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An Interview with Michou Vreeswijk

HR Manager at The Dylan

Tell us, what do you do at the Dylan
Literally, everything that concerns Human Resources Management: from the moment we open up a vacancy to recruitment, applications, onboarding and policies. I also make sure that departmental procedures are executed in time. Think for example of the end-of-year evaluations and the staff’s Christmas presents, which are both coming up now.  
However, my most important task is to be here for the team. I want them to know me and feel comfortable enough to get in touch whenever they need me. Therefore I make frequent rounds through the hotel, just to chat and to give the HR department a face. This daily contact with the staff is by far the best part of my job. 

So you were born for Human Resources Management? 
Haha, yes, perhaps. I suppose the main goal of an HR Manager is to increase the ‘happiness factor’ because only a cheerful team can look after happy guests. I am an involved and open person, which helps to establish such a culture. If you combine that with my planning and organizational skills, yes, you could say that I was born for this job. 

Is there any hot topic you are working on now? 
Since I arrived here 7 months ago, I have observed everything that could be improved or done differently. I am now converting this information into specific projects and next year I will start working on some of them. 
The onboarding process is probably the first project that I will run. There is still a lot that we can achieve in that respect. From the day they start, new team members should get the right experience, which you can call the ‘Dylan feeling’. The onboarding process is what makes them feel at home right away and keeps the team strong at all times. 

So do you think this is what drives effective teams?  
Yes, but the strongest teams flourish mainly through openness and honesty. There should be a sense of trust between all team members. That is only possible if their leaders give the right example. If they tend to be slightly negative for a moment, this will be picked up instantly. A leader should provide compliments and direct, honest feedback to create a positive atmosphere where everyone is prepared to help one another. I think The Dylan is managing this really well. 

Could it also be the success factor of the Dylan? 
I do believe so. The Dylan is a small boutique hotel, which makes it easier for the team to communicate directly and help one another. We can act quickly because we are not restricted by head offices. We make our own decisions and we can let our creativity flow to a certain extent. That is what motivates many of us here. 

Something else, how do you keep yourself going? Or let’s put it this way: what do you live for?  
Good food! Well, and shoes, but I guess that’s inevitable, as a woman. I am always ready for good food. In this time of the year, I can really look forward to my husband’s traditional stew. He actually knows exactly how I like it, he cuts off any excess fat – not too much, because then it gets tough – and then he lets it simmer day and night. Heaven!

Sounds delicious! And if you go out for dinner. Where do you go? 
On an Autumn Sunday, we usually make a long stroll through the Vondelpark before we end at Restaurant Moer. They always have a nice Sunday vibe and a program with for example live music or a Sunday brunch. After an early-morning walk along the canals, it is also great to unwind at the cosy fireplace of The Dylan. Such a romantic place! It may even be my favourite spot in the hotel. 
One other thing I love: artisan beers, those traditionally brewed ones. I usually go to ‘Brasserie Het IJ’ or a classic Amsterdam pub, which we call a “bruin café” (brown café). ‘In ‘t Aepjen’ is a good one. I think they have never changed the interior in the last decades…

 

 

All-Time Favorites


Noordermarkt
Below the ‘Noorderkerk’, one of the cities most beautiful squares, the Noordermarkt takes place on Mondays and Saturdays. This market has a tradition that originated in the 17th century. Together with other markets in Amsterdam the Noordermarkt was of great importance for the development and flourishing of the city in the golden age. Don’t miss out on the best apple pie of the city at Winkel 43.

Begijnhof
The Begijnhof is one of Amsterdam’s best known almshouses. It consist of a group of houses built around a secluded courtyard and garden which provided modest homes for the Beguines – a group of unmarried religious women who lived together in a close community under vows of chastity.

Moco Museum
The Moco Museum is a boutique museum with a wide range of inspiring modern and contemporary art. With artist like Banksy, Yayoi Kusama, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, visitors are offered an unparalleled collection of subversive art in which irony and humour are used to reflect on modern society.

The Concertgebouw
Bernard Haitink once praised The Concertgebouw as the best instrument of the orchestra that it houses. The swampy fields just outside the city limits boasted a wonder of neoclassic architecture, The Concertgebouw. Nowadays, just like the celebrated Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, this fantastic concert hall enjoys worldwide renown.

Wynand Fockink
The  Wynand Fockink Proeflokaal and liquor store can be found in the in the Pijlsteeg, an alley behind the National Monument on the Dam square in Amsterdam. Wynand Fockink produces more than 70 Dutch liqueurs and jenevers which can be tasted in the authentic 17th century traditional craft methods.

Café Hoppe
Café Hoppe has been located on the Spui since 1670. The café has something unique, indescribable, that speaks to the imagination of many-young and old-who come back every time. Come along for a drink on a Friday afternoon and you’ll see what they mean.

