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Director of the Berlin Food Week Alexandra Laubrinus on restaurants as role models, culinary knowledge transfer and indulgence

Wednesday, September 08, 2021
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Just the day before our interview, Alexandra Laubrinus had a "Lucy Knox" made of walnut dough, vanilla and blueberries from Patisserie Du Bonheur. Alexandra describes herself as a cake addict and loves to eat it for breakfast, but only if she doesn't do any sport in the morning. She started doing that during the lockdown and realised how good it was for her. "But it doesn't top the feeling of eating something great!"

The Berlin Food Week managing director's definition of happiness comes as little surprise: a good meal with a nice glass of wine and great people with whom she can share both. Enjoyment is Alexandra's profession. However, the native of East Berlin cannot pinpoint a key event for this enthusiasm; rather, her love for good products has accompanied her all her life.

IT ALL STARTED WITH A VEGETABLE GARDEN

Her grandparents had a garden in which they also grew vegetables. She still raves today: "When you were allowed to pull the carrots fresh out of the ground in the evening after gardening, just before dinner... That does a lot with one's own know-how".

Michael Hetzinger und Alexandra Laubrinus im House of Food

And then there's Berlin, which has "so much to offer". Alexandra has always appreciated the fact that you can do anything you want here. "I don't feel judged by appearance here, the people are insanely tolerant and you can just be yourself." That's why Alexandra used to even go to the coffee shop in her pyjamas, she says. "You can just do that in Berlin."

BERLIN'S EXPERIMENTAL CULTURE

"Now people come here not only to eat, but also to work." While there is still a lot that could be optimised, Alexandra considers that so many things are easy to try out: "In Berlin, there is still this experimental culture - trying things out, testing concepts, doing a supper club. You don't have to be completely ready yet." The Berlin Food Week operates in a very similar way, always fine-tuning the concept and trying out new formats.

A lot has happened since Alexander von Hessen came up with the idea of a "fashion week for food" in 2012, and Alexandra and her business partner Michael Hetzinger took it on with passion. "The city eats itself up", for example, in 2019, where a four-course menu was served made only from Berlin ingredients. This year, for the first time, there will be a Cooking TV livestreaming format. There, Viola Wüsthof will demonstrate how to sharpen knives, Cynthia Barcomi will bake and Food Technique Berlin will share its kitchen experiments around Japanese cuisine.

IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT THE FOOD, IT'S ALSO ABOUT THE PEOPLE BEHIND IT

She also appreciates this impartiality, diversity and variety in Berlin cuisine. "I love going out to eat with friends, you get to know the food in a completely different way. We order a lot of food and share it with each other or swap plates. But she often doesn't have the time, especially during the preparations for Berlin Food Week. "I want to take the time for that, too. For the enjoyment and also for the exchange with the chef and the service."

Involving the people behind the food and getting to know them has been part of Berlin Food Week from the very beginning. Even though Berlin Food Week is now her main job, it remains a passion project: "It's an absolute joy for us!" 

THE WHOLE DIVERSITY OF BERLIN'S GASTRONOMY

"We want to create a diverse stage and not limit ourselves. We like to try everything there: sometimes to a star restaurant, but also like to go around the corner to a snack bar." Just like Berlin itself. Berlin Food Week has just been named Gastronomic Innovator 2021 by the Berlin Master Chefs Jury. It is a great signal that it is now perceived as part of Berlin's "food family", that it presents Berlin as an international food metropolis and increases awareness of good products and enjoyment.

Meanwhile, the main formats of Berlin Food Week have changed little since 2014. These include above all the marketplace in the form of the House of Food, the Miele Cooking School (which had to be cancelled again this year due to a pandemic) and the city menu, in which numerous Berlin restaurants and, this year for the first time, restaurants beyond the city limits (for example in Hamburg, Düsseldorf and Frankfurt), offer a special menu according to a given motto.

AWARENESS OF SUSTAINABLE CONSUMPTION HAS INCREASED

They want to offer something for everyone: "for people who like to eat out, for those who like to cook, for the scene and for people who like to deal with innovation," Alexandra explains. The perception of guests and consumers, however, has changed a lot in recent years. "People are more interested and have a lot of prior knowledge - and the awareness of sustainable and conscious consumption is greater than ever.

That's why this year's Berlin Food Week will be dedicated to a culinary climate campaign. The topic has been on the back burner for some time. "In order to achieve ambitious climate goals, we all have to do our part. But that doesn't have to mean doing without! After all, we've always stood for enjoyment, and we want to show what's great."

RESTAURANTS HAVE A ROLE MODEL FUNCTION

Restaurateurs and chefs could contribute a great deal to this: "Restaurants have a role model function and can be an inspiration. Not only by taking responsibility themselves, but also because they have the opportunity to positively influence their guests," says Alexandra, explaining this year's motto for Berlin Food Week 2021.

What Alexandra really appreciates about the Berlin Food Week is the many conversations with people involved and the wealth of information that you get along the way. "I think it's great when people understand that you can only create great things together - I like this team and network idea. The exchange is just super exciting." This is also how she plans the programme, by asking herself what interests her.

DECLARED GOAL: CULINARY KNOWLEDGE GAIN

Her personal goal, she says, is to end up smarter, to learn culinary skills and to stimulate a transfer of knowledge. "I've just learned that hemp oil is a great regional alternative to olive oil or that ostriches are great animals that fit super with sustainable consumption."

The best moment for Alexandra every year is Sunday evening, she says. "When we have made it, when we have made a lot of people happy." After all, what could be better than a good meal, a nice glass of wine and people with whom you can share this joy? Exactly!

Translated by Alexander Brandes

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