Welcome to VERSE IN CONTEXT ; great people, great stories. Stephanie Lücken is a long time friend of Ciara, our founder (they met through their partners and immediately clicked). She is a female restauranteur with a law degree and super mom to Georgia (3). When she's not in RIJSEL you can find her working out, or travelling to eat her favourite dishes. We think she is so empowering and caught up with her at a fun interview at the restaurant.



Stephanie is wearing the Brigitte blouse by Laagam  with various jewels from Susmie's.

Stephanie tell us what a regular day looks like for you ? 

A regular day for me, revolves around my family, my restaurant Rijsel and on a good day - some time for myself. I wake up between 6:30 – 7:00 with my almost 3 year old daughter, I make her breakfast and pour coffee for myself. We either play or watch a cartoon together before I drop her off at daycare at 8:30.

When I get back home, I do some chores around the house and make myself breakfast. Around 10:30 I’m at the gym or out for a run. After a shower and getting ready I head to Rijsel. I start my workday around 12:30 with some administration and a coffee with the team. We evaluate the service of the night before, we discuss the menu and wine. On slower days I can squeeze in a coffee with a friend. Sometimes there are meetings with importers or wine tastings and such. At 17:00 we have staff dinner where I brief the team about the plan for the evening, what’s on the menu, which guests are coming and who is doing what. Service starts at 18:00 and usually I can go home between 00:00 and 01:00 but I always stay one night a week for some afterwork drinks with the team.


When you were growing up what did you want to be/do. How has that changed from when you were a little girl till now.

 As a young girl, I wanted to be a doctor but when I stepped foot in a pharmacy I would get instantly sick of the smell. So I thought the hospital life wasn’t for me, haha. 

In my teens I decided I wanted to be a lawyer so I could help people when life gets unfair. Obviously I went in a different direction after law school. During law school I started working in hospitality. I started in a café and I got hooked on the industry fast. The type of teamwork and camaraderie you create when working in hospitality was such a warm and welcome surprise that I already started to have the idea of having my own café when I’m older to have a place where people, friends and family can come and just have fun or relax. A place where people like to work and everyone that I cared about could all enjoy the little but precious moments of life. Luckily I crossed Rijsel on my path and decided that this is what I wanted to do instead. It was a scary decision after all those years studying for that law degree but I have no regrets whatsoever.


Did you feel empowered when you were in your formative years, if so what was your source of empowerment

 Not really, I did not grow up in a supportive or empowering home. It did teach me how to rely on myself and I was quite the bookworm, therefore formed a lot of my values from reading books. I believe being convinced of your values and defending them is a part of self-empowerment.


What is your biggest drive in life. Elaborate 

 To be successfully independent. I want to be able to protect and take care of myself because I missed that in my upbringing. I felt very lonely and scared when I was a child and when I left home I promised myself to get to a place in my life where I don’t have to feel that way anymore. I wanted to be strong and self-sufficient and be able to help others who feel the way that I have felt. To me it is essential to have and to be a safe space for those around me. I know from personal experience how important it is to feel that someone has your back and believes in you even if you don’t do so yourself yet.



Hypothetical question you’re on death row. You can choose 1 dish from Rijsel and 1 from somewhere else. What on earth would those be ?

 Haha well that’s impossible I like a lot of dishes everywhere. Just depends on my mood and surroundings. I think Iwan’s eel in green sauce or morels stuffed with chicken farce and foie gras. Or his plate of cèpes in cognac and cream. From other places I’d choose the Turkish Kumru sandwich in Izmir, the Hainanese chicken (Chinese dish) I had in Bangkok, a good soto soup at a food market in Indonesia. Or the Scotch bonnet pork fat on toast in London or the truffle pasta in Florence.

 photo credit rené mesman 


You also have been known to throw a mean party and dj. Describe how your dream set should make people feel and some go to tracks to get people on the dance floor.

 My sets are uplifting and versatile. I’m not afraid to mix genres a little, it keeps people engaged, surprised, and interested which means they’re unlikely to leave the dance floor. Honestly, technically I’m not the best dj but I’m good at reading the room and matching the music accordingly. My dream set engages everyone present and makes even the most stubborn person dance like there’s no tomorrow.

