The Silent Force Behind Science Park’s Living Room

By Ronja Boer

Collage by Amal

— For AUC students who spend their nights at the legendary Maslow borrels, Raoul Eljon is the known owner of the café. Most of them, however, do not know that Rivka Reijzer-Eljon, his sister and co-owner, pours her heart out in the kitchen.

“If she wants something, it has already been taken care of yesterday.” Eljon says about his sister. Though she often remains in the background, Reijzer-Eljon is a passionate and important force in Maslow. “If something goes wrong, Rivka will personally make sure it gets fixed,” Ezra Reijzer, her husband of more than 25 years, says. When asking him how he would describe Reijzer-Eljon he answers “ a hard worker,” without hesitation.

 “I see people fall in love and cry when they break up again. I see people come back with suitcases and greet their friends.”

Rivka Reijzer-Eljon

About ten years ago, Eljon and Reijzer-Eljon decided to change their careers and open a restaurant together. Neither of them had experience running a restaurant, let alone creating a menu. For Reijzer-Eljon, this was nothing to worry about. “I taught myself,” she says. It is her talent and passion for her work in the kitchen that has made her so successful.

Reijzer-Eljon’s talent was noticed from the start. After just one day, there was a line of people in front of the small pop up stand she set up with her brother and husband. For the next four months, they consistently served food to high-heeled ladies on their way to work. Soon after, they set their eyes on Science Park where Maslow opened in June 2014.

Photo by Ronja Boer

What Reijzer-Eljon cooks must be personal to her. “We don’t serve pork and shellfish for example. I wouldn’t want to have something on my menu that I don’t eat myself.” Her personal involvement is noticeable by the way she talks about Maslow. Though she often works behind the wall that separates the restaurant from the kitchen, she is able to get a glimpse into the lives of their visitors through the small window. “I see people fall in love and cry when they break up again. I see people come back with suitcases and greet their friends.” The place has always felt like a second living room to Reijzer-Eljon. As her brother says: “She puts her heart and soul into it.”

Because of her Jewish heritage, Reijzer-Eljon grew up in a family where there was more attention on food than in the average Dutch family. As a young girl she often cooked with her late mother and helped prepare entire feasts. Later, when she worked as a biology teacher, she would teach children about the origin of apples and flour, after which they would bake apple pies. When her own children came of age, she would cater for their bar and bat mitzvahs. At this point Reijzer-Eljon knew she had a real talent for cooking and catering.

Being an ambitious worker like Reijzer-Eljon comes with a price, however. Restaurant work is physically hard and Reijzer-Eljon never misses out on helping others, even if that means she has even more work to do. Her husband believes that the key is to support each other. “A good friend of ours had a stroke not long ago, but was going to start a vegetable stall on the market the next week,” he says. “So for five weeks Rivka and I ran their stall.” 

This unstoppable work ethic has been of great value for Maslow. Reijzer-Eljon does not stop working before everything for the day is done. She also recognizes that she might need to take a step back in the future. When asking Eljon if his sister works a bit too hard at times, he responds “Yes, I think so. Which is a great power of hers, but sometimes it’s also good to take a step back.” For Reijzer-Eljon, this is not an easy task. When being interviewed she says: “I usually never sit this long and even eat while standing.”

For now, it looks like Reijzer-Eljon is all but finished expanding her culinary skills. Maslow is slowly reopening its door more frequently since the heat of the COVID-19-crisis and its restrictions loosened. Next to that, the catering business is expanding. When it comes to her work, she is still as happy in Maslow’s kitchen as she was when the restaurant opened. “The first thing I think of in the morning is coming here,” she says smiling, “I love being here.”

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