Interview with Gregor Christiaans, Olijfbedrijf
- 5 min read
I joined the Military Academy in 1986, but it wasn’t quite ‘my thing’. So what to do next? The obvious thing at that time was to buy ‘Elsevier Beroepen Almanak’ and read it from A-Z. I got curious at “H”. Actually, at that time, there was also a tv series called ‘Hotel’. The General Manager of this St. Gregory Hotel was called Peter McDermott, and he had a fantastic PA. That’s what I wanted! So Peter McDermott was actually my trigger to go to the Hotelschool.
I first wanted to go to Maastricht. I asked them if I could skip some first year lessons due to my propaedeuse from the Military Academy. They couldn’t answer me. , When I called Hotelschool The Hague, they replied: “Well mr Christiaans, why ask for dispensation? With your background it will be a piece of cake. I liked that answer, so I chose Hotelschool The Hague.
In my opinion, Hotelschool The Hague is a great university for general management knowledge. Next to that it’s a great place to make new friends.
What I noticed, especially at that time, is that while writing your final thesis, there were a lot of guidelines. If you had one spelling mistake in your report you didn’t have to bother handing it in. Nowadays I am coaching young MBO and HBO students If only they had the same guidelines we had from Raoul Chenevert! But that is why I enjoy working as a coach, and teaching young people. Don’t let your knowledge go to waste, but pass it on to the next generation.
After graduation I worked for different breweries. I started at Oranjeboom beerbrewery as an Inspector for 4 years. At Grolsch brewery I started as a Project Manager. Next I became General Manager ad interim at their largest wholesaling company in Rotterdam. It was in a terrible financial condition. The Director of Grolsch told me I had a year to prove “we don’t have to sell this place”. It became the best wholesaling company of Grolsch and I had the time of my life there for 4 years.
They then sent me to Warsaw as General Manager Poland. A beautiful country where I met my wife. Her parents had build a house on Crete in the middle of nowhere. I spent my summer holidays there several times. The plumber of that house turned out to be President of an olive oil co-operative. Big guy, only spoke Greek. But he sparked my interest and I visited his mill. I literally fell ‘with my nose in the olive oil’ or to say, I hit the olive oil jackpot, as it is one of the two best olive oil producers on Crete,possibly in Greece.
As a hobby I took some olive oil with me to the Netherlands and started Olijfbedrijf in 2003. After different jobs at companies like Paardenkooper packaging and the Metro Group, I wanted to focus more on my own company. So ‘Olijfbedrijf’ became my full time job. It nowadays serves around 130 restaurants throughout the Netherlands. The main products are olive oils, olives, balsamic vinegars, capers and other mediterranean products with a focus on sustainability.
If you specialise in something you have to become the best at it. And olive oil became my passion, my specialty. I looked for a study in olive oil and found O.N.A.O.O (Organizzazione Nazionale Assaggiatori Olio di Oliva) in Italy. I attended their technical tasting course and passed the difficult exams.
With that I became one of the four official olive oil taster in the Netherlands. One of the great things to do is to teach Chef’s, professionals and consumers about olive oil. This I do on a regular basis at the Volksuniversiteiten Amsterdam, Utrecht en Amstelveen. But also for the Greek embassy, Italian Chamber of Commerce, cooking schools, restaurants etcetera. Follow your passion! Check your oil and enjoy good food!