Discover Amsterdam’s second best kept secret: Van Stapele
About nine years ago, our Executive Chef found his way to a newly opened confectionary, a stone’s throw from The Dylan. Having heard many rumours about Van Stapele, he had to try the (now famed) crispy, gooey dark chocolate cookie with its delicate filling of soft white chocolate. He was sold instantly. To surprise our guests with this same sensationally sweet experience, he went back to the shop and spoke with Vera Van Stapele, the owner, who was baking the cookies together with her father at the time. Surprised and almost honoured, they had a conversation. It was only when she waved our chef goodbye, that she realized she didn’t even offer a cookie to try. Almost a decade later, Van Stapele has grown into one of the most sought-after places in Amsterdam. We had a little conversation with Vera about the success of the famous cookie…
Hi Vera, pleased to meet! So tell us, who is the lady behind ‘Van Stapele’?
Hello there! I’m Vera, 35 years and owner of Van Stapele. I originally studied psychology, but simply followed my passion and ended up doing something completely different, as you know…
So you ended up having shop which sells just one particular cookie?
Indeed! Basically it all started with my idea of the perfect cookie. I had tried some great examples all over the world, but in my mind I had a very clear picture of what I exactly wanted. I couldn’t find it anywhere, which marked the beginning of a sort of quest really, to create the perfect recipe. It was never my intention to eventually open a shop. But when I cracked the code to the perfect cookie, I just really wanted to share this with the world.
What a great story! If you had to describe your shop in 3 words, which ones would that be?
Cozy. Warm. Delicious.
Why those 3?
Cozy because I really see that as one of my core values. Not only in the shop, but also in life. Warm, because of course the cookies are warm when we serve them (then they are at their best!), but also the atmosphere in the shop as well as in the team really is warm. And delicious kind of speaks for itself, right? Although it’s kind of an understatement, I think our cookies are a little more than that!
All right, cookie time. Tell us all about it!
It all starts with the best Valrhona chocolate. We make a dark chocolate dough which we fill with white chocolate, weighed to exactly 60 grams to be precise. Then, the ingredients are rolled to a little ball, which really is a skill on its own. It takes about 3 months until you get the hang of it. The little balls are then placed on a baking tray and baked to perfection. [Vera did not want to share for how long or at what temperature. Some secrets are meant to be kept…]. We often have clients luring at the trays that just came out of the oven and asking for one of those, but that’s a straight no. The real trick is to let them cool down slightly when they come out, to ensure the edges become crispy and the inside remains soft & gooey.
What’s the magic behind Van Stapele, according to you?
We focus on one cookie, and one cookie only. We’re all about quality and this focus enables us to maintain the highest standard. Our cookies are always freshly baked to perfection, just out of the oven. The dough is freshly made each morning, and is never used the next day. When we’re out of dough, we simply close the store for the day. All in all the magic comes down to the love and passion for our product, and that is our strength. It’s not about the commercial side of things. Never have we spent a single penny on marketing.
And what would be the most valuable lesson you’ve learned along the way?
I always remind myself that I do this, because I love it so much. With every decision I take, I ask myself ‘Does this make me happy?’, which gets most of the questions off the table. The confectionary is such a success because I stay true to the one thing that made me start the shop in the first place: my love for that perfect cookie. Over the years I’ve had many investors with the wildest ideas and many big offers, but Van Stapele will never be a franchise, it’s just not us.
What would you never do?
Come up with a second cookie. It takes away the magic of everything we stand for. I don’t want clients to be confused about which one to choose. That’s not why they come to us.
What is it, that makes you enjoy baking cookies for almost ten years?
Well, often people think it’s not true, but it really is the cookie. I almost have one on every single day, and with every bite I take I realize that it’s still the very best cookie there is. I just love it. And besides that, it really is the warm team I have around me.
Find Van Stapele at Heisteeg 4, which is about 5 minutes walking from The Dylan.
Be warned, there are often are long lines in front of the shop…