Nicky van Westenbrugge and Jeroen Renders

The Burgundian DNA of the Eindhoven region. Share the vibe! We are talking, of course, about Eindhoven’s distinctive image and credo that allows everyone to share the unique Eindhoven feeling with the world. Nicky, Jeroen and Bart feel this extraordinary energy every day, as culinary ambassadors of Eindhoven. According to these three tastemakers, this vibe is the soul and flavour of Eindhoven.

Text: Ine van de Laar 
Image: Charlotte Grips and Saskia Kropff

Nicky arrives in a black BMW e30 Baur convertible from 1990. Her blond hair blowing in the wind. Jeroen, in his sleek suit, is the epitome of a classic gentleman. When Bart, with his traditional flat cap, joins the duo under the gate of the Clarissenklooster, it is as if we have landed in the setting of an old film. Old classics, culture and history were being translated into new culinary standards by these three people from Eindhoven. Beneath the arches of the old chapel, they quickly agree: ‘The unique feeling of Eindhoven, that is our capital.’

Many people in Eindhoven have been driving and cycling past this convent for years without realising. There – in the green of the Genneper Parks, on the outskirts of Eindhoven – lies the Clarissenklooster. Nicky and her husband Derk, in cooperation with CRA Vastgoed, are redeveloping this convent into a high-quality hotel and restaurant. While we walk through the convent corridors, Nicky tells us about the bygone days of this building, which she is going to breathe new life into. In the chapel, at a small wooden table set up for the occasion, we get a taster. Sipping a glass of wine and sampling the freshly made pizzas, we look up at the high vaults. ‘Yep, we feel the vibe,’ concluded the trio as their words echoed through the room.

A taste of heritage

Jeroen seems to know Nicky’s plans and ideas for this monastery in detail. What do we discover? Besides being ‘colleagues’, they have also been friends for quite a while. We soon get to the heart of the relationship between these two hospitality professionals. What brings them together is the passion for the hospitality trade, children and the drive to give everyone a taste of Eindhoven’s heritage. With this project, Nicky is giving Eindhoven an exceptional gift: a special monument, restored to its former glory and made accessible to the public. Jeroen ensures that as a guest of NH Collection Eindhoven Centre and VANE restaurant and Skybar, you will literally and figuratively experience Eindhoven from great heights. Bart, who introduced everyone from Eindhoven and beyond to a regional tradition: the sausage roll, fits in perfectly with this group.

Ambassadors of Eindhoven

“Why are you so proud of Eindhoven?”, Bart asks his table mates. Jeroen: “I like to be where the magic happens. That’s the reason I started in the hospitality business in the first place. The beauty of Eindhoven is that it adds an extra layer of magic to the local hospitality concepts. That’s why I prefer to live and work here, where technology and creation meet, as well as tradition and innovation.” Nicky: “I’ve been away for a few years, but I’m glad to be back. The city marketing has been done extremely well. Residents are proud of this city again. The slogan ‘share the vibe’ is really so fitting. You can’t help but spread the word.’

The city, and therefore the opportunities, are growing every day. 

Collaboration could be stepped up a notch
The three of them conclude that the city of Eindhoven and its unmistakable energy is an important asset for the hospitality companies established here. Bart thinks that, through collaboration, even more can be achieved from this unique Eindhoven feeling. Bart: “Collaboration, co-creation, is of course also part of Eindhoven’s DNA. I myself was the initiator of HIP (Hospitality Innovation Platform), the aim of which is to make hospitality entrepreneurs more familiar with the city’s DNA: technology, design and knowledge. How cool would it be if (hospitality) businesses incorporated this DNA even more? That would be a concerted strengthening of the city’s image. How do you see that for hotel chains?”

Nicky: “We and Jeroen all take an active part in the Eindhoven Hotel Consultation. Here, everyone allows themselves to be vulnerable and to contribute ideas, with the aim of making Eindhoven even more attractive to visitors.” Jeroen: “I hope that in the future we will also help each other more on a practical level in critical areas such as human resources.” Nicky: “How nice would it be if we could handle highs and lows by sharing personnel?” Staff shortages appear to be the biggest challenge for these entrepreneurs. Nicky: “The city, and therefore the opportunities, are growing every day. But the current shortage of hospitality staff in the market makes that challenging.”

Capital

Bart asks if it was safe to conclude that personnel is another kind of important capital for Nicky and Jeroen. Jeroen: “People are key in our trade. Without good people, you cannot provide the ultimate guest and quality experience. It’s a people business. In VANE restaurant, we have consciously chosen to temporarily open four days and take on fewer guests. You can only give the maximum experience with skilled and fiery staff.”

“Some people think; just give your people some more money. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. We have to work on our entire image as a hospitality industry,” says Nicky. “Wages have already gone up quite a bit, but it’s not just about the pennies. The family spirit is at the heart of our businesses. The new generation needs to feel what we feel again; that working in this sector is a passion. It requires empathy, work ethic and determination. It’s not that the new generation doesn’t have these things, but they haven’t been able to get a taste of the hospitality trade in recent years. So how will this new generation know what they’re missing? Fortunately, I just heard that the number of applications for the Rooi Pannen hospitality school network has increased again this year for the first time.”

Bourgondian DNA means…
Traditionally, Bart asks his guests what the word Burgundian means to them. When he asks Nicky and Jeroen this question, the conversation quickly took a fascinating turn. It’s about the hurried world that we find ourselves in, where food has to be on the table quickly and preferably stuffed down our throats easily. Because we have to get on with things. The value of food is gone. The trio wonders why there is less attention focused on healthy food, although food is essential to our existence. It nourishes us; literally with nutrients and figuratively with time, love and perspective. Bart, Nicky and Jeroen wonder why primary school children are not taught about nutrition. After all, making a healthy choice from today’s supermarket shelves is difficult, even for professionals.

“Anyway,” Nicky leads us back to the initial question, “for me, Burgundian means being together with the people I love. Food and drink connects people, but food and drink as it was intended to be.” Jeroen: “For me, it’s all about the total experience. Taking the time to enjoy food and each other’s company. By taking the time to enjoy a good meal, you can reset yourself. Then your day-to-day challenges soon seem less daunting.”

According to Bart, the lesson of this conversation is a message. Make food important again, in schools and at home. Let’s all start spreading the ‘share the vibe’ logo. On plates, napkins and clothes. Bart: “Seriously though, that logo will soon be on some of our sausage rolls. There you go again!”

Passports:

Who: Bart Houben

Year of birth: 24/03/1977

Birthplace: STEENSEL

Education: PO

Career highlights: New Business Manager at VAN BERLO, Account Manager at HUTTEN, Founder of Eco Events

Owner of Houben Worstenbrood

Who: Nicky van Westenbrugge – van Boldrik

Year of birth: 1985

Birthplace: Eindhoven

Education: Economisch Lyceum Eindhoven and Hotelschool The Hague

Career highlights: Owner of Hotel Parkicht, Thym by Parkzicht, Hout Eindhoven and development of the Clarissen Klooster

Who: Jeroen Renders

Year of birth: 01/05/1976

Birthplace: Best

Education: Tourism and Higher Diploma in Hotel Management

Career highlights: Regional Director of Sales The Netherlands at NH Hotel Group
Hotel Director NH Collection Eindhoven Centre

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