We start off this series with a very well-known surname: Hermans. You may have heard of ‘Bekkerij Mathieu Hermans’ from locals or fellow students, who told you where to get the best ‘Vlaai’ in Maastricht.
We got the chance to catch up with the woman who keeps the family-owned bakery business running, the face of the company for 7 years now, Carmen Hermans!
As we were invited to sit just outside the shop with a nice coffee, and a waffle (see picture below), we got talking about how she took over the business from her father, who followed in his own father’s footsteps.
According to Carmen, her father was the one that made the bakery a famous concept in Maastricht, offering bread, pastries, and tarts to the people of Maastricht according to the original family recipes. As Carmen tells us about her whole family helping out in the bakery, her face lights up. Her uncles and aunts used to and still work in the bakery, and the bakers still use fresh eggs that come from the chicken of other family members. As we get to know the history bit by bit, it becomes clear that it’s a successful family concept, which makes it very accessible to clients.
When asked how many ‘vlaaien’ the bakery sells a day, Carmen responds with an estimation of between 60-200 per day. When they see that a lot of vlaaien will be sold, the bakers make an additional batch to sell in the afternoon. That way there’s always enough. Carmen further explains that all the fruit used to make their vlaaien are from surrounding farms and orchards, with as a season special the open-plum vlaai.
As we’re sitting outside of the bakery, which has just been shut due to the summer schedule, a family steps out of a car, walking to the store with anticipation, only to be disappointed in a major way. Apparently they were on their way back from Spain to the North of Holland. They had made a special detour through Maastricht just for the famous vlaai of Bakkerij Mathieu Hermans. This is just a sign of how popular the family-owned bakery is, known throughout the whole of the Netherlands.
Ashika Baan: “What are your favourite places in Maastricht to have a drink, a bite and coffee?”
Carmen Hermans: “For coffee I love to go to Museum aan ‘t Vrijthof, where you can sit under a glass ceiling. Not by coincidence, they sell our vlaaien, it’s definitely worth a visit. For drinks and hanging out with friends I recommend Café Zondag, which has a very nice vibe. When going for a nice bite to eat in the evening Café Sjiek is great. With a nice variety of food and drinks you can always relax and enjoy the evening on their terrace or inside.
AB: “What is your favourite shop?
CH: “I don’t have that much time to shop overall, because I’m pretty busy with the bakery, but a shop worth mentioning that I love, is Festen, which is located in the Minckelersstraat. You can have coffee there, but also interior decoration, clothing, stationary and jewellery.”
AB: “What is your favourite event in Maastricht throughout the year?
CH: “Well, something that is quite obvious for me and my business, is the Preuvenemint (28-31 August), a big, annual food and drinks fair, which is located on the Vrijthof. Something lesser-known, but also very nice, with an amazing atmosphere is BBkoe, which is a cooperation of all the restaurant-people in the Koestraat, there’s live music, barbecues and nice drinks throughout the area. This year it takes place on the 24th of August, so definitely worth a visit.
AB: “Where do you go for art and culture?”
CH: -laughs- “My head is practically in the oven, so I don’t have that much time to do this, but I would say the Bonnefantenmuseum is one that you can’t miss. What’s also very nice, is the one-day music festivals that are organised for students and young professionals, much like Piquenique Électronique.
AB: “What is Maastricht’s best kept secret?”
CH: “There’s a little square, between the Stokstraat and the Onze-Lieve-Vrouweplein. It’s when you walk past ‘In de Moriaan’. The terrace of restaurant Rozemarijn overlooks this secret square. It’s super serene and somewhat desolate, but it’s very nice to be there and to sit.”
AB: “What is the best memory that you have here in Maastricht?”
CH: “One time a customer wanted to get a vlaai from our bakery, but there was a huge cue. Instead he took one of our vlaai-boxes and put in a vlaai from another shop. When his wife tasted it, she wanted to return it, because she thought it not satisfactory. He had to tell her that it wasn’t actually one of our vlaaien.”
AB: “Which person or historical figure would you like to show Maastricht to?”
CH: “I would like to show my grandfather, the one who started Bakkerij Mathieu Hermans, around the Maastricht of this day. I used to have a good relation with him, so I would take him to Café Sjiek and have a wine. I would also love to show him what the shop looks like now. Compared to former times the bakery has become more versatile. It has more personality, more services and there’s a focus on the clients and keeping the standard high. My dad really shaped the bakery to what it is now. I think my grandfather would be proud.”
AB: “What do you do to unwind after work and relax?”
CH: “After work I go home, my second business is my family.” -laughs-
I also love to take an hour off and to go for a work-out, which I love to do at Zenden Sport, here in Maastricht. I also have a passion for good food, so to relax I can also go with friends and family to a nice restaurant and enjoy the Burgundian lifestyle that Maastricht is known for.
AB: “Describe Maastricht in 3 words.”
CH: “Burgundian, Beautiful, Southern (mentality)
After the lovely afternoon we had with Carmen, she showed us through the back of the bakery, with the big, impressive machinery, used to produce the big load of breads and pastries each day to a big number of clients. The following day we return for some good pictures of the bakery in full motion. It’s a sight to see with your own eyes!
To visit the bakery, see the opening hours and what the bakery has to offer, go to the website.
Interview by Ashika Baan, Photography by Brian Megens.