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Former student Pieter owner of Michelin-starred restaurant Joelia

Pieter is 23 years old and became the youngest owner ever of a Michelin-starred restaurant in the Netherlands. The chef Mario Ridder handed over his restaurant Joelia (1 Michelin star) in Rotterdam on the 1st of January. It was also a proud moment for Tio, as Pieter studied Hotel and Event Management with us in Rotterdam! We interviewed Pieter and Mario on location.

Joelia at the Hilton Rotterdam

Mario: “Nine years ago I started Joelia at the Hilton in Rotterdam. I felt that the company needed a new owner, and so I started looking for the best candidate. Pieter and his family came to eat at our Chef’s Table between Christmas and New Year. They ordered some lovely bottles of wine which made me curious about them as guests: who were they, what were their tastes, what did they all do? I sat down with them, and we started talking about wine, the catering industry, and so much more.

That night, I heard Pieter’s father say: ‘Pieter, make a start for yourself as soon as possible, you should never work too long for a boss’. This prompted me to give him my phone number as I thought 'maybe I have something for you!' We sat down together regularly in January and February, me with my wife, Pieter with his father. We had nice conversations that got more and more serious.

Pieter: “In April, we officially shook hands. And we were eventually able to share the news with the outside world in mid-August. The funny thing is that we nearly decided to eat somewhere else that night. Had we gone to a different restaurant, all this might never have happened!”

What an opportunity!

Pieter: “Getting an opportunity like this was a bit surreal. I thought, what’s happening to me? I’d been working in the catering industry since I was thirteen, first in the kitchen and later in service. When I turned fifteen, I did a internship at Joelia, my first internship at this level. I’d always liked it as a business, had followed it closely and eaten there regularly over the years. I’ve really come full circle. In the last few years, I’ve gained a lot of experience at other restaurants, including abroad. But this has always been my dream. Thanks to Joelia, my love for restaurants at this level has blossomed. It's truly a dream!

The future

Pieter: “From the beginning of next year, I’ll own half of it, and the full 100 percent a year later. It’s all happening step by step. Mario and I sit down together for half an hour every day. I fire any questions or ideas I have at him. Things are also changing. The menu is changing, and we want to take care of nature a little more. We want to use more local products. We still get a nice piece of Wagyu from Japan and truffles which cannot be found in the Netherlands. But everything we can get locally, we want to get from the Netherlands.”

Hospitality at Tio

Pieter: “I ended up doing the bachelor Hotel and Event Management at Tio Rotterdam because of a classmate from my secondary hotel school. While I was researching my options, he told me about Tio. He liked it there and had a great feeling about it. He told me to go and take a look, and the rest is history. This classmate got his MBA at Tio just last week!”

Personal development

Pieter: “I had a great time at Tio. Tio is where I learned about having an entrepreneurial and active attitude. Of course, you also gain knowledge from courses on finance, marketing, strategy and entrepreneurship. But my way of thinking benefitted from my time at Tio. My mindset and my personal development took a huge step forward. And I also learned a lot about management”.

Any tips for students with big plans and dreams?

Pieter: “Chase your dreams! It’s that simple. If you get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, take it and don’t look back! You do have to consider things carefully, but if it’s an opportunity you’ve always dreamed of... just do it!”