For more than 40 years now, you and your partner Pieter van de Pavoordt have been present every single day in your restaurant Bouwkunde in Deventer (formerly Theater-Restaurant Bouwkunde). That’s such a long time! But before that, you worked as a psychiatric nurse, something completely different. What made you decide to venture into the field of culture and gastronomy?
Well, literature and theatre will forever be my first loves, even though I have a degree in psychiatric nursing. I used to visit Theatre Bouwkunde – that was in their early years – on a regular basis in my free time, and I often used to eat at the theatre’s café. After a while, I agreed to volunteer and help out now and then, which gave me a chance to do something with literature and theatre outside of my work. It started with a few hours a week, but over time, it grew into more and more, and then I got a relationship with Pieter, who by then already was the owner of Bouwkunde and so, what can I say, one thing led to another… and the rest is history!
The (Dutch) wine world is constantly changing due to trends and developments. What do you think is the biggest change in the wine industry since your career began?
Uhm, the biggest change must be the price developments of Burgundy and Bordeaux wines, for sure. Back when I started, these wines were a lot more affordable, but now the prices just keep rising and it keeps getting more and more expensive… you must have noticed this over the years, right? As well, in my restaurant and all around me I see that many more people are becoming interested in wine. They look for new flavors, they opt for different things, they don’t shy away from tasting new wines and they also educate themselves more. I think it's a great movement!
In the hospitality industry you sometimes have to deal with peculiar wine requests from your guests. Do you often get strange requests and what would be the strangest?
Actually, we don’t get too many. I never really get outrageous requests, fortunately. Except, I do think it’s a bit silly to have a special glass for the designated driver. If you're the designated driver, you simply shouldn’t drink at all. And also, I don’t quite understand the desire to drink small splashes of many different wines, instead of one good glass. I'd rather drink one fantastic wine, and really enjoy it, than having a little sip of many different wines.
You have been called the wine-conscience of Restaurant Bouwkunde. And as a crowning achievement, you have been named Sommelier of the Year 2022 by Gault & Millau. When did your love for wine start? Was it part of your upbringing?
No, there was never any wine at all at home. My father used to drink beer, or jenever, or cognac at times. My mother was only an occasional drinker. She would enjoy a little glass of ‘advocaat’ once in a while, or berry jenever. Very Dutch!
I really got my taste for wine when I started eating out and going to restaurants. This is how I got to know different wine lists and talk to other sommeliers. There was also a wine supplier at Bouwkunde when it was still a café. This supplier let us taste all kinds of different wines. This is when I really discovered the versatility of the wine world. These tastings really sparked a love for wine and after that, I wanted to know and learn more about it.