From the vegan restaurant, with its ceiling full of plants and pendant lights, you can see Daniëlle van de Geer (26) working in the kitchen. In her dark green apron, she is working with colleagues to prepare for the dinner shift. Copper pans hang above the kitchen appliances. She does all kinds of things here, from making ice cream and butter to blanching vegetables. “This place is right up my street.”

This is her third week as an intern at Brasserie Amare in The Hague. The internship forms part of her Self-employed chef course at the Horeca Academy in the same city. Here, she started following a work/learning pathway this month: she spends one day a week at the academy and the other four days working in the kitchen of the restaurant.

Traumatic personal event

Not all that long ago, Daniëlle was still at university. She started her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in 2015, and five years later she obtained her Master’s degree in Global Business and Sustainability. She found the degree programmes ‘extremely enjoyable’ and ‘super interesting’, she says. After that, she also enjoyed working as a sustainability coordinator at a company where she worked for almost three years. “Those were not wasted years.”

Danielle van de Geer-Amere-Den Haag-keuken-koksopleiding-koken-3.2023_Ronald van den Heerik
Image credit: Ronald van den Heerik

But following a ‘traumatic personal event’ last year, she began to think about how she wanted to spend the rest of her life, she says. What exactly that event involved, she would rather keep to herself. “I thought, ‘Is this really what I want to do for the rest of my life?’ What should I do to really make the most of it?”

She soon realised that the idea of ‘spending her whole life behind a desk’ did not make her happy. “My body had too much energy to sit in an office all day.” After a day’s work, she preferred to put that energy into cooking. “I also found it relaxing at the same time.”

Social expectations

She always used to joke that she wanted to open something of her own – a farm, restaurant or bed and breakfast. “But it was a joke with a grain of truth in it.” She developed the desire to open a vegan or vegetarian restaurant in the future. “And if you want a restaurant, you have to be able to cook.” After a trial lesson at the Horeca Academy, she just knew: “This is it.”

She found the move to the academy quite stressful. “I was afraid of social expectations,” she says. “I made a choice that isn’t traditional for someone with a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree, so I wondered: is this the right path? Even though I knew it’s what I wanted to do.”

Her fear did not prove justified, and so far she has only had positive reactions. “People admire my decision. I don’t look at it that way myself, because doing what you enjoy is really the way to go.”

Danielle van de Geer-Amere-Den Haag-keuken-koksopleiding-3.2023_Ronald van den Heerik
Image credit: Ronald van den Heerik


So far, she has ‘very much enjoyed’ the academy and the restaurant, she says. “I love being busy all day.” She felt that her university education lacked a practical nature. “When I learn something here, such as a preparation method, I can immediately apply it in practice. And when I have made a dish, I can see, taste and smell it right away. At the university and in my previous job, the result was less tangible.”


She can now give free rein to all her creativity in the kitchen of the brasserie. She shows a photo of the dish she most enjoys making: kohlrabi with tarragon dressing, a kind of colourful work of art with mandarin orange, thinly peeled radish, radicchio and deep-fried kohlrabi leaf on a chic blue plate. “It’s cool that I also work on decorating dishes here,” she says. “When I serve something, I’m proud of what I’ve made.”