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Wondering Stories: Damast

For this Wondering Story, Designregio Kortrijk matched entrepreneur Cindy Monnens of Kaffee Damast with creative agency Revista. This is a story about food, drinks, jazz & fun!


Stories of the past and present intersect at Kaffee Damast in Kortrijk. The rich past of the flax industry intertwines with regional products and entrepreneurs of today. Above all, Kaffee Damast is a junction of passions: good food and drink, positive entrepreneurship and of course jazz, which pulsates through all the stories. Reason enough to introduce Kaffee Damast through six jazz classics.

THE JOURNEY OF AN ENTREPRENEUR - ‘Voyage’, Stan Getz

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Cindy Monnens: 'I have come a long way, literally and figuratively. I was born in Germany, the daughter of a professional soldier. My mum is from the East Cantons. I have three sisters - and now I have three daughters myself, 'tis a woman's family, yes (laughs). At one point, all Belgian professional soldiers were taken away from Germany. My father was one of the first and could still choose his barracks. It became Lombardsijde, because my father's only brother lived in De Panne. So that's how we ended up by the sea. We lived in Oostduinkerke, where mum started a catering business. I went to study in Ghent, love then brought me to Kortrijk. I have lived here since 1997. I first worked in some boutiques and then kept La Bodeguita del Medio open for years with my then partner, also the daddy of my daughters. Since 2014, Kaffee Damast has been my base of operations. No, as an entrepreneur I don't sit still.'

HOW IN DAMAST EVERYTHING CAME TOGETHER - ‘All the things you are’, Sonny Rollins

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'On 1 October 2014, I started Kaffee Damast. Several things I was looking for, I found here. I came from the night life and wanted a better balance between work and family. At the same time, I wanted to be in the business myself: so not a restaurant where I was never myself. From the start, I had a clear plan in mind and I was able to implement it. This had to become a place where experience was central and where I could express my creativity, with the furnishings, the jazz, the magazine containing our menu, vintage elements, a reading table, an atmospheric bar. Not an anonymous museum bistro, but a place where you are stimulated, a place with a story. And that story is everywhere here: in the building, on the menu, on the stage...'

TOGETHER WITH THE MUSEUM - ‘Alone together’, Chet Baker

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'Whoever steps into Kaffee Damast also steps into a rich Kortrijk past: that of the flax industry - the name 'damask' refers to a weaving technique. A good hundred years ago, flax was the most important industry in the Leie region, with Englishmen in particular as major customers. They had their own trading association in Kortrijk - The Linen Thread Company - which arranged group purchases for spinning mills all over the world. Business was so good that the Company built its own shipping house for flax. That building now houses Kaffee Damast as well as Texture, the Museum of Flax and Textiles. That industrial past is carried through into the bistro's materials, with flax slabs on the wall and curtains of coarsely woven linen. It makes Damast a rewarding venue for business people who come here with foreign clients, for instance; they can immediately tell the story behind the place. There is also a nice interaction with the museum: at events, we provide the catering and we already exchange materials. And of course, many museum visitors find their way to the bistro, and vice versa.'

LINKED TO THE REGION - ‘Kind folk’, Kenny Wheeler

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'Just as we are connected to this building, we are also connected to the region and its entrepreneurs. On our menu you will find several regional products, recognisable by a little symbol. The link with flax is never far away here either. For example, the table linen is from Libeco from Meulebeke, the largest flax weaver in Belgium and top three in Europe. For coffee, our house supplier is Grootmoeders Koffie, once founded by a flax worker, in the 1930s. Bomma Denise, Piet Huysentruyt's mother, nota bene daughter of a flaxter, prepared regional dishes here for a while. Our bread comes from bakery De Knock in Heule and our magazine with the menu is also designed and printed by Drukta from Kortrijk. Our pancakes contain linseed, the seeds of the flax plant. We also work together with tourist organisations. I like it that way: I don't want to run my restaurant on an island. We are ambassadors for 'Het Lekkere Westen', a project of Westtoer and Toerisme Leiestreek that promotes tasty addresses'.

THE LOVE OF SAX AND JAZZ - ‘Sonnymoon for two’, Sonny Rollins

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'Music has always played a big role in my life, but even more so since I started playing the saxophone 13 years ago. I enrolled in the music school with my daughter at the time: she violin, I saxophone. My daughter gave up the violin after only a year, but I was off. The more progress I made, the more I was drawn to jazz. I didn't just want to play from the score, as with classical music, I wanted to break away from it. That's how I ended up with jazz. Sometimes I play along at the monthly jam sessions in Damast, but preferably later in the evening (laughs) - I have too much stage fright. It's also not natural to be busy all the time on an evening like that and get on stage in between. I have to be able to live up to that. I now also play in a big band, the BbKey in Wevelgem. I'm the only woman there, but I have a great time. You are less in the spotlight there than during a jam session and I prefer that. A favourite among saxophonists? Sonny Rollins! Sonnymoon for two, is one of my favourite songs.'

DAMAST AS JAZZ VENUE - ‘It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing’, Nina Simone

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'Just one month after Damast opened, I organised a first improvisation evening. As a matter of course, I ended up with saxophonist Andy Declerck, then my teacher. He was looking for a stage to rehearse with a quartet, so he didn't always have to practise at home. Andy, eight years later, is still there every month. Pianist Stijn Engels has also been a musical partner from the very beginning. The Vlazz Jazz Jam Sessions, every third Sunday of the month, have since made a name for themselves. Musicians come along to play from Ghent, Brussels and even Lille - who, in turn, also bring new listeners. We also take a broader view: occasionally we organise Dinner & Dance, with lindyhop dancers The Cherry Dots. On Sundays, we like to make room for dancers and vocalists - I have a fondness for soft jazz voices like Nina Simone, Lady Backbird and Chet Baker.'

www.kaffeedamast.be

Text and images by Ruth Desmit of Revista Media

WONDERING STORIES

With the WONDERING STORIES series, Designregio Kortrijk brings unique stories of companies, organisations or designers to life in its network, thanks to the unique input of copywriters and visual creatives. Designregio Kortrijk matches and guides.

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