A go to song I use often to get people activated is Love never felt so good from Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake it can be used in any setting like birthdays, dinners, weddings. When you’re with designated party people I’d choose classics like Move your body – Marshall Jefferson. To go from soulful and disco to more up tempo I like to use Sunlight – Darius as a transition to disco/soulful house. For the surprise bangers in between I vary from 80’s hits to old school house. So for example Whitney Houston – Dance with somebody and songs from Kings of Tomorrow. I like it when it stays soulful but I can also really enjoy a mean bass. When booked for a primetime house/tech-house party I love Beautiful People – Obskür Remix, Gospel Man – Maur & Roobinz and ofcourse something like Brighter days – Marco Lys Remix.


What top hospitality tips can you give people trying to host at home. Any hacks you can recommend?

 Elevate your basics and keep it simple. After all, you want to entertain your guests and not be too stuck in the kitchen to host. Do less but use high quality products and simple recipes. Like high quality anchovies on toast, smoked eel on a piece of baguette. If you’re not really a baker just buy some good cantucci's to dip in vin santo or buy a tart from a good baker. Prepare a nice playlist so you can fill the room with music, music is very important and often forgotten. Using candles and setting a dinner table is how you decorate space, music is how you decorate time. Also… always buy more wine than you think you need… you’ll need it.


Have you heard of a “girl dinner” what is your idea of a girl dinner. 

 I have heard the term but still not sure what it really means other than girls going for dinner? My idea of a girl dinner is dress to impress and meeting the girls for aperitif/cocktails and heading out for a nice dinner with good conversations about life, love and the future. Filled with good wine and food and going for more cocktails and dancing afterwards.


Vanilla CEO eau de parfum by CRA-YON


The restaurant world is so demanding, night shifts, always on, how do you balance home life with your career.

Well to be good at anything, you can’t really have (complete) balance now can you? There is always a sacrifice of some sort and that’s ok. We can’t excel in one thing without giving in on another thing. For me the key is that the sacrifice you make should be something you can handle. You choose your hardship and everyone can handle a hardship of some sort. I don’t get to have a normal sleep schedule or have the same amount of nights to spend with friends & family like others do who have a ‘regular time’ job. But I’m a very energetic person so I can handle less sleep and my job is also very social so I have fun while I work and luckily my friends like to come to Rijsel as well. To be able to maintain this pace I work about 50-60 hours in 4 days to have a 3 day weekend. On the weekend I take naps and mostly go out for 1 night. I meet with friends after work or on weekends I go out mostly after my daughter’s bedtime so I don’t miss out on time with her. I work out 5 days a week to keep fit, energised, healthy and of course to counter the influence of a ‘fun’ live.


You have little girl at home. How do you share your values with her and what dreams do you have for her future. 

 I think the best way to share my values is to lead by example. She’s still very young but I take her everywhere and you can see she already likes to meet new people, she shares her food with everyone but is not afraid to stand up for herself when she feels uncomfortable. My dreams for her future, oof… I hope by the time she’s grown, there’s more equality and that she feels the freedom and confidence to take on any endeavor she has set her heart on.


What will you be wearing this Summer at Rijsel.

 Can’t wait for summer! In the summer I wear breezy black midi dresses or skirts with cute tops. The skirts are often classic and basic and the tops are more high quality and a bit more outspoken in cuts, fabric and texture.


Tell us a secret about the restaurant that we didn’t already know.

 Not every team member is allowed to answer the phone. We have a specific telephone training that you have to follow and after the training, for a while the calls are done under supervision of someone who is already experienced. We teach you how to interpret and analyse the choice of words and recognise tone of voice. We often leave a table available for ‘a good voice’ meaning that we reserve a table for spontaneous callers. But from all the callers you can only choose one, so for everyone reading this; remember the way you present yourself on the phone matters, really.


    When you’re not at Rijsel you’re _________

     Cooking or lost in music.


    Last question - favourite cocktail with recipe pls.

     Americano. I actually love negroni but gin doesn’t like me back. I call this a ‘light’ negroni. It doesn’t have gin which is good for me. So, I can drink this without embarrassing myself (unless I have like 5 of them). It is very simple to make, yet hits the spot. Fill a tumbler with ice and squeeze a wedge of orange over the ice. Cut a piece of the orange zest and move that around the edges of the glass and put it in the glass. Pour one part Campari, one part vermouth.