Interview with Jord Althuizen: "I'm the gypsy of the hospitality industry"
- 5 min read
Jord Althuizen, is on a mission to introduce the Netherlands to better quality BBQ. This former Hotello of the Year and world champion BBQ is a judge on Dutch tv show Grillmasters and radio sidekick for BBQ advice. Last year we interviewed him in light of the 85th Anniversary of Hotelschool The Hague and this was published in a special 85th Anniversary Magazine. Read the interview below:
I did my first internship at Disney, where I met my American sweetheart, my wife. I have also done my final internship in America. So, I have a good relationship with the States. During one visit in Colorado I stumbled upon a BBQ competition, on a main street of a small mountain village. It was bursting with big heavy steel BBQ's and smokers. A group of rough men were doing their thing, I was very impressed. By coincidence a week after our return to the Netherlands, I attended an office BBQ. It was a typical event with a classic model BBQ accompanied with potato salad, coleslaw, frozen satay, satay sauce and baguettes. I then noticed how big the difference between America and the Netherlands was. I saw an opportunity, a strategic gap as they so nicely call it at the Hotel School. So I thought: I will gladly jump into that gap!
Together with two other colleagues, I created a hut made of stuff from Gamma and we started at an earlier edition of the Rolling Kitchens Festival in Amsterdam. We thought it was super cool, even though we made a loss of 400 euros. That was the starting point of a big adventure. A family reunion followed, a company party and then the excitement of the first internet booking by a stranger! It turned from a hobby into a full time job. The two friends from the start and I friendly went our separate ways and nowadays I run solo.
We focus on delivering a different experience to our customers. It starts with quality and good materials. Our own recipes, and homemade as much as possible. We work with meat that is of a more sustainable origin. Heyde Hoeve pigs for our pork, ‘Gildehoen’ chicken and our salmon is always MSC or ASC certified. We also create an experience. At one point we decided to build the largest smoker in the Netherlands. We called ourselves the "authentic BBQ caterer". That worked in 2010, but in 2011 everyone called themselves authentic, even Albert Heijn. It became a buzzword.
So we have to give it meaning to be ‘authentic’. We determined our brand values. Everything we do, from our traditional cooking methods to the materials used, must be authentic. We work without plastic. Everything is steel, wood or stone. Our buffets are handmade from old cigar boards. It looks tough, old and used.
Hotellos can be pigheaded and cocky, starting with me. Hotellos always have their own opinion on how it could be better. And that's great, because you add value. You not only carry out the tasks at hand, you think about efficiency and how things can be improved. Well, if you are confronted with 50,000 hungry people at the Lowlands festival, it is of course not the most convenient time to evaluate, then you just have to get things done. With a smile of course!
What I loved about studying at Hotelschool The Hague, is that you really mature during those 4 years. You start with a sort of top-down relationship with your lecturers. They tell you what to do, you do it and you just hope it is good enough. At the end, you reach a level of more equality. Those lecturers become your coaches, your source of information. That relationship, I really enjoy.
I sometimes say; I'm the gypsy of the hospitality industry. Except being a bouncer or sommelier, I have covered almost every function. From working in the kitchen of a hotel, to sous chef, to chef. Then I became a start up manager for different restaurants at La Place, and afterwards worked through secondment. Moved to Foodstep, a consultant for the hospitality. I was then asked by Food Inspiration Belgium to become their editor-in-chief, I did that with pleasure for three years. And then Smokey Goodness came along.
When I look back, I know Hotelschool The Hague gave me the fundamental knowledge to become a manager. At my internships I learned to work in a kitchen, at La Place I have learned to be managerial and also how to buy in and to effectively plan. Through secondment I have learned to be commercial. And as consultant at Foodstep I learned about development and trends in food. It was the ultimate combination to start my own concept, and that is probably one of the reasons why it’s very successful.
In 5 years? We have healthy ambitions. We have doubled every year, but for next year we want to focus on better returns. In 5 years I hope Smokey Goodness will be a brand that is recognised for its quality and authenticity. And we would like to develop more aspects of BBQ. You can think of a restaurant, product line, tools, maybe our own BBQ. That we will be a name you mention alongside Weber and Big Green Egg.