Pllek
Pllek is a sit back place across ‘t IJ for people to meet others, to get to know other cultures and insights. There is live music, international films, yoga classes, art expositions, workshops, mini-festivals and more during the whole year.

Van Stapele Koekmakerij
The cosy, warm atmosphere of the shop will briefly take you back to Amsterdam of yesteryear. The aroma of freshly backed cookies slowly drifts in the air, you hear the soft piano music and light reflected through crystal chandeliers sparkles down on rows of delicious homemade cookies.

Vondelpark
Dam Square
Central station

 

 

An Interview with Robbert van Rijsbergen

What does your job entail exactly?
Well, I oversee the Sales & Marketing department. We take room and restaurant reservations, organize meetings & events, look after revenue management, sales, marketing and public relations.

That’s a whole lot. How do you oversee all those different activities?
It is quite dynamic indeed. What’s most important, is having the right people around you. At the Dylan, we have a few senior staff members and several external partners who I can trust blindly. That allows me to maintain a bird’s eye view and overlook various projects all at once: from our new website to proactive sales activities.

And is there any hot topic you’re working on now?
Yes, a new strategy is “automate the predictable so we can humanize the exceptional”. That means nothing more than robotizing workflows to have more time for human interactions with guests. This involves activities such as setting up a smart Customer Relationship Management System to new ways of using current systems.
Another topic we’re working on is our brand recognition in The Netherlands. We are well known overseas but we need to further spread our name in the local market.

It seems that you enjoy your work. Why are you made for this job?
Simply, because of its dynamics, creativity and human interaction. I used to work for a large travel organization, which is a completely different game than working for a boutique hotel. I very much prefer a small-scale organization and working closely within a smaller team.

How do you qualify your management style? And how do keep your team strong?
By keeping the atmosphere strong. There are many theories about management but in the end, it’s just a feeling and sense of empathy. We laugh, drink lots of coffee and go out for dinner once in a while. If the atmosphere is not good, I will sense that immediately, especially in a small organization such as ours.
When it comes to leading a team, it’s a very individual and a tailored process. Senior team members, for example, only want you to share some ideas and opinions, whereas other team members may need more coaching.

Down to the content of your job now. How do you position the Dylan?
We’d like to stay in the top 5 of the city’s high-end hotels and remain the only real luxury boutique hotel. Therefore, we want our guests to feel as if they’re staying with a well-to-do family member in Amsterdam. That lifestyle and residential feel should always be present at the Dylan. It’s also the reason why we do not use lots of signage in the hotel for example. Or another example is that we try to gather preferences and the purpose of our guests’ stay before their arrival. Whilst respecting their privacy of course.

And do people abroad understand this concept?
Generally, yes. I travel a lot to the U.S. and most of our clients there know The Dylan and its boutique concept.

And if they already know the hotel, how do you sell it then?
Well, most likely they don’t know about our recent updates and renovations. So, I will first update them about our new developments. Then I will further stress our location and unique mix of room types. I think we have a room style for nearly every type of guests. Most important is to discuss our tailored approach. This is also applicable to our reservations and meeting & events team. If for example, a couple is interested in organizing their wedding, we prefer to meet them personally. And, more than in other hotels, we can agree on organizing even the smallest details.

How do you foresee the future of hotels? Anything that will change?
I consider artificial intelligence an important trend. Without harming the essential human interactions, this technology can help us to smoothen certain service encounters. Think for example of a chatbot helping our guests to make restaurant reservations in the middle of the night.

And is there any news we may expect from the Dylan soon?
Well, we’re finishing our upgrade of the reception area. The physical front desk will be removed, and we will receive our guests with refreshments in a lounge type setting.

Sounds like a perfect fit for the Dylan?
Exactly. Our personal approach and family feel set us apart from other hotels. If for example I walk out of the door here, and I see a group of guests arriving with plenty of suitcases, my team and I are happy to help them with their luggage. We just don’t work on organizational islands, which is good for our team spirit and the value to our guests.

And if you had to take this group of people through Amsterdam. Where would you go?
I would hop on an open boat and cruise along the canals, followed by a few bitterballen and drinks on a terrace. And finally, I would end the day with some comfort food at the ‘Food Hallen’.

And, what is your favorite food exactly? 
I love Japanese and Thai food, but you could also wake me up for a Dim Sum lunch on a lazy Sunday.

 

 

Concierge’s Choice August: Summer Virtuosity

Amsterdam’s warmest month traditionally brings all the arts to a grinding halt. Some of us jump into the water, put our feet up or have a sweeping outdoor lunch. Meanwhile, true art aficionados are less ecstatic. In August, they just eagerly wait for the reopening of the theatres and September’s new exhibitions. But don’t worry culture enthusiasts; the arts are still alive. Even in August.
 
