Ron Blaauw: 'Entrepreneurship is mainly about the determination to succeed, to want to win at all costs'

'Every lunch and dinner should be approached as if it were the Champions League final.' According to Ron Blaauw, the determination to succeed is one of the main ingredients of success. With a tasty pop-up in Ibiza in prospect, MASTERS will be talking to the culinary entrepreneur. What skills as a chef have contributed to his success and in what ways does he try to stay innovative?
Ron Blaauw
Nina Slagmolen

What was your very first job?

'My very first job was a paper route when I was fifteen years old. In Hoorn, where I grew up. One day, while I was playing football with friends, a man passed by and approached us. He asked if we were interested in delivering newspapers. At the time I earned about 85 guilders a week from that. At that time I was also building my career as an aspiring DJ, so I mainly spent the money I earned on buying records…'

How did you end up in the culinary world?

'That was actually two years later after I had finished MAVO. Where I come from, it was common to stay there all your life, meet a partner, get married, have children and eventually become a grandfather in the same place. But that wasn't my plan; I just wanted to go to Amsterdam. When I heard about a chef training in Amsterdam, I thought: "That's it, that's what I'm going for."

So the chef's training was actually more of a kind of 'golden ticket' to freedom?

'Yes, it was indeed more from the desire to leave my hometown than from always knowing that I wanted to become a chef.'

At some point you decided to leave the kitchen behind and take the entrepreneurial path...

'I am still active in the kitchen, albeit in a very different way. About 25 years ago I decided to take a different direction and step aside. I started to focus more on the entire organization and started doing business. The reason for that was that I didn't see myself in the kitchen until I was 65. I also worked for a boss until 1998. I saw that it was getting busier and I thought: "If I can do this for a boss, then I can also do it for myself."


'It shows that as an entrepreneur you invest in the comfort and attractiveness of the business'


The rest is history… You opened seven businesses with the Ron Gastrobar DNA. What formula makes this concept so successful?

'For us it is mainly about enjoyment at a high level with a more accessible approach. We try to remove the barriers that you often encounter with traditional culinary experiences. Instead, you feel welcome and appreciated in the place where you eat. The emphasis is on hospitality and creating a warm, homely atmosphere. This is supported by good value for money, which is of great importance to many people.'

You once said: 'People need to see that you are shaking things up and continuously innovating and improving.' How do you try to stay innovative?

'When we look at the menu, variety is especially important. In addition, also the speed of service. Food is of course always central, but it is also essential that guests can see that the money they invest is returned to the business itself. Whether it concerns that one lick of paint, a clean terrace or a new design, it shows that as an entrepreneur you invest in the comfort and attractiveness of the business.'

Where do you get inspiration from?

'I mainly get inspiration from abroad. Particularly from cities like Paris, where gastronomy is currently booming. There you now see many young top chefs who have started their own business and come up with new cuisines and ideas through a lot of travel. But cities like New York, Barcelona and London are always inspiring, not only in the culinary field, but also in the field of design and fashion. My inspiration can come from something very simple, such as the color of a beautiful fashion brand. It's all about constantly receiving new stimuli and dealing with them creatively. And indeed, I think traveling is extremely important.'


'I think that in entrepreneurship it is mainly about the determination to succeed'


What skills as a chef do you think contributed to your success as an entrepreneur?

'I think that entrepreneurship is mainly about the determination to succeed, to want to win at all costs. And that drive to win, that motivation, is crucial. You have to be ready one hundred percent every day. At this level you can't afford to slack off. Every lunch, every dinner should be approached as if it were the final of the Champions League. That's how you should approach it with your team. I believe that a high degree of professionalism, perseverance, stability and being a point of calm for your team are also important.'

Next summer Ron Gastrobar will join forces with OKU Ibiza, what can we expect?

'Next summer, Ron Gastrobar will set up a pop-up in Ibiza for a month in collaboration with OKU Ibiza. We are going there for a month of Indonesian cooking in a fantastic atmosphere. We're really looking forward to it. I love Ibiza and have been coming there for a long time. I always enjoy the atmosphere, especially in the pre-season and post-season. It has the image of one party island, but I find it very relaxing because of the accessibility, the high quality of restaurants and the pleasant life.'

But… You thought it would be a shame to wait; on the 24th and 25th there is already a foretaste in Amsterdam, right?

'That's right, on Sunday March 24 and Monday March 25 you can book a table for both lunch and dinner at Ron Gastrobar, located on Sophialaan in Amsterdam. Guests are invited to enjoy a surprising collaboration that you will not soon forget and that will leave you wanting more... You can go there for lunch, but also for dinner. The menu includes dishes such as crab with radish, kewpie and celeriac, Japanese Wagyu A5 and a handroll with balfego tuna and spring onion.'

Could the pop-up in Ibiza be a harbinger of a Ron Blaauw abroad?

'Say never never. But I always find a case abroad a bit far-fetched. I'm quite a control freak. I like to just go to one of my businesses by bike or scooter.'

Enjoy the surprising collaboration? On Sunday March 24 and Monday March 25 you can here reserve a table for both lunch and dinner Ron gastrobar, located at Sophialaan 55 in Amsterdam.