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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, Karim, Natasja, Alexandra and Roderick. 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…