Name: Thérèse Zimmerman

Age: 42

Comes from: I was born in Vlaardingen and for the last 20 years I have lived in the Netherlands in Amsterdam.

Restaurant: Café de Theresa, that’s called a bit different then my original name, but that’s because everyone in Spain already called me like that… Theresa instead of Thérèse. Easier to remember.

Opening times: from 8am-5pm during the week and in weekends from 9am-5pm, but I’m flexible though, when people sit comfortably and it’s busy, I’ll just stay open. On Wednesday, café de Theresa is closed.

Address: Avenida San Lorenzo 18, Estepona

What did you do in the Netherlands?
I have always worked in the hospitality industry, especially in Amsterdam. I have worked 11 years as an assistant manager at Grand Café l’Opera, at the Rembrandt Square in Amsterdam. And before and after that I worked in the catering industry. Finally as catering manager at a company in the south of Amsterdam.

Did you study to do this job?
Yes, I went to the Hotelschool in Apeldoorn in the Netherlands.

What are you doing here in Spain?
At first I was busy getting orientated, I’ve focused on learning the language and discovering the surroundings. I then I volunteered at ‘Cudeca’, a charity shop in Estepona. And I worked a few months in a restaurant in Marbella. I also spent six months working in real estate, telephone sales. And then I knew for sure I should stay in Estepona. It was always my idea to one day start a business. With that idea I also went to Spain. And after two years I took the chance.

Since when did you know you wanted to go working in the hospitality industry?
I think I was twelve, I then got the idea of starting my own business in the hospitality industry. I was often in restaurants with my father because my parents were divorced and my dad was not a very good cook. So we often went out for dinner at ‘Van der Valk’ Hotel  or a Chinese restaurant, and I loved this fantastic world. And when I was fifteen years old, I started working in the hospitality industry, after school hours. I started washing the dishes in a pancake house. Then I went to the Hotel School and I started working at an à la carte restaurant. I learned the basic skills very well. I also learned to taste wine and things like that. I’ve never forgotten that.

Wednesday is your day, how do you spend that day?
I try to always make a special day of it, but I often have to go to visit my gestor, the bank, I have to clean, do my administration, things like that.

What are your hobbies?
Normally I don’t have much time for hobbies, but if I’m free, I like to speak with friends, have a drink and a chat. If I have time, I just love to hike in the mountains or simply walk along the coast or do some recreational cycling. And I love to do everything that relates with food: cooking, baking, trying new things. Now in lockdown (Corona virus) I’m addicted to puzzles … and I like to do sports classes through YouTube.

Do you have many friends who come over from the Netherlands?
Yes, I have some friends who regularly come here and I am very happy to see them. Because they are very sociable. We have a lot of contact via social media and whatsapp, but the best is of course to see them in real life. Sometimes they help in the restaurant and after work they take care of me and they pour me a glass of wine! If one or two friends come over they stay with me and when they come over with more, well than they arrange an apartment.

When did you came to Estepona?
3 years ago.

Why Estepona?
It was never actually my intention to emigrate. I always thought I was going to open a restaurant in or near Amsterdam, but I then I had a sabbatical in 2012, I went to Barcelona for three months. I loved Barcelona, what a great city! I learned Spanish there. I just had a wonderful time there and I did not really want to go back to the Netherlands. But at that time the timing was not right to stay there. So I went back to the Netherlands and lived my normal life again.
But when I was on vacation in 2016 in Andalusia, I thought: ‘It’s now or never!’ At that moment the timing was right! I could sell my apartment in Amsterdam for a good price and also according to work and my personal life, that was the moment to go for it!.
Initially the plan was to start a business in Barcelona, but I changed my mind, because I found Barcelona too busy and there was too much traffic. So I went to Málaga after the summer, but also Málaga was way too busy for me, I was a bit tired of cities, all those crowds of people.
I had friends living in Estepona and one day I went there to take the bus to just say: ‘Hye’. And when I arrived in Estepona I thought, ‘This is it! With all those white houses and flower pots and the sea.’ And if it doesn’t appeal to me later, it might get to quiet, I could always return to the city.

Was it difficult to find a good building to open Café de Theresa?
The funny thing was that three years ago this place was already on the market, but it was too early then. I lived on Avenida de España and I thought back then: ‘That would be something, what a beautiful building to open a restaurant!’
And later it was again on the market and I got it.

How was it to work for a real estate agency?
That was nothing for me. I had to make telephone calls all day, ‘cold calls’, with this customer list with thousands of people who once had requested information and it was my job to start calling them. And when I finally got a client who was interested, I was doing a lot of effort to find a suitable house and then there was another agent who went off with it. People are always busy with multiple agents. The real estate business in Spain is just very different than in the Netherlands. And my heart is really in the hospitality industry anyway.

