills. We meet so many different people, which makes every day different. Of course, we also spent time on emails and phone calls. But we see guests such as wedding couples multiple times before the event. And for a reason because you only marry once. If all goes well…
Myrthe: Haha, indeed. We actually try to meet every event planner on the day itself, to ensure that we are all aligned. And on Thursdays, we have a ‘sheet-meeting’ with the operational departments to see where we can go that extra mile.

And how do you do that, going the extra mile?
Myrthe: We always ask as many questions as possible when a request comes in. And we also add value with details, such as a canal cruise. It’s all about thinking along with the guests. What is the reason they are visiting the hotel? What colours do they love? How many flowers would they like?
Femke: Our guests have quite a few options to choose from. We add to that our touch of personal service. We know for example all dietary wishes on forehand and combine this with the seating plan. That way, we avoid asking questions at the table such as ‘who is vegetarian’?

Is there any project or hot topic that you are working on now?
Myrthe: Tomorrow, the Dylan takes part in the first Dutch ‘Open Trouwlocatieroute’ (Open Wedding Location Route) of this year and we are working on a new way to make the day more interactive. We will have many couples visiting the hotel and this time we’d like to emphasize all the great partners we work with.
Femke: These partnerships show that we are more than just a location. We can really add value to a wedding.

So you organize quite a few weddings a year?
Myrthe: Yes, mainly in summer because then we can use the gorgeous inner garden. We organize everything from the ceremony, to the dinner and cocktail.
Femke: Some couples also buy out the entire hotel, including all rooms. Those are the biggest projects, due to all the details and external partners involved.

And how do you keep an overview of those big events?
Myrthe: We are both typical list makers. We are continuously adding, rescheduling and checking tasks. In our shared inbox, we use colours to label and organize our work. We also use standardized questionnaires to make sure that we do not miss a single piece of information.
Femke: We are quite attuned to each other. That is the advantage of such a small hotel. And we also started our jobs at approximately the same time, so I know Myrthe quite well by now.

What makes the Dylan different than other hotels?
Femke: It’s a small boutique hotel. That gives us that bit of flexibility and room for initiative. If I walk through the hotel and meet a guest in the hallway, I can also take their jackets, guide them to the restaurant or help them find their way in the city.
Myrthe: And we have a lot of history. It’s actually the asset our guests value the most. Some are even surprised to discover all the magic that hides behind our façade.

Which place, in particular, is most magical to you?
Femke: Vinkeles. And the most special meeting room is the Regents Room, with a view on the canal.
Myrthe: I also love the Loft Room, with its view on Amsterdam and the flagpole extending into the interior.

To end a bit personally, is there anything you cannot resist? Something that we can wake you up for at night?
Femke: Sushi, or a massive cheese platter!
Myrthe: I’m more into sweetness. In particular the macarons of Tout. We’re serving them at the event tomorrow. Such a shame I cannot be there…

 

 

An Interview with René Bornmann

Who: René Bornmann
What: general manager
Age: 54
 
What does your function entail?
I am the link between what the owners aim to achieve, and operations. So what I do most is bridge building; I translate the owners planning into practical goals and I implement those goals into our work. Besides that, I am also there to protect and optimize the quality of our service. The owners put a lot of faith in us, and so we are sort of left to fend for ourselves, in a positive way. It’s a great way to work.

How long have you been working here?
For 13 years. I have been working in this profession for 30 years now and it’s quite normal to do a lot of job hopping. But I know the grass is not greener on the other side, if it were I would have moved. I simply don’t feel I should.

What is the best moment of your day?
When we have a big party in the afternoon the whole day leads up to that moment. What I love the most is the 30 minutes before our guests arrive. The room is ready. The champagne is cold. All pawns are aligned. And I know; we’re ready. Guests pour in and I can welcome them to my home. That is what it feels like.

Where do you live?
In Bussum. I was born in Germany, but I left to start working. My mother is Dutch and I was raised bilingual so language was never a barrier. My wife is also Dutch, she would have liked to settle in Germany actually, but I was offered a good position, so that is how we ended up here.
 
