written by Claudia Hirschberger
“In previous posts, I mentioned it already, and now it’s time to share my adventures at Stadt Land Food with you. The whole festival had been a celebration of new ways to produce and consume food, and I started the week-end with a visit at Food Entrepreneurs Club. It’s the brainchild of Stefanie Rothenhöfer who is involved into the Markthalle Neun team as well, and of course I happily followed her invitation to Atelier 2112. The location could barely gather the crowd – obviously, there are quite a lot of food entrepreneurs in Berlin, those who are already in action and those to be.
Wednesday Chef Luisa Weiß opened the program with an outline of what she calls a new food generation – producers, restaurateurs, vendors and consumers that are highly conscious of sustainability, of local production and of the social and animal friendly impacts on food. She also hinted to the community aspect of the new food sector – a highly important aspect to turn an idea into a successful business. When I listened to her keywords, I had to think of all those places in Berlin that we have introduced on this blog already, from Markthalle Neun and Domäne Dahlem to Agora Food and Prinzessinnengärten, to name but a few, all of them hot spots of a growing network where this new generation meets. Also from our experiences in London, Dublin, and Amsterdam this year, we can tell that there’s no hip foodie place without one or more labels like organic, seasonal, hand-crafted or fair trade, or without a farmer market, slow baking or re-discovered vegetable varieties at hand. That’s what we love as food bloggers, don’t we – and haven’t we said and wrote time and again that cheese from happy cow’s milk and crops by fairly paid farmers are better both for flavor and for social Karma.
But why do we think like this – and how long will we do? Is it just a trend? Is it authentic, and what does that mean in the end? The following panel, hosted by Luisa, tried to answer these questions: editor Vijay Sapre of German food magazine Effilee, Onur Elci of the Hamburg-based mobile cooking unit Kitchen Guerilla, iconic sommelier Billy Wagner who is about to open his own restaurant Nobelhart und Schmutzig soon, and restaurateur Young-Mi Park-Snowden of Kreuzberg-based Kimchi Princess. The conversation had been indeed interesting since they didn’t just tally the good food agenda, but really dived into a discussion about trends and individuality as well as about passion and profit – which you will have to make unless you prefer your food activities to remain a costly leisure-time.
Everybody on stage could agree on this – and also on individual concepts rather than on the hunt for the lucrative niche. Personal choices and market monitoring – which one is the right way? In the end, it’s the community that decides whether your product is authentic or not, Luisa stated. But what does authenticity mean? Onur Elic assumed that he might be able to serve pizza with his Turkish background better than kimchi, and also to Young-Mi Park-Snowden, authenticity is crucial – her experience is that success is connected to products that you really understand and like. So, what is it that the new food generation really likes? Indian street food with local pork meet from Brandenburg was Wagners answer for example, some really good bread, cheese, and sausages stated Elci. It got quite clear at this point, that everybody on the panel was passionate to make both possible, being successful and keep to personal values.
But is authenticity really the best category to describe this? Like Vijay Sapre, I think that the word is too often used and can describe too many things. We will need to take closer looks if it comes to make your choice between a locally produced conventional cheese for example or an organically produced treat from far away. And how about local production and environmental issues anyway – is it just a trend? Sapre assumes that after organic and local, there will be new trends in about five years. Somebody from the audience added, that the food industry reacts on trends soon, and indeed, we find organic or fair trade products in today’s supermarkets as well. So how come that we nevertheless prefer to buy at small, intimate food shops, Luisa asked? Because you trust people and products that you know personally, stated Billy Wagner. He also has confidence in current food scene’s new mixture – people with a professional background in food and those who are autodidacts. Of course they need to be talented, too, he stated, but it’s often them who raise new ideas – both sides could learn from one another.
I left the place highly inspired – unfortunately I couldn’t stay longer to listen to more panels about Barcomi’s and the first coffee to go in Berlin, about the compatibility of ethics and profit, or about good communication strategies for good products. I’m looking forward to The Food Entrepreneurs Club’s future events – it seems to be a place to ask important questions and try to find answers, not the least for food bloggers.”