Micro Art
Beurs van Berlage
Beauty can be found in the smallest things, and in particular at the Micro Art exhibition at the Beurs van Berlage. Mykola Syadristy teams up with the talented Hasan Kale to display some of the most microscopic artworks. How about a golden rose in a hollowed-out human hair? Or the smallest windmill of the world? This stunning piece of art is only 1.8 millimetres big. The exposition has already enchanted large parts of the world and now logically exhibits in one of Europe’s smallest countries.
 
Prinsengracht Concert
Prinsengracht
The Prinsengracht concert is the city’s annual and most popular classical music spectacle. For once, the most acclaimed musicians make their way from their habitual concert halls to the heart of town. There they’ll perform different stunning pieces on a large pontoon, floating right on the Prinsengracht canal. And everything that doesn’t happen in a concert hall can happen at this outdoor event. The audience moors their boats close to the floating stage, reveal their picnics and, at the end of the concert, sings along with Amsterdam’s unofficial anthem.
 
Viva Frida Kahlo
Go Galerie
Many consider Frida Kahlo as one of the most outstanding female artists of the 20th century. Not only because of her eccentric life, tragedies or controversies, yet her surrealistic artworks still carry a deep meaning for many people around the globe. They are a true reflection of her personal life and Mexican roots. The Go Gallery exhibits paintings from 30 artists who honour the works and life of Frida Kahlo.
 
Uitmarkt
On and around Leidse Square and Museum Square
The Uitmarkt is Amsterdam’s annual start of the new cultural season. Various theatres, orchestras, museums and artists take the chance to present themselves on one of the stages throughout the city. Their purpose is to attract a larger audience during the year, yet it is also a great opportunity to discover a wide range of renowned Dutch performances. The traditional singalong at Museum Square with various musical songs of the new season marks the grand final of the event.

 

 

Talking Tea: An interview with Kiona Malinka

The Dylan Amsterdam serves the exclusive Kiona Malinka Tea: the most beautiful leaves, curated exclusively for The Dylan. We spoke with Kiona Malinka herself about the craft of creating and serving our favourite warm treat.

So, tell us, what is the Kiona Malinka tea exactly?
Well, for the last 5 years we have been importing tea under the Crusio Tea label, my interpretation of a heavenly taste. We recognized that we had a few special clients, such as The Dylan. These clients were ready for the next level: beautiful tea served with an eye for detail. We then launched the Kiona Malinka label exclusively for them and by invitation only.

And how did that all start?
I began with a passion for coffee but discovered that my tea suppliers couldn’t tell me where their tea leaves were coming from. Which farmers produced it? From which plantations do the leaves originate? I found it strange that I couldn’t get an answer to those questions, especially since my coffee and wine suppliers were able to do so.
I then dedicated myself to a mission and travelled to the most remote tea plantations. Anywhere in the world, I would jump on a four-wheel drive, hired a student as a translator and drove up into the mountains. Wherever I saw a nice plantation with beautiful leaves, I would speak to the tea farmers and learn everything about their craftsmanship. After 3 years of travelling and learning, I felt ready enough to start my own label.

And do you still work with those tea farmers?
Yes, and my job is to find the best teas in the world, so my contacts have only expanded. That is why I spend most of my time keeping up with the 65 farmers in 14 countries we do business with. And the travelling never stopped: once in a while I jump on a plane again and explore new plantations. I also try to stay for a bit longer then and sleep at the farms, just to make sure that I know all the ins and outs of the plantation.

Is that personal relationship also your way to look after sustainability and social entrepreneurship? 
Yes, it’s just the farmer and me: the value chain cannot be any shorter. People generally don’t know how to spend donated money so I rather value people for what they do and achieve. With my investment, their tea may be improved so that we collaborate and grow together.

What drives you to do all of that?
I have a thorough personality and always like to be informed about just everything. For example, you would have been able to tell that I’m a perfectionist when we recently didn’t have any Darjeeling on offer. Simply because I couldn’t find the perfect leaves.

And do you have a favourite tea yourself?
Well, there are so many seasons, harvests and farmers, which makes it hard to put one particular taste in the spotlight. But oh, I could say that I feel very much at home in Japan. The Japanese are just as profound as I am and will never go for anything less than 100% quality.

We are quite familiar with wine-food pairings. Do you also pair your tea with food?
Absolutely, but there is one main difference: tea also has to be prepared. That active part makes it even more fun than working with wine since you can influence the taste through temperature and preparation. Another difference compared to wine is that there is no reference framework. A greasy sauce generally pairs well with a full-bodied wine, but with which tea? There are no rules for tea, so we can simply follow our taste buds.

Why is tea of importance for a hotel?
Tea is anchored in almost every culture and country: it is the most consumed drink in the world after water. That is why everyone remembers those magical moments of warmth and nostalgia when thinking of tea. It also makes tea a silent connector, providing a soothing home feeling.

