Jop van de Graaf & Nina Pierson | SLA
EAT. SHARE. LIVE. is the tagline of Jop van de Graaf (1984/Haarlem) and Nina Pierson's (1985/Amsterdam) new concept,
opened in July of this year, SLA has become a much talked about (and visited!) spot in De Pijp, serving healthy salads, juices, soups and snacks, so good and packed with flavor that you
forget they're healthy. I met up with the duo to find out more about why they started SLA and their ambitions for the future.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
Jop has a background in the event industry. He co-founded Open AIR, a large festival in the Netherlands, and had his own event company, Carnivale, for a couple of years. He finished his masters in Real Estate Finance (UvA) and worked for a real estate company for one and a half years before starting SLA. Nina has a background in PR and has a Bachelor in Communication Science and a Masters in Journalism (UvA). She owns her own company PUP , a creative agency that guides over 130 new talents in various disciplines and connects them to commercial and cultural clients. We have been a couple since 2008, and living together since 2011 with our two cats Reva & Elfi.
What brought you to Amsterdam?
Jop wanted to study here and moved to Amsterdam in 2004. Nina was born in Amsterdam and after living abroad (in Thailand) and in a suburb 20 minutes outside of Amsterdam, she returned to Amsterdam in 2006 to begin her studies. Most of our friends were here so it was never really an option to go anywhere else.
What inspired you to start SLA?
We came up with the idea after traveling through Burma (Myanmar) and reading the book, The Food Hourglass (De Voedselzandloper). It inspired us to change our lifestyle and become very conscious about what we ate. The book focuses on how certain foods can influence the ageing process. It explains, on a scientific level, what carbohydrates, saturated fats and proteins do with your body. We were totally hooked after reading it. When we came home after our trip, Jop was inspired to change his career, believing he had to tell people how important it is to lead a healthy lifestyle. With our busy lifestyles, we kept searching for somewhere we could eat – something healthy and not too expensive. But we just couldn’t find the right place in Amsterdam. This inspired us to start something for ourselves: SLA.
Can you tell us more about the concept of SLA?
Our tagline is EAT. SHARE. LIVE. And that’s exactly what it is. Eat good and healthy food (eat). Make this good and healthy food accessible to as many people as possible (share), and in doing so, create happy and healthy lifestyles (live). At SLA, we serve salads, juices, soups, and snacks that are so full of flavor you might even forget that they’re hearty and healthy. Bringing the best of both worlds, without the frills. All of the meat and poultry we serve is 100% organic, just as the grain-based and dairy products. Fruits and vegetables are 90% organic. Our beer is locally brewed, the wine organic and worthy of our food, and the coffee served with the fairest flair.
And what has your experience been so far?
It’s been hard work but really great! Jop wakes up everyday with so much energy and excitement for what the day will bring. We are still looking into perfecting the day-to-day things, like employee costs and efficiency handling, but that only makes the work more exciting. But the overall response from our customers has been really great. We take this as a huge compliment and another sign that we did the right thing starting SLA.
Would you say that the city of Amsterdam inspires you?
Actually London and New York inspired us more in the overall concept of SLA, because there were not that many salad bars in Amsterdam to find inspiration. However, Amsterdam is our city and we love it. The city has become more and more a metropolis over the past few years, and can now be compared to cities like New York, London and Paris. It’s really such an inspirational city with tons of creative outbursts, like great (newly opened) museums, loads of festivals and underground events, and great shops, restaurant and cafés popping up on every corner. It’s really cool to see how many young entrepreneurs are doing their ‘own’ thing.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Every day is different, especially now that we are opening a second location. Usually, we spend our mornings checking and answering our emails. At 12.00 we open. Jop works ‘on the floor’ at SLA until about 20.00 – there it’s all about making salads, juices, coffee, tea, etc., and checking supplies. Every once in a while we have appointments with press and partners, that’s mostly Nina’s job. Jop is currently spending most of his time at the new location and meeting with our interior designers, the NICEMAKERS. Nina mainly focuses on all the press requests and social media, and is responsible for the SLA LAB (workshops) and the SLA Shop (opening on the Westerstraat).
Can you name a few of your favorite places in Amsterdam?
We have a lot of favorite places so where should we start? Some of our favorite restaurants include de Kas, Indiaas Eethuis Agra, Balthazars Keuken, Buffet van Odette, The Lobby (V Hotel), Cafe Modern, The Alchemist, De Couscous Club, A La Plancha, Rakang, and Lot Sixty One and Mems for coffee. Favorite shops include Anna+Nina, COTTONCAKE, Hutspot, The Barber, Concrete Matter, SPRMRKT, Baskets and Maison NL. And of course all these other inspirational places such as the Stedelijk Museum and FOAM, Delight Yoga and De Nieuwe Yoga School, Noordermarkt on Saturdays, Kwikfix Massage, and C Cosmetics.
What's next for you?
We are opening a second SLA on the Westerstraat mid-December. But our dreams are even bigger! We want to open up more SLA’s in Amsterdam, but want to introduce as many people as possible to the SLA philosophy so we are also looking into other cities like Utrecht, Rotterdam, The Hague, and Maastricht. And maybe, perhaps, one day, we might go abroad with our concept to cities like New York, Stockholm, London, or Paris... The concept of eating healthy food and leading a conscious lifestyle is universal, timeless, and speaks any language.
Thank you Nina and Jop for this interview! SLA can be found on the Ceintuurbaan 149 and is open from Monday to Saturday from 12.00 to 21.00 (and now open on Sundays too!)