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Sailing, sailing and sailing. I don’t use the word hobby. Collecting stamps is a hobby. To me, sailing is a way of life. The great thing about it is that you have to do something the minute you set foot on board. That means your mind is totally absorbed by fun things and work is very, very distant, there’s no time to worry. Tomorrow, after waiting for two years, we will pick up our own, purpose-built boat, about 15 m long, designed for sailing in extreme circumstances. It has a wood burner and three heating systems on board and the idea is to be able to sail to remote areas, where no one else goes. A passion of that kind doesn’t leave room for anything else. We also have a hunting dog who wants to walk a lot. So we are quite busy.

A guest you won’t forget?
Mr Casse. The next time he visits us it will be for the 250th time. He’s been coming ever since I started working here and he remained loyal to us throughout all our changes and his constructive feedback has always been very appreciated. We will have a present and his favorite drinks waiting for him upstairs.

Imagine; you don’t live here anymore, and you are just passing through. You have one day in Amsterdam. What do you do?
Honestly? I will simply go to one of my favorite cafes on the corner of the Elandsgracht, and I will have a beer and watch the world go by until the day comes to an end.

 

 

An Interview with Dennis Kuipers

Who: Dennis Kuipers
What: Executive Chef Vinkeles
Age: 49
 
How long have you been Chef at Vinkeles?
Since February 2006. I worked at La Rive before, Amstel’s 2-star restaurant. But then we lost one in 2005. René Bornmann, who I worked with at La Rive, had just left for the Dylan and he was the one who told me they looked for a chef. A perfect opportunity for me; I could start from scratch here. We opened Vinkeles at the start of 2009. We had our first star by the end of the year. Of course, it was right in the middle of the crisis. What could we do? We filled our dining room with Amsterdammers; the neighbour from two doors down the street. 2009 and 2010 were actually terrific years. Now tourists have returned to Amsterdam and great hotels and restaurants are opening on every corner. If we want to compete we need that second star. Yes, we are disappointed we didn’t get it this year. But that is part of the game.

How do you start your day?
I come in around 10.15 and I start by checking my emails. At 11 I have breakfast with the boys. An important moment for us to sit down together and start the day. No phones. This morning we were just 3, so we relax and discuss the papers, but tomorrow we will be 10.  First, we all finish our breakfast, like a proper family, and then the briefing for that stay starts, after which everyone starts working.
I spend about 80% of my time managing and 20% cooking. I am never happier than when trying out new things with Jurgen or Milan. I can just stand there cooking and thinking: I love my job. But I do need the dynamics of both managing and being in the kitchen. Still – there is always a bit of a tension between those two. And also; who teaches you to be a manager? You often just become one. Someone asked me one day why I behaved differently as a professional person compared to how I was in private. I am sociable, approachable, easy going, but as a chef, I was bossy and strict. And I couldn’t say why. Changing that has changed everything. Now I work with Jurgen as an equal. I give the boys space to take responsibility, to make mistakes, to try things. It has thoroughly changed how I feel in my work.

What do you do in your spare time?
I live in the centre of Haarlem, so I often go to the beach, just to take a walk, empty my mind. Or I go to a bar, watch a game and have a couple of beers, sit amongst people. My most important occupation when I don’t work is my 14 year old son. He’s with me every other weekend. He finishes early on Friday afternoon, so I pick him up and we make ourselves a great big lunch. And then we spend time at home; just chilling, gaming, playing chess. On Saturday we sleep in and have a big breakfast; avocado, eggs and bacon; that is his thing. Then sometimes we go for a climb at the climbing wall. Or we do nothing at all and I have to ask him three times; get dressed pall. And then we go to the market to pick a nice fish. He’s not much of a cook, but he can eat.
 
