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Hotseat - Robert Steven van Herpen

775_OnA_HotseatRobert Steven van Herpen, called Bobby by friends and family, likes to keep himself busy whether he is on the job as Food and Beverage Manager at Holland House Beach Hotel or enjoying time with family and friends. The 30-year-old Netherlands-born knows practically everything there is to know about food service in the hospitality industry, having worked his way up from a dishwasher to manager of Food and Beverage. He loves everything that has to do culinary exploits and is a perfectionist when it comes to his work. He gave insight into his life for this week's Hot Seat.

Who is Robert van Herpen?

I was born south of the Netherlands in 1983 and had a carefree youth. I lived with my parents and two brothers in Oosterhout, a small town in Brabant, until I went to study even farther South, in Maastricht. During and after my studies, I have been travelling abroad and fell in love with the vastness of the world and diversity of the cultures. Here on the island, I met my beautiful girlfriend and we are living together on the east side of St. Maarten.

How would you describe yourself?

Well, I think you can say I am a person who does not like to sit still and quiet. I am always busy with many things, especially with my work and passion: everything that has to do with food, wine and hospitality.

Where were you educated? What did you study and why?

I have been working in hotels and restaurants since I was 15 years old. I started as dishwasher and had to wash big piles of dishes: the ones you see in the Donald Duck comics. But working with people and making guests happy in the restaurant and hotel business are what I love doing. So the choice of study was easy: Hotel School of Management in Maastricht.

Tell me something interesting about your school days.

The most interesting thing about going to that school is that it is an intense and diverse education. You spend a lot of time with your schoolmates; from sitting in class together to going on an internship far away, to China for example. And when you were not studying, there was always time for a beer to share with friends in the bar at school or in the many pubs, bars and restaurants that fill the city centre of Maastricht. It was a very happy time and I made many friends for life.

How did you end up in St. Maarten and at Holland House?

A little more than five years ago, I was working in Atlanta and was looking for a new opportunity. That opportunity came through one of my study friends, who was actually looking for a person like me for a hotel in St. Maarten: the Holland House. I did not hesitate and, after the whole interview business, I set foot on this beautiful island.

What is it about the food and beverage industry that you like?

Everything. Every day, we get to work with a beautiful product that has the potential to make people happy. Whether someone likes a small snack or a full dinner with wine pairing, it is very fulfilling if you can make a moment, hour, day or evening memorable for someone.

Your task at Holland House goes beyond Food and Beverage; what is a typical day like for you?

Well, no day is the same. When you come in on mornings, you do not know what the day will bring. That makes the job actually very challenging.

Do you have any special talents?

Special talents... Well, I think I do know a good bit about wine and I do pretty well at a blind tasting.

How do you occupy yourself when you are not working?

I like being with people and together with my girlfriend; we cook often with and for other people. However, after a hard day's work and finishing late, I like to sit and chat at home with my girl, while enjoying a good glass of wine.

What are your favourite pastimes?

The thoughts about my youth; my school days in Maastricht and my travels to different countries.

What is your pet peeve?

When you have been waiting for a good amount of time to spend a special moment with friends and family over a good bottle of wine; and you open the bottle and it turns out to be corked.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Still in hospitality; that is for sure.

Biggest fear?

My biggest fear is that we continue to (ab)use our planet and environment the way we are (ab)using it now. Polluting the air, the land and the sea so much that the good life we can find in food and drinks is disappearing. Even now you see it happening that products are getting scarce and becoming of lesser quality that they used to.

Happiest moment?

Seeing my family and friends when I visit Holland; or when my family and friends visit me after a long time.

What is your favourite type of music? What artistes do you listen to?

I do like a lot of types of music; but most of the time, good lounge music combined with jazz with saxophone or guitar is my favourite to relax when on the beach.

If you could invite three famous people (dead or alive) for dinner, who would they be and what would you cook for them?

The first person I would like to invite is my grandfather. He was always very interested in his grandchildren and I would like to show him where I ended up. I would cook him smoked mackerel since he liked it so much. The late Marcel Lapierre from the Beaujolais region; he makes the best Morgon wine ever. I would like to share a glass of wine with him and a good cheese platter that fits the Morgon. And the third person would be Eric Clapton, the most brilliant guitar player ever. I would serve him after he gives a private concert to me and my friends.