Thérèse Boer is not just any Hostess, she’s the face, co-owner and the front of the house of the three-starred, number 46 of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, De Librije in The Netherlands, which she helms together with her husband and highly acclaimed Chef Jonnie Boer. When twenty-six years ago Thérèse and Jonnie were left in charge at De Librije as the then-owner, Mr. Meijers, went on a three-week vacation, a success story was born. Today the power couple is recognized globally for their beautiful cuisine and outstanding hospitality. As the Dutch Grand Dame of service, a graduated ‘vinoloog’ and budding winemaker herself, who else could we possibly feature for our first Front of the House interview other than Thérèse? We had the privilege of asking her all about what it takes to be a great hostess, how she’s managed to keep her relationship strong after all these years of working so closely together with her husband and exactly how her love for wine came to be.
Born and raised in?
“In Kampen, a city in the province of Overijsel in the North Eastern part of The Netherlands.”
What did father and mother do?
“My father was the director of NV Rendo – an energy company – and my mother was a nurse. But after the children were born my mother was home a lot and worked as a volunteer.”
Did you know early on that it would become the hospitality industry, or did you have other aspirations?
“As a kid I always wanted to become a kindergarten teacher, but from the age of thirteen I knew I wanted to go into hospitality. So, when I was fourteen I started as a dishwasher and by the age of fifteen I had made my way into service.”
De Librije holds three Michelin stars, was this always the goal?
“We never really concerned ourselves with stars. It’s a wonderful reward, but the guests come first for us. It was very special to get the first star though, a moment we will never forget.”
As a top hostess, in your opinion, what is the most important to become a successful hostess?
“Dedication to the guest. You have to be kind and caring, you have to love working and always be interested in the beautiful products of our profession – the food, the drinks, all of it.”
What do you consider to be the biggest hurdle of the trade?
“For me there really is none. Hard work can be difficult, but if you do it right you’ll get so much satisfaction from seeing a guest being genuinely happy, it’ll make everything worth it.”
Has there been a mentor or someone who has been a big inspiration during your career?
“I had a wine professor when I was studying Hotel Management in Zwolle, his name was Mr. Gispen. He was so obsessed with wine it was infectious, he made me mad for wine forever.”
At De Librije, do you and Jonnie do everything in collaboration, or are the Kitchen and Front of the House really each one’s territory?
“We literally do everything together, certainly in the workplace. We think it’s very important that black and white go together perfectly. The guest will immediately feel this when stepping into the restaurant.”
What is the best thing about working so closely together with your partner?
“The best part is that you share everything, the joys and the sorrows, but also that you can give the guest and also our employees that ‘Librije family feeling’. That’s very important to us. We’ve never really had a hard time working together believe it or not.”
Who cooks at home?
“Jonnie cooks, I never do, and at this point I don’t think I ever will. In terms of what he cooks, it usually varies from a nice traditional Dutch mash to a tasty fish with salad.”
Do you have a favorite dish?
“I love lots of vegetables and fish, but my guilty pleasure is very dark chocolate.”
Does the restaurant blood flow through the children as well or is it quite the opposite now they know what’s involved?
“Our son Jimmie is studying to become a chef at the Cas Spijkers Academy here in Holland, and our daughter Isabelle is studying Hotel Management in Zwolle as well. They both really like the hospitality industry, but ultimately they have to decide for themselves what they want to do. To me the most important thing is that they’re happy!”
Astrid & Thérèse, your online wine shop and wine brand you started together with Dutch TV-personality Astrid Joosten, how did the idea for this come about?
“After Astrid and I had written two books on wine together, everyone kept asking us for advice on purchasing wine. So we thought: if people trust our taste and expertise this much, why don’t we start selling our favorite wines ourselves? This is how our wine webshop astridentherese.nl got started where we sell affordable gems. Sometimes we come across a winegrower that we get super excited about. We then enter into a long-term commitment and, after the harvest, taste and blend together with the winemaker until all of us are ecstatic. This is when we adopt the wine into our private collection. We put our labels on and these bottles go on to become our Astrid & Thérèse house wines.”
What advice would you give starting restaurateurs?
“Follow your gut, keep your standard high, be kind to your guests, listen to them and make sure you have a good relationship with your employees, because you can’t do anything without your guests or your employees.”
With this much success, stars and awards already accumulated, is there anything left to wish for?
“To stay happy. For our children to also become happy in and with their futures. And that we may continue to make our guests happy for as long as possible, both in De Librije as well as in our Brass Boer on Bonaire and Brass Boer Thuis in Zwolle.”
To experience Thérèse’s award winning hospitality first-hand, visit De Librije on your next trip to the Netherlands (you can even spend the night). For all things wine simply follow this link. And to keep up to date on both Thérèse and her husband Jonnie in the meantime, take a peek on their shared Instagram page.