If you had to pick a dish that defines your work at Vinkeles, which one would it be?
My theory is that, if you use the best ingredients, you don’t need any extras. You just let the ingredients speak. This style is defined by simplicity. An ultimate example of this is a dish I created in the spring of this year; “flat oyster from Zeeland, Champagne Beurre Blanc, sea urchin and caviar.” It simply works – no improvement possible. Jurgen created an amuse like this; “cucumber meringue, seabass, vadouvan and tzatziki”. People will have a seven-course menu and tell me at the end of the evening that “that first one” was the best. I am proud of Jurgen that he created this and proud of Vinkeles for giving him the space to do this.

What would you do with one day in Amsterdam?
I would go to the Vondelpark for a good walk. And then off to Hoppe on the Spui, to order a beer – or two; in the standing up part of course. I came here all the time when I lived in Amsterdam and I still love that place. They know their craft. They look smart in their white shirts. It’s just a great bar.

 

 

An Interview with Michael Wigman

Who: Michael Wigman
What: Concierge – elected Most-in-the-know concierge of the world by the Readers’ Travel Award in 2015 and Most talented concierge by the International New York Times.
Age: 54

What does your function entail?
I am an extension of the reception. Reception does everything with respect to what happens within the hotel, and I take care of everything that is outside. Transport, restaurants, tickets, reservations, you name it.

How long have you been working here?
Fifteen years. I started my career as a concierge in 1988. First I worked as a buyer/planner for a big factory. I remember thinking; I am not going to do this for the rest of my life. I was suffocating between the office walls, sitting behind my computer screen, staring at a blinking cursor. So I quit and took off to Ibiza for a vacation. I ended up staying for six months. I was broke when I returned to Amsterdam. A friend’s dad had an employment agency and I was offered a job as a doorman at a 5-star hotel. There I was, standing in a long coat, with a big hat on and a sash. But somehow within three months, I was offered a job inside, as a concierge. It’s the kind of work that comes on your path, and then you never get out of it.

How do you start your day?
I arrive before 7 am. First I make sure everything looks fine, the entree, the cloakroom, and I see to it that the door gets polished. Then I start my computer and I check my emails for an hour or two, and then the hotel wakes up, life starts, guests check out, they need transport, taxis, limousines, and rapidly the day takes its course.  

What is the best moment of your day?
Tough, my days are different. There is the early shift from 7 am until 3 pm and the late shift, from 3 pm to 11 pm. Both have their own charm. The morning is fast paced, things need to happen, while people tend to be a bit more relaxed near the end of the day. That is when you have a little time for chatting at the bar  

Where do you live?
I live 3 minutes from here with my 20 year old daughter. I was born and raised in Amsterdam, which is crucial when you’re a concierge. You need to know your way about town and you need to know about what’s happening, what new restaurant has opened, where to shop, what to see, where to get the best massage. And I know everything and everyone. Because of my work one of my favorite things to do is to go out for dinner and discover new restaurants. A tip for now? Bougainville, the restaurant in Hotel TwentySeven on Dam Square, is supposed to be amazing. I believe that it is currently the most expensive hotel in The Netherlands. I haven’t been there yet, but I am very curious.

Imagine; you don’t live here anymore, and you are just passing through. You have one day in Amsterdam. What do you do?
That is easy. I’ll meet with all my mates to go to Ajax. We have been going for 16 years with the same group of about 20 guys. You know how people say that friends tend to disappear as you grow older? I don’t have that problem, it’s almost the other way around… That is what it’s all about for me; my friends, my buddies.

 

 

An Interview with Jurgen van der Zalm

Who: Jurgen van der Zalm
What: Chef de Cuisine at Vinkeles
Age: 33
 
What does your function entail?
I take care of everything that has to do with Vinkeles. You will find me in the kitchen five evenings a week.I am in charge of the team and I develop the dishes that go on our menu. I discuss everything with Dennis, he has to approve of the dishes I come up with. Creating the menus and tasting the food is something we do together.

How long have you been working here?
Eleven years. I did work a year for the Amstel Hotel in between. I felt I needed to see other places to learn. But when Dennis started here, also after having worked at the Amstel Hotel, he called me to ask me to come back and I did.