Where did you live in Estepona and where do you live now?
I started at Avenida de España, fantastic, a small penthouse with sea views, perfect to start! And then I ended up in Seghers and now I recently live in a very cool apartment in la Lobilla. I’m very happy.

Do you speak Spanish?

How did you learn to speak Spanish?
It took a lot of time and effort, I started a 5 week intensive course in Barcelona. But that was already four years ago. So when I came back to Spain I followed again a daily course at EleUsal for 5 weeks. Then I kept doing that once a week. I really need to understand grammar. But when you have to put it into practice, it’s very disappointing. I have a gift for learning languages, but I really underestimated this. Learning a new language is not easy in a short time at my age.
But in my case it has progressed a lot, because I have to. I have to speak Spanish with suppliers, clients and all …
Luckily I have help from a good gestor, though he is Spanish, he speaks good English. I really need his help…

Was it your plan to start a restaurant on your own?
Yes, I wanted to make my own decisions. You can do it with someone, but then you must sometimes compromise. It is also nice to have someone to work with because you can get to different or better ideas. but I now do exactly what I want to do.
It went good. If something goes wrong, I can only blame myself. And I’ve had a lot of help and support of friends, with painting etc….
Especially Jan who has done so much to design the interior, everything he did for me and the logo he designed! (Juan Buendia of Dsgn99, recommended!)
I also had two fantastic employees: Sascha and Tamara, I was lucky to work with them.

Do you have friends in Estepona?
Yeah, friends appeared pretty fast and easy. They come from everywhere. In the beginning I had no Dutch friends, they came from England, France, Scandinavia, Italy … And now I also have some Dutch and Spanish friends.

What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud – apart from people being satisfied with what I present them- that I’ve built a kind of ‘community’, a meeting point for all kinds of people. And what I’m most proud of is people saying, “The atmosphere is so nice!”

There is also a Spanish course to be taken twice a week in Café de Theresa?
Yes, that’s right! Natalia teaches Spanish twice a week here and that generates extra guests. It gives an extra reason to walk in. That’s how people get to know my restaurant and tell me about it.

Do mainly Dutch people visit Café de Theresa ?
Yes and no, it’s really very mixed. All kinds of nationalities …

Was that the intention or did you expect mostly Dutch people as guests anyway?
I think it’s the most fun to meet all kinds of nationalities, I am accustomed to that for a long time living in Amsterdam.

What do you like most about Estepona?
Of course the palm trees, the sea, how beautiful everything is and how well it is maintained. But what I appreciate the most is the ambience. Estepona is big enough, it is a city, but it has the friendly atmosphere of a village.

What are your favorite restaurants?
I like eating tapas in the port, in taberna Mar de Alborán. But I prefer to go to Plaza Ortiz, to visit restaurant La Bulla, their team is very welcoming, the menu is surprising, and the dishes are presented different than usual. I find that a bit a ‘next level’ restaurant.
And Chanchalay, very nice. With very nice staff, it looks nice. I recently had dinner there and I shared food with some friends. We enjoyed all sorts of dishes .
Anyway, I like to try new places.

Do you have any tips for getaways?
I actually send anyone to Casares, which is a beautiful mountain village near Estepona with beautiful views and impressive birds of prey. There you can chat over food and drink on the small square in the village. I think it’s a must!
And I would love to go, but I can not: the Sunday market in Benahavís. The weekly flea market on Sunday morning.
And of course enjoy the cozy homemade apple pie at Café de Theresa, haha!

Are you going on holiday?
Well, if I have time, then I go to the Netherlands to visit my mother. Really going on vacation is not possible right now. Two years ago I’ve been to America, to New York and San Francisco, but now I have to work, work, work. In January I want to have a healthy company, so I put everything into it.

What books and films do you like?
I like Nicci French books, but I love dramatic books as ‘Her name was Sarah’. And movies such as “The Notebook” … Genres: comedy, drama. No horror and violence.

What annoys you in Estepona?
It often irritates me not being able to park. If you go to the city by car, it’s a drama. And also for my guests. I sometimes hear: “I want to come and visit you, but I can’t park!” Then they have to pay a lot for a parking garage. That’s a shame! So I’d really like to see that car parks would also cost one euro per day. That would save a lot. There is nothing else to criticize in Estepona, it’s very nice here.

What’s your plan?
To work! And it would be nice to travel in the future, then I’d close the bar for a month in the winter. And preferably go to Miami, Aruba, Curacao, something like that..

How are you doing in this Corona-crisis?
I miss the work and the sweet invasion of guests. But it’s what it is. It’ll be fine!