Yvette van Boven

Food writer‚ culinary editor‚ cookbook maker‚ illustrator & chef Amsterdam & Paris

Interview by Nikolaj Hansson
Illustration by Sine Jensen

May 10 2016

She is an Irish-born enigma with more titles than almost anyone‚ all with just one common denominator: food. Yvette cooks‚ writes‚ draws food and runs the Amsterdam riverside restaurant‚ Aan De Amstel‚ together with her husband‚ photographer Oof Verschuren.

Her beautifully unpretentious cookbook‚ Home Made‚ has been a smashing success‚ has been translated into several languages and has spawned a half-dozen delicious variants.

Seeing as there are so many cookbooks on the market today‚ have you found it challenging to set yours apart from the crowd?

Of course. Sometimes I decide to not look at any cookbook ever again‚ just because I don’t want to be discouraged by the great stuff that’s already been made out there. On the other hand‚ I always depend on myself. No one is me‚ so as long as I stay true to myself‚ I hope my work turns out fairly original.

Why draw food when you can take pictures of it?

I’ve always drawn food. Even before I could write. I’m a lazy writer‚ so I’d rather jot every recipe down in an illustration rather than shoot it on my phone. Also‚ a picture only shows you the final product. An illustration can show you the whole preparation process.

In addition to illustration‚ you author books and own a restaurant. Could you ever be appeased only doing one of those three things?

Not at all. It’s all about doing something different every day. That keeps me going. I’d get bored easily if I could only do one job.

Would you like to elevate the perception of Dutch gastronomy?

I don’t care much about Dutch food. Of course there are fantastic ingredients‚ but I’d rather invent my own recipes‚ inspired by other countries‚ with them. Dutch food can be quite simple and straightforward. It’s not very inventive and certainly not elegant.

What do you think is missing from Dutch food culture?

Oh‚ a lot‚ although many things are changing at the moment. There are some pretty cool restaurants in Amsterdam these days. But looking at our food heritage‚ Dutch food tends to be quite graceless; it’s straightforward‚ without any elegance. There’s plenty of room for improvement‚ in my opinion.

Can feelings of sentimentality‚ nostalgia and yearning be implemented into a dish?

Absolutely! That’s the only way I think of recipes. Every meal comes from a certain memory. It could be something I ate on a holiday or something from my youth. Food brings back memories. I try to revive them in new recipes. Or I try to revive old ones.

Are good meals with family and friends vital to well-being?

Yes‚ definitely. Not a week goes by without a big meal with friends or family. I’m quite close to my family and we all love to eat (and drink) so we catch up quite often. We usually gather at our home. Our table fits eight now‚ but we can squeeze ten or even a dozen in too. It happens all too often. We will have to get a bigger table for our new home.

If you could only eat one type of food‚ which would it be? And why?

I could eat vegetables forever. I could broil a cabbage and it would resemble a Sunday roast. Vegetables are so versatile and I love the fact that they are seasonal; every season has its abundance. There’s something to look forward to every month.

What is people’s biggest misconception about cooking?

That it’s hard‚ haha.

When did you know that you wanted to cook for a living?

I’ve always known. I just never guessed that it would actually happen to me. I guess that I was around 33 years old or so when I really made the choice to only focus on something that made me happy every single day.