The Leuven Hundreds

Portraits of a city's people, today

We’ve joined forces with Leuven to highlight 100 local people, places and projects that contribute towards making the city what it is today. From artists and architects to producers and professors, these are the driving forces powering Leuven forward one ingenious initiative at a time.

Jens Crabbé

Jens Crabbé

Founder and owner, MOK (1990)

Can you describe what you do?

I own the coffee roastery and bar MOK in Leuven, as well as another one in Brussels. Leuven’s roastery just recently moved into HAL 5. My daily routine basically consists of trying to get all the work and deliveries done, whilst also thinking of ways to improve the company every day. This could mean thinking about the workflow, making certain investments or even just having a good chat with one of my staff members. I live in the city centre of Leuven, super close to our bar and the roastery. We’re opening a new MOK at the start of next year. More than just a coffee bar, we’ll be offering not only an all-day breakfast and lunch service; but also apéro, wine, cocktails and food in the evenings.

How do you perceive Leuven?

I feel that compared to other similarly-sized cities, we’re doing pretty great actually. At least, in these last few years. There’s more and more young entrepreneurs coming out of their shells, and more interesting places to go compared to a couple of years ago. Though it does need to be said that local nightlife is still lacking. And at the end of the day, Leuven will always be a student city. I believe that this is the reason why it’s taking longer for more quality-driven places to open up. The majority of students just want cheap fast-food and drinks, unfortunately…

What would you say is Leuven’s main appeal as a city?

I like the fact that new neighbourhoods are finally being (re-)discovered. The Vaartkom area, for one, and HAL 5 are good examples of this.

I’m sure there’s also plenty of room for more quality-driven breakfast and lunch spots. No more sandwich bars, please!

How has Leuven contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?

I dropped out of school and started working in bars on Oude Markt from a pretty early age – I had a great time working there after some very frustrating years in school. At the age of 17 while working in these bars, I was already striving for quality and perfection in my work. My interest in drinks and gastronomy grew, and after taking a barista course I knew that I wanted to start roasting my own coffee, and create my own brand and coffee community.

On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city? What could it do better?

Besides the aforementioned nightlife aspect, I’m sure there’s also plenty of room for more quality-driven breakfast and lunch spots. No more sandwich bars, please!

If you had to take out-of-towners to one place that truly symbolises the city, what would it be?

I would take them out the night before, so we can skip breakfast! Instead, we’d go straight for lunch and coffee at Koffie en Staal, one of our partners. Follow it up with an apéro at Surlie, then some bio-wine and dinner at Baracca or Merkat.