White truck, red banner on the roof. In big letters: De Lekkerste, referring to the kebabs that the couple sell for 2.50 euros each. Around fifty a day, five days a week. Located next to the tennis courts on campus, opposite G building. Ümüs is the chatterbox, Hidayet is the grumbler. Until it all came to an end in 2013.
Ümüs: ‘’Students used to tell me everything. One would talk about her pregnancy, another would say that he wanted to break up with his girlfriend. I was like a mother to them.’’
The couple, now grandparents, have nostalgic memories about their time among the students. Their life has changed radically since leaving the campus at the end of 2013, driven away by the rocketing rental price. Having initially paid 275 euros rent a month, after the refurbishment of the campus – and the arrival of the food court – the price would have soared to 50,000 euros a year.
Unaffordable for the couple, who ‘sadly’ withdrew. The truck disappeared into a Rotterdam storage depot, the couple retired to the sofa. Hidayet fought cancer, now largely cured, but boredom has now set in. Ümüs dreams of being back among the youngsters again, fed up as she is with her husband’s constant grumbling. The days creep by, without De Lekkerste.
The couple opened the food truck in 2006. Their first spot was by the water near the Brainpark, but later students help them move to the campus. The students thought the canteen was too expensive and collected signatures to make their move possible. A professor friend, Justus Veenman, put in a good word with the executive board.
Primary school teacher
After Hidayet emigrated from Turkey to the Netherlands in 1973, he worked as a welder on prestigious projects like the Erasmusbrug and the Van Brienenoordbrug. His qualifications as a primary school teacher prove unusable: he speaks very little Dutch.
He comes up with De Lekkerste for his wife, who loves cooking. Many Turkish people who come to the Netherlands choose the same route. The couple bought the food truck from a Dutchman who sold ‘the tastiest’ (‘de lekkerste’) chips in Germany. The food truck was never repainted, which is why the name stayed. Hidayet didn’t think it needed changing: ‘It’s a catchy name.’’
Over the years, Hidayet became just as enthusiastic about De Lekkerste as Ümüs. “It became my hobby. When I wasn’t working, I’d go and help my wife. I enjoyed having all the young people around. Students who talked about their dreams and careers. It was amazing.’’ Ümüs, sitting opposite him at the table and who doesn’t speak much Dutch, nods.
They feel that returning to the campus is the only solution for them. Permits for other locations in the city are difficult to get. Furthermore, Hidayet feels it would help him stay healthy. Their more or less forced departure was very stressful. And stress would be fatal for the cancer in his throat, which is now largely under control.
Hidayet is considering writing a letter to the university to ask whether the food truck can return for a more affordable rent. He isn’t sure yet: he actually feels abandoned by the executive board.
If they were invited to discuss it, the entrepreneur is prepared to modify his concept. ‘A different truck, for example. As long as we can come back. It would make us incredibly happy.’’