How do you start your day?
We come in around 10.30 am. We, that is me and the boys, about seven for Vinkeles and three for Occo. We all sit down and have a sandwich and we talk about the day ahead, and the evening before. There is also time to just chat about little things. After, the real work begins; the mise en place. I don’t cook myself anymore, but I oversee the process. I taste every dish and while the guys cook I work on new recipes. I try to keep involved with the cooking as much as I can. I would love to do it all by myself, but that is impossible. So I have to let go a little, while ensuring that we maintain our level of quality. I am definitely a bit of a control freak. Everything has to be exactly the same, that is what is expected on this level.

What is the best moment of your day?
Near the end of service. I often stand around the corner where I can see into the restaurant. Everyone looks relaxed, no ones pays attention to me and I see how our guests are enjoying their evening. I like that. At the start of the evening people don’t know what to expect, it takes a little time before they unwind.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I am not the kind of person to sit at home a lot. What I like is exploring new places, so I go on city trips, here in the Netherlands or around Europe. I go out for dinner, do fun things, enjoy life. My last city trip was to Rome. It was my first time and I thought it was amazing. My girlfriend knows it well there so she showed me everything in one weekend. We ate in small restaurants, little local joints that you will pass in the street without ever thinking to stop. Those are often the best; an old chef in the kitchen, a grandma serving the food. Perfect.

Imagine; you don’t live here anymore, and you are just passing through. You have one day in Amsterdam. What do you do?
I would drop by a little restaurant in Oost where they serve the best Ramen in town. It is called Mr Chen, in the Linnaeusstraat. Then I will have a walk in the Vondelpark, just to take in the city again. And I will end the day on some terrace of course.

Do you imagine going abroad in the future?
I do have that ambition one day, I find Asia particularly attractive. But that will have to come on my path. I picture myself staying here for the moment. The minimalist cooking that we have developed suits me. I love modern cuisine; light and fresh. Where there used to be 20 actions involved with the preparation of a dish, now there’s a lot more focus on one main ingredient, with one or two side ingredients. And plating up a dish like that in a beautiful way is a whole different challenge.

 

 

An interview with Niels Bonnes

Who: Niels Bonnes
What: Chief engineer
Age: 38

What does your function entail?
I am responsible for the maintenance of the hotel in the most general sense of the word. Right now, we are in the middle of a big renovation, so we are really busy. I worked in a different hotel before, four times the size of The Dylan Amsterdam and we did all the work with exactly the same team of four. Even though The Dylan has just 40 rooms, being in a monumental building like this means we have enough work on our hands to keep us busy from morning until evening.    

How long have you been working here?
It has been 14 months now. Before I was in charge of the technical service at the Andaz, but there was no place there for me to make a next step in my career. So, a colleague mentioned they were looking for someone at The Dylan Amsterdam. I had one talk and I was hired the same day.
We enjoy a lot of freedom and are forced to use our brains and think out of the box. That also means you need to get a certain feel for the hotel, and either that feeling grows on you real fast, or it doesn’t come at all. My colleagues are very committed, and if they encounter a problem, they genuinely care. Our guests can feel that; you cannot fake that kind of commitment. That is how we manage to stand out amidst all the big hotels.

How do you start your day?
I arrive at eight in the morning. First, I check my computer to prepare the day ahead. I catch up on what happened the night before and if something happened, I make the necessary calls to get it fixed. Then I have a morning meeting with other shifts, and I go downstairs to talk to my team. Of course, I could also send an email, but I prefer a face to face approach. After all, we are in this together – that team spirit is pretty strong here. And then the day really begins, and it can go anywhere from there. What I like best is when an incident occurs, and we manage to not only solve it, but turn it in into something positive. Moments like that make me happy.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to travel – I have been all over the world. What I love most is South America. No Benidorm Boulevards for me; but backpacking through Brazil. I do not plan too much ahead, and just wait to see what comes on my path. A month of roughing it in the Amazon and you’re in love. Coming back is tricky; the first week I walk around thinking: we really are a sad bunch of people here with our stress and our ridiculous pace of living and our complaints about Wi-Fi. But that feeling passes, luckily. Because you need to be just as fast if you want to make it here.

