Nobody does my thinking for me
As published in De Tijd
Who is the bestselling food author in Flanders? Not Piet Huysentruyt. Not Jeroen Meus. No, it is Pascale Naessens. And this week the Chinese also fell for her charms. Here is the business recipe of Flanders' purest chef.
It is hard not to notice Pascale Naessens (45). She is beautiful, intelligent and articulate. Yet for many years she has remained in the shadow of her husband, television personality Paul Jambers. But those days are now behind her. Before long, people will be asking 'Paul who? You mean Mr. Naessens?' Five years after the publication of her first cookbook, all five of her books are currently in the non-fiction top ten. At the moment, she is selling four times better than the number two, Jeroen Meus. And on Wednesday in Peking she won the prestigious Gourmand Award for the best series of cookbooks. Her 'Pure' tableware line has already sold more than 600,000 plates, bowls and dishes, all made to her own designs. Everything she touches turns to gold.
It must be hard work. How do you manage to keep going?
Pascale Naessens: It's very hectic. I would really love to spend a couple of weeks in my workshop, just making pottery. But first I have to meet the deadline for my new cookbook that is coming out in September. The floor of my study is covered with all kinds of notes and papers. But I couldn't pass up the chance to make my work more widely known in China.
You haven't exactly followed a traditional route to the top: from model to television presenter to business woman.
Pascale Naessens: I come from a family of independent-minded hard workers. My parents had their own wholesale drinks business, and the idea was that my brother and I would eventually take over its management. That's why I studied economic sciences at school and I even began higher education courses in business economics and accountancy. But when I was 18, I decided I wanted to see the world. Modeling was my ticket to freedom. I have lived in Milan, Paris and Hong Kong. And I have learned things there that they can never teach you in a university. I have achieved as much as I could in the modeling profession; I was never going to make it to the absolute top. I returned to Belgium and by chance VTM was looking for a new presenter. I did that for 10 years. I had no plan. But if I now look back, I can see that there was a certain method to the things I did. I have always had confidence in myself. And if you choose consistently for the things you like to do, everything will turn out alright in the end.
How far does your ambition stretch?
Pascale Naessens: Abroad is the next big challenge. My tableware has shown me that this is possible. I sell lots in countries where I am hardly known. As far as the books are concerned, I first need to boost sales in the Netherlands. Then I can move into the countries where the tableware is already selling well. The two things tend to complement each other. China might be a step too far. It's a difficult market and you can easily fall flat on your face. But in Beijing we also spoke to Italian and German publishers. And even a French one as well - although I don't think the French are holding their breath for a cookbook from 'a little Belgian'.
* For full article, see attached PDF file (in Dutch).