Is that why your tea matches The Dylan?
Yes, the Dylan has an intimate atmosphere and focus on quality. The smaller scale of the hotel allows us to continuously push our service limits. That is how we can keep surprising guests of the Dylan at various moments during the day. Even if you order a pot for breakfast or a cup of tea during your meeting, we will always look after the full tea experience.

And what is that you like about the Dylan?
It’s just magical to arrive here, have the door opened for you and enter the historic property. But after all, it is the staff who make this such a fantastic place. Wherever I go in the hotel, everyone always pays attention, sees me and stops for a chat. That is a very special way of taking care of guests.

To conclude, what is the next step you will be taking?  
Well literally, I will start tasting again in a bit. I taste nearly 200 samples a week. And in a few weeks, I will head over to China for another adventure, followed by a trip to Singapore to train the staff at the Raffles hotel. You see, I will never get bored of tea…

 

 

An Interview with Roetz

Starting this year, guests of The Dylan can explore the city on Roetz bikes. These are not your ordinary two-wheelers but bicycles with a story and mission. We spoke with Willem-Jan Otten, Operations Manager at Roetz, about everything that makes the world a better place.

We’ve heard different inspiring stories about Roetz. Could you summarize what Roetz is about?
We produce handcrafted designer bicycles by reusing the core parts of discarded ones. We do that with a team of men and woman returning to the job market. By combining those two approaches, we try to contribute to a more social and circular economy.

How did it all start?
One of our founders, Tiemen ter Hoeven, used to be a consultant. While working on a project for one of the German car manufacturers, he discovered that the car producer used the principles of remanufacturing. He was inspired by the approach: the process is green and makes a manufacturer less vulnerable to the fluctuations of commodity prices. Tiemen matched this solution with the problem of the Dutch bicycle waste and initiated Roetz.

So, how do you produce a Roetz bike exactly?
The process follows a sequence of 5 steps:

  1. Collection

We purchase bikes that in general have no economic value at all.

  1. Dismantling and check

We dismantle the front fork and frame and sort all other parts that may be re-used in a new lifecycle. We then screen on cracks or corrosion, with this process we can save up to 40% of the raw material to be used for new bikes. For fleet bikes like the OV-Fiets we can reach up to 70%, due to the large number of identical parts.

  1. Lacquer removal and check

Once we have removed different layers of lacquer from the front fork and frame we check the quality of the material again to make sure we only use quality products.

  1. Protective coating

We apply a strong multi layered powder coating that protects the material and provides a fresh new look.

  1. Assembling

All other parts are new and installed on the remanufactured front fork and frame. The bike is now ready to ride the world for years.

And where do the bikes come from exactly?
Well, I could give you one of those romantic stories of beautiful bikes getting fished from the canal. Haha. But that’s not the reality. In fact, the city council traces left bikes on the streets and takes them to an auction. Some vendors then buy the masterpieces, which is fine because that’s also circular. But we buy real wrecks that nobody wants.

Why would you say is the circular economy important?
It is the only way to create a long-lasting system. We simply cannot keep producing waste. On top of that, it forces manufacturers to produce quality because the product will return to them in the end. In that sense, our current solution at Roetz is only suboptimal: we fix what it is broken but do not prevent it from happening. In other words: we reuse waste but cannot avoid its production.
 
So, would that be your next step?
Exactly. The real solution is to design a bicycle that lasts forever. Producing such a bike is too expensive for the standard consumer market. But if we know that we get the bike back, we can invest in solutions that make the bike last forever.

Where does your staff come from?
From all over the place, ranging from ex-convicts to unemployed men and women. It’s just wonderful to see how these people grow and flourish over time. We once had a guy who started off with a lack of motivation and energy. But before we could even expect a disaster, he really started to like his job. It’s great to see that he is now a key figure at a production line in a big bicycle factory.

And did you get him up to that level?
We give heaps of training and work in such a structured manner, that our staff makes progress over time. They begin at the very start of the assembly line, which means they will always have a coach next to them. Once they move up the assembly line, they will also get someone on their other side to which they should provide training. This system is progressive: once you move further, your coach and trainee will also progress.

Are these the stories that keep you going?
Yes, for the social part definitely. But I also want to leave a better world for the next generations. A few years ago, I started looking for a job with a focus on sustainability. I could have never imagined that I could combine this with the social dimension.

Why do you think your bikes fit The Dylan?
Our bikes have that typical vintage look and none of them are the same. That reflects the classic appearance of the Dylan, with its surprisingly different rooms and spaces. It is just that both The Dylan and Roetz heavily rely on the stories of their products.

What do you like about The Dylan?
I’ve only been for a drink once but loved the hotel from the moment I entered. I was impressed by the tranquility that hides behind the façade. I could only describe it as a peaceful vibe: one that no one expects upon entering from the busy city centre.

      

 

 

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: 55
 
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.