Imagine; you don’t live here anymore, and you are just passing through. You have one day in Amsterdam. What do you do?
I go see my parents in Oostzaan. Sit down with them and have a nice cup of coffee.

 

 

An interview with Alexandra de Brito

Who: Alexandra de Brito
What: Housekeeping Manager
Age: 53

What does your function entail? 
I am the lady of the house. I care for the cleaning of public area’s and all the rooms. I take care of all the ordering, and manage the housekeeping staff. All housekeeping staff comes from an external company, but they all feel like a part of the hotel and the loyalty remains the same. You see, our work is not only about cleaning; it is about leaving a good impression. This is our house, and that is a truly important feeling. I believe in good, positive energy. I think of myself as the mother of the team, and what I do as a housekeeping manager feels as if I was raising my own child. I prepare my team for the future and accompany them in their growing process.

How long have you been working here?
I just came back to The Dylan Amsterdam in June. However, I used to work here 5 years ago. I left then, because I wanted to grow within this business and became a regional manager at a cleaning company where I oversaw eight 5-star hotels in Amsterdam. I learned a lot, but at one point realized that I wasn’t happy anymore. So, one morning I opened my laptop and I saw they were looking for a housekeeping manager at The Dylan Amsterdam. They will not take you back, my husband said. People do not go back to the same place twice. But, I told him, I am going home. And I did.

Where do you live?
I am originally from Portugal, but I have been living in The Netherlands for about 20 years now. I live in Purmerend with my husband and my 15-year-old daughter.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to cook; more specifically Portuguese food. And I love to dance, but I don’t go out anymore. Not because of my husband, he is very calm and relaxed. I am very busy, energetic, and noisy. I speak loud. I cannot handle myself sometimes. I am a very dedicated old-fashioned crazy woman. And he gives me all the freedom.

How do you start your day?
I am a control freak, so I want to do the openings at 8 am myself. But I like to come in at 7 already, when everyone is still sleeping. I start with a coffee, and take the time to prepare myself, I check how things are going and say hello to the people who come in. This is important to me, I also love to have lunch together, to embrace my people, spend time with them and get to know them. That little hour between 7 and 8 is my favorite moment; it makes me feel prepared and confident for the rest of the day.

Imagine; if you didn’t live here anymore, and you were just passing through. You have one day in Amsterdam. What would you do?
Shopping – in the Kalverstraat. I just love to buy clothes, I do this often. I go on my own and I like to plan my shopping in advance; on this and this day I am going, I know what I want and where to get it. I do a lot of shopping.

 

 

An interview with Sam Hilkens

Who: Sam Hilkens
What: Food & Beverage Manager
Age: 30

What does your function entail?
Mostly I am responsible for all big events at The Dylan, so all private bookings. Besides that, I am in charge of our waiting staff of OCCO, Vinkeles, and our breakfast bar, and I do the planning, scheduling, and hiring of all waiting personnel.

How long have you been working here?
I have been working here as a full-timer for five years. But I started nine years ago with an internship at Vinkeles. And then I came back to do some part-time work, then left again. After I finished my hotel degree in The Hague I came back for real and have been sticking ever since. So no, I never quite left the Dylan. A lot has changed in 9 years time and I’ve seen it all happen.

How do you start your day?
I arrive somewhere between one and three pm. I start with a coffee with Roel, to catch up on what’s happening. Then I am off to the office where I read my emails. After that, I do a little tour to say hi to everyone. It’s quite crucial, I am not there in the morning and there are always a couple of things that need to be discussed after the breakfast shift. That first hour is my little routine, and after that each day is different. If I have a group of 80 arriving in the evening, obviously I won’t linger and chat with everyone, but quickly start preparing. I am not a great planner I must say; I’ll decide to spend three hours on something and I’ll end up spending my three hours on something very different. But it’s good being flexible in this job.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I try to go somewhere far once a year. I recently went to Costa Rica. Although it may not be the most adventurous destination –  it’s full of elderly, well-off tourists and if you go hike a mountain you’ll encounter a lot of wheelchairs around that same mountain – but it was pretty awesome. Here in Amsterdam, I love to go out with friends and my girlfriend. I just bought a place in Oost, so I had to leave West. A pretty big change yes. I’ll miss Piet de Gruyter, my favorite bar in West. It’s cool without trying to be. Now I will have to discover the Javastraat.

