Imke Kok & Siti Boelen | Neighbourfood Market
Once a month, Amsterdam's foodies unite at the Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam West. Famed local chefs and starting caterers, biological farmers and bread bakers, sausage specialists
and cheese makers, juice squeezers and coffee roasters all meet at the
, founded by food
enthusiasts Imke Kok (1979, Roermond) and Siti Boelen (1977, Nieuwkuijk). With backgrounds in the TV industry, Imke and Siti have created a place for the sharing of great food
and a platform to tell the stories behind not only the delicious products and the freshly prepared products but the makers too. We met with Imke and Siti at the market last month to
talk about how they founded the market and their plans for the future.
Can you tell us a little about yourselves?
Imke went to study journalism in Tilburg when she was 18 and Siti studied communication science at the UvA. We first met around 10 years ago when we both enrolled in a course at the Media Academy. We worked together for a few years creating TV shows (including the Dutch show, Wie is de mol? ) and became close friends. We're involved in editing, directing, reporting and format development. We started our own company, Sien (website under construction) about six years ago and started doing all kinds of things next to our full-time jobs. Siti still works at Blazhoffski as head of the Research & Development department but will start working full-time at our company, Sien, from the 1st of July. Imke has been working full-time at Sien for the past two years and occasionally works as a freelancer in the TV industry.
What inspired you to start the Neighbourfood Market?
We started working in the TV industry about four years ago and traveled together often. That's when it all came together. We realized that even though there great food markets all over the world, there wasn't one in Amsterdam (at the time). We decided we would start one ourselves. With the concept of a market, we could combine everything we enjoyed and considered to be important including great food, the company of friends and family in a nice setting, and be involved in the styling and interior design, PR and the telling of inspiring stories.
And how has it evolved over the years?
The Neighbourfood Market started around the kitchen table after work hours, but soon took up a lot of our time. We've really grown since then, and so has Amsterdam. We’re no longer the only food market in the city, so it’s important to differentiate ourselves. We still do everything ourselves. The DJ is actually our business manager, we draw all the signs ourselves, and the Friday before the market we look for furniture and decorations at second-hand stores to decorate the market. We hang up the lights, prepare the table decorations and take out the trash. Even though we work with volunteers, great people who are passionate about the market and want to help us out on their free Sunday, we still do the majority ourselves. We put a lot of effort into creating a pleasant atmosphere with fitting decorations, and feel a sense of pride when people spend hours hanging out, conversing with friends and vendors, and sampling freshly prepared foods at the market. That's when we’ve succeeded in creating exactly what we wanted: a relaxed, low-key setting, bringing together all types of people through foods they may never have tried before.
Can you tell us more about the market and the vendors?
The entrepreneurs who participate in the market have small starting businesses or catering companies that make use of the market to find new work. We want to create a platform for small entrepreneurs and allow them to reach a larger, or different, group of people than they would alone. We try to differentiate ourselves as a market by bringing together a variety of different foods and flavors, and to tell the stories behind the dishes. Many of the entrepreneurs have done other things in their lives but have made work out of a hobby, or are in the process of doing that. A school teacher turned baker, a PR expert who whips up home-made jams, an editor turned fusion chef, a stylist with a love for Korean spring rolls. Everything at the market is made fresh, and the vendors have the possibility to share their stories with the market goers. We're quite critical about the vendors, The food is important, but so is the shared experience. We're trying to create a relaxed, low-key environment for the tasting of a variety of different foods, trying new things, and learning what good food is all about.
Would you say that the city of Amsterdam inspires you?
Amsterdam is definitely inspiring. There are so many great things happening in the city and there’s always something to do. Sometimes it’s hard to find a peace and quiet with everything that’s happening around us. We like to head down to the south of Holland, to Brabant and Limburg where we’re from, or to the Flevopark or to the Gaasperplas for a swim in the summer. That's where we come up with our best ideas. But walking through the Haarlemmerstraat and popping into all the great shops helps too!
Can you name a few of your favorite places in Amsterdam?
Bar Bukowski for incredible cocktails and great beers, because we live in the east and we’re excited about everything that’s happening there. We also like Elsas, a classic Amsterdam-style brown cafe without any frills, and great beer. There are also exciting things happening at the Beukenplein in Amsterdam Oost - various bars, good food and large terraces. Cake at Coffee Bru (their second location, Rum Baba, is also a favorite). Another favorite place is the Flevopark. We also like to visit Amsterdam Noord for the second-hand stores (where we find furniture for the NFM and our office) and have coffee at Pussy Galore. And Cafe Modern has been on our list for dinner for a while now. There’s so much to do in Amsterdam it’s hard to keep track of it all, but we do our best!
What does a typical day look like for you?
In the mornings we head to the office where we meet up with our colleagues Martijn (our business manager), Nanna (freelancer), and two interns. We make a cup of coffee and go through the daily to-dos. We brainstorm together in between checking emails and share the things we think are interesting or the things we’ve read. Nanna and the interns are in charge of the markets, keeping the website up-to-date, and answering our emails. Siti and I are out and about a lot more, meeting with representatives from the various city districts, for example, or other initiatives for partnerships, possible sponsors, bloggers, etc. We’re working a lot more on other projects right now, but we keep a close eye on the Neighbourfood Market. Every flower vase must be positioned correctly, every comma must be in the right place in the press releases… Everything must be perfect.
We’ve been dreaming about opening a permanent location for a long time now. Think a large old factory space where we can do whatever we like in terms of the interior decoration and start collaborations with other great initiatives. An incubator for food and creativity. And we want to continue to expand the Neighbourfood Market. We’re incredibly happy with our partner, the Westergasfabriek, but we think it would be great to pop up in other city districts and even other cities. We recently had our first event in Utrecht and that was a great success. On the 21st of June we’ll be at the Krugerplein in Oost, and on the 28th of June, we’re participating in the Elle Festival in the Jordaan. We’re working out a lot of our ideas and plans and we don’t think it’ll be too long before we can realize it all. How great will that be!
Don’t miss it, a special weekend edition at the Westergasfabriek, on Saturday from 12 to 10pm and Sunday from 11am to 6pm. This month’s theme is MAN MADE in celebration of Father’s Day. For more information about the Neighbourfood Market, visit the website , read the blog and follow along on Facebook .