What made you decide to move to Hollywood?
I came for the fame, fortune and glamour, of course! I am only partly kidding. I never had a dream to become an actor, but I needed to boldly go, to explore new opportunities and discover my potential. I love to entertain and make a difference. What better place to be inspired than LaLaLand. I was born and raised in Amsterdam. For as long as I can remember, I always felt I belonged in the USA. Can you still say ‘fresh of boat’ after 11 years? Time flies when you are having fun, especially in a place under the sun. I look outside and see palm trees and a blue sky – it still feels like vacation.
As a foodie, what are some of the differences in the food scene between Hollywood and Holland?
This is the town for celebrity spotting, if it is not in the restaurant booth next to you, at least on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Both places offer a wide range of (ethnic) cuisines and there is always something new to find. However, I have yet to find a good fine-dining rijsttafel restaurant – part of our Dutch culinary heritage. I have a bar-restaurant concept for America on my vision board. Any venture capitalist reading this? Our ‘exotic’ Dutch cuisine, besides some deep fried snacks and sweets served at fairs and farmers markets, is not well represented. I don’t care much for waiting staff nervously circling our table with the aim to fill seats with fresh guests and new cash. The bill is often presented while we still work on our entree. This can be solved, by following the European model of compensating the staff with good wages and benefits. A service charge included in the price creates a more relaxed atmosphere and better hospitality. No mental math is required for tips, nor any guilt of judging the servers.
What are some of the cultural differences that make you laugh or amazes you?
I can laugh at myself for getting in trouble with my harmless, unfiltered advice. Being from Amsterdam is seen as cool but being direct is not. I always thought Americans get to the point. I learned the hard way, when I received a stink eye from a co-worker, after I said: “Hey, you are doing it all wrong!” I had to rephrase: “Have you ever considered doing it in a different way?” It amazes me how ‘flakiness’ is a cultural accepted thing here. For events, a ‘Yes-RSVP’ easily becomes a ‘No-Show.’ Often the same people who pride themselves on being ‘politically correct’ and sensitive to other people’s feelings proof to be careless and unreliable. Go figure! I laugh about the confusion caused because of the difference in greeting. We have our firm Dutch handshake or three air kisses on alternating cheeks. In America there is the high five or a hug. It cracks me up how people sometimes misread the cues and offer a cocktail of greetings; varying from a missed high five, handshake with half a hug to an awkward full body press that takes too long and the accidental kiss on the mouth as a bonus.
Can you tell a little bit more about your next project?
Most of my projects revolve around my deep-rooted passion for bringing people together and entertaining them, often with food. If I had a therapist, it could be explained: because I grew up in the family restaurant business. I also take pride in my heritage. I’ve been told I am a devout brand ambassador of my hometown. My appreciation grew stronger after I immigrated to the US. I love coming back to Amsterdam – as a tourist. I have different projects lined up to tell my story. I am producing short cooking videos, giving book presentations and cooking workshops to support my mission: getting America to explore Indo Dutch food culture. I hope to reach a larger audience via regular media and get some airtime on TV and radio this year. I also offer my services for culinary projects, video, photography and crowdfunding. I produce events like the Annual Dutch King’s Day to give LA a taste of our orange craze party, which is held at Shoreline Aquatic Park in Long Beach this year. One month later there is the Annual Holland Festival – more of a community picnic. I head up the Netherland America Foundation SoCal Chapter. We organize events that strengthen and celebrate the ties between America and the Netherlands. We fly in laureates of the Princess Christina Concours classical music competition held in Holland, to perform on the US West Coast and Canada. We invite interesting guest speakers to our business networking events. The premier Dutch-American event in California is our Annual Gala Fundraiser, this year scheduled for November 16th, proclaimed the official date for Dutch-American Heritage Day in the US. We present 2 honorees with a lifetime achievement award and induct them into our hall of fame. Previous honorees include filmmaker Paul Verhoeven, legendary news anchor Walter Cronkite, actor and artist Jeroen Krabbé. Last year we honored retired General Petraeus and entrepreneur Henk Rogers.
Who are your honorees for this year and what charities you support?
The candidate list for this year, include: Dick van Dyke, Eddy & Alex van Halen and Famke Jansen, to name a few. A portion of the evening’s proceeds will support ovarian cancer research by Dutch Professor Martin Kast at USC, Dutch Studies at UCLA, Dutch School SoCal and internships for Dutch students.
What is your Hollywood highlight?
I think my real Hollywood highlight is yet to come. In terms of milestones, I am proud to share that I was able to get my third cookbook Indo Dutch Kitchen Secrets published in the US last year. It’s the first Indo Dutch heritage cookbook in English. Glad the book received rave reviews. The first print was sold out within one month after official release date. The second print is around the corner. I got a grant for a book tour and traveled to several cities on the east and west coast. More cities are scheduled for this year. I am enjoying this amazing journey!
Get your orange on and join us for Dutch King’s Day, April 30th!