What is the best moment of your day?
Looking back at the end of a shift and realizing that the day went smoothly and your guests went to sleep feeling happy and you did all the things you planned to do. The feeling that in the end, everything falls into places, no matter how hectic and crazy it was.

Imagine; you don’t live here anymore, and you are just passing through. You have one day in Amsterdam. What do you do?
I’ll take a seat outside on the terrace of Piet de Gruyter to eat kroketten. Then I’ll go say hi to my parents in Ouderkerk aan de Amstel. Oh; and if it freezes, which never happens anymore, I’ll skate down the Amstel, and pass by at Restaurant de Voetangel. I had my first job there, washed dishes for three years. It was hilarious and I made loads of money.

 

 

An interview with Roel Ruijs

Who: Roel Ruijs
What: Director of Operations
Age: 38

What does your function entail?
I oversee the Food & Beverage, Reception and Housekeeping departments. This means doing a lot of planning and calculations. But next to that a lot of my work consists of coaching and quality control. I try to get the best out of Sam, Merlijn, Casper, Bernadetta Alexandra and Chantal. When I walk around I am constantly observing; are things how they should be? Not in a controlling manner, but more as a natural state of mind.

How long have you been working at The Dylan Amsterdam?
Ten years now, and there is a reason for that. There are only a few hotels that give you the creative freedom that I enjoy here. The Dylan Amsterdam has no head office, so we make a lot of the decisions ourselves. Of course, we consult with owners, but creatively they give us the freedom. For example, at OCCO: we pitched a plan for a new bar and brasserie, we got their approval quickly, and then the process was in our own hands. We picked the designers, had meetings, decided what we needed – everything.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I cycle, about 300-325 km per week in high season. At least. I love it when it’s steep, but I don’t get a lot of that in Holland. And I am completely into photography. So, I do most of the photography for The Dylan Amsterdam. How cool is that – that is what I mean with having creative freedom here.  And then there is skiing. Off-piste. Yes, I get a little scared sometimes. You need to push past your own boundaries I think. And I love to travel. I just returned from a trip to Borneo, Malaysia, and Kuala Lumpur, where I did a lot of climbing, hiking and diving. I am not a big fan of lying on the beach – but I think you can say that for most of my colleagues.

How do you start your day?
I open my emails, do a little round and have a chat with everyone. At nine we have a morning meeting, where we discuss the day, which guests arrive, were there any incidents, a leak, a power shortage, etc. And then, at 11, I earned my very first coffee of the day. One naked doppio. I am not allowed to have one before. It’s my favorite moment and it is very important that I make it myself. Sam makes the coffee in the afternoon, but the morning is for me. That sounds a bit more neurotic than it is. I love the process you know, it’s like a ritual. And of course, I check if the machine is working properly. If not I spend half an hour tweaking it to get it right.

Imagine if you didn’t live here anymore, and you were just passing through. You have one day in Amsterdam. What do you do?
First, I go to Bakhuys, near Weesperplein. I drink an espresso and eat a Mueslibollen, they are brilliant. Then I take my city bike and cycle a little along the canals, there is nothing better to soothe the mind. And after I head to MENDO, the bookstore. Have a little chat, browse their books. For beer I go to Brouwerij ‘t IJ, I love that place. It is touristy, but the good kind of touristy. And I finish with dinner at the Scheepskameel, I love how roomy it is there. Or Wijncafe Worst. Or Cafe de Klepel. Will have to make up my mind…