Dirk Deichmann grew up in Germany. His mother taught him how to make potato salad and cake. His father was a hunter. “I’m not much of a meat eater myself, but if my father caught a deer and my mother prepared it, that was always a particularly delicious meal.”

Deichmann was the first person in the family to go to higher education. He moved to Groningen to study business administration at Hanze UAS.

Number of books per year: about four, ‘I already read so much for my work’

Favourite genre: Scandinavian thrillers

Last book read: Rye Curtis, Kingdomtide

Primary motivation: relaxation

A bit from me and a bit from Albert Heijn

As a student in Groningen, Deichmann used to follow the paper recipes he picked up at the Albert Heijn supermarket. His bookcase also contained a cookbook with 100 easy noodle recipes. He had a small repertoire, with a few dishes that he made on a regular basis. “Cooking was an afterthought, something that had to take as little time as possible.”

Until a colleague at the VU – as Deichmann was now an assistant professor – talked about the cookbook Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. “This colleague told me that each recipe was equally fantastic, and her enthusiasm was contagious.” Deichmann no longer remembers whether he got Jerusalem from her or whether he bought it himself after her comment. Either way, he shared her enthusiasm. “A whole new world opened up.”

Cooking means buying herbs and spices

He first got his hands on the book Jerusalem about ten years ago. It was his first ‘real’ cookbook. He started by buying herbs and spices. “Now you can just buy za’atar in Albert Heijn, but not back then.” Although he lived in Amsterdam and all the herbs and spices in the cookbook were available somewhere in the city, he sometimes had to Google to find out where. It became a day job to put a meal on the table. “I became really proficient at it. My tastes have developed as a result of this cookbook. I can now taste things much better.” A few recipes from the book that he recommends are salmon steak in chraimeh sauce, kofta b’siniyah, salad of roasted cauliflower and hazelnuts, and mejadra (with lentils, rice and onions). But according to Deichmann, the watercress and chickpea soup with rose water is not to be repeated.

In the cookbook Jerusalem, authors Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi go back to their youth in Jerusalem. They wanted to investigate how the aromas and flavours of the city have made their mark on the way they cook now. Ottolenghi’s signature can be seen in the book. “This book isn’t all that different from the other Ottolenghi books”, says Deichmann. “The herbs and spices, the number of ingredients and the types of recipes are similar to his other books, but for me it was unique.”

The temptation of cookbooks

In Amsterdam, Deichmann lived above the Mevrouw Hamersma cookbook store. He shows us a photo of a cookbook store with a large window, warm lighting and a wooden shop front. Every week, Deichmann would see new books in the window. That surprised him. “So much has been written about cooking, so many cookbooks. I wondered how new books could add to everything that is there already.” He also thought the shop looked nice and wanted to meet with Ms. Hamersma. He managed this by first entering the store with Jerusalem under his arm. “I asked Karin, Ms. Hamersma herself, which book would be a good follow-up to Jerusalem. I now have about ten cookbooks on my shelf.”

Ms. Hamersma slowly became involved in the study that Deichmann set up. He wondered what makes a cookbook successful and why many successful cookbook writers only publish a single cookbook. Unique cookbooks usually do well with buyers. So do books that have won an award. But if a cookbook is innovative and has won an award, Deichmann’s research shows that the authors tend to become reluctant to publish a second book. “Many authors are afraid that their second cookbook will fade by comparison with their first creative project. Fortunately, Ottolenghi didn’t let that stop him. Jerusalem is neither his first nor his last book, but it has certainly inspired me.”

Dirk Deichmann is an associate professor at the Rotterdam School of Management, in the Technology and Operations Management department. He conducts research into the characteristics and consequences of creative and innovative behaviour, with a special interest in the development and implementation of creative ideas.

Benjamin Mullins – Ronald van den Heerik

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