Tag Archives: Wedding

Insiders – Stephan Hentschel

Stephan Hentschel is one of the most celebrated chefs in Berlin right now. He’s best known for his role as kitchen chef in the vegetarian restaurant Cookies Cream (which scored a very decent 14 points in the Gault Millau) , not-so vegetarian Chipps at Gendarmenmarkt and newly opened Crackers on Friedrichstraße. He’s also co-owner of the Volta gastro-pub, famous for their delicious burgers. We immediately liked him.

Q: Hey Stephan. Us at Berlinagenten, we love meat. Nice and tender, tasty and juicy. How come you’re best known for cooking vegetarian dishes?

A: That actually wasn’t up to me. I’m not even a vegetarian. It’s the Cookie Cream’s concept to only serve tasty, vegetarian dishes and I’ve been up for the challenge for the past 7 years. In most restaurants you’ll get your standard rice or pasta dish when you’re inclined to avoid meat, but we’re trying to create vegetarian meals that are somewhat out of the ordinary. If you’re a meatlover, though, swing by at Chipps, Volta or our newly opened restaurant Crackers and you’ll find what you’re looking for.

Q: What’s new about the Crackers?

A: The Crackers is located right below the Cookies Cream, so obviously we went for a different concept there. While the Cookies Cream is about fine dining, the Crackers provides a cozy, leaned back living room atmosphere, where you can just hang out with friends, have some food and enjoy a few drinks while you’re at it. It’s basically just one really spacey room that you enter through the kitchen, a mix between bar, lounge and restaurant. There’s DJ nights on tuesday, thursday and friday nights in the same halls that were once home to the Cookies… it’s not as dead as you might think.

Q: Did you always dream of becoming a chef?

A: I didn’t even know I wanted to cook in the first place! I originally started working on a construction site, but reality hit me pretty soon. Getting up early, all the while in the cold outside and just a few poorly made sandwiches for the day weren’t really my thing. At all. After that I did a traineeship at a 5 star hotel’s kitchen and realized I wanted to become a chef rather than a construction worker.

Q: Berlin wasn’t really buzzing on the culinary radar of Europe’s cities for a pretty long time. Why do you think that changed over the last years?

A: When I came to Berlin after finishing my training in 2001, there was about a handful of decent restaurants in the city. I think that transformation was due to Berlin drawing young and creative people from all over the world, more than a few of them being chefs. They came here to enjoy life, live their dreams and of course, go partying. The working hours in hotels don’t really fit these ambitions, so many of them took up jobs in restaurants, which eventually led to an increased creative quality on the menues. On the other hand there’s that great supply of organic food we’re getting now, the groceries come straight from the farmers to our restaurants. That led to a big increase of the food’s quality.

Q: Even though you’re still pretty young (33), you’re celebrated as Berlin’s next master chef and the culinary world craves for you creations. How do you handle the hype?

A: To be honest, the hype doesn’t really mean that much to me. I’m just glad I get to cook at my own restaurants and they’re going well, what more could I ask for? Sometimes people ask me if I didn’t want to have a Michelin star, but honestly, I don’t. We’re almost always booked up and having a Michelin star would just mean less guests.

Q: Less guests? I should have thought more guests!

A: Our costumers are a cool, leaned back crowd that come here because they feel we’re still down to earth and carry some of that urban Berlin flair. I feel the same way and don’t care for a star and I think neither do our costumers. Of course, there’s a few Michelin star chefs who are doing a great job at marketing and manage to create their own brand, anyway. In the end, I think the Cookies Cream is one of the top notch restaurants in Berlin, star or not.

Q: Agreed! Is there a dish you can’t stand?

A: I’m really not into food that’s still moving when it’s served. Or blue mold cheese.

Q: Where do you find our inspiration?

A: I just have a look at the groceries, really. There’s about 12 different farmers that I regularly visit and we’re talking through what can be planted or harvested soon and then I just kind of go from there. But my personal favourite is the classic french cuisine. I’m a bit of a potato-boy.

Q: The Cookies Cream is located right above the former Club Cookie. Did you often encounter party zombies that would swing by after dancing a whole night through, seeking to refill their vitamin tanks?

A: Nah, they mostly swung by in the evening, before they became party zombies. Our light fares are a solid choice for a pre-party meal. Lots of vitamins and easy on the stomach, gets you through the night every time. The next morning people are more inclined to pay their tributes to the Chipps, where they can get hearty English meals to deal with the hang over.

Q: Let’s talk clubbing. Do you often pay hommage to the famous Berliner Technoschuppen (techno clubs)?

A: I used to be a real Berghain-kiddo. Even back then, when it was still called Ostgut. I’m a huge fan of electronic music and I’m really into techno and house parties. You’d often find me at Kater Holzig, about:blank or sometimes the Watergate. Then there’s that great underground techno party culture you’ll only find in Berlin… not always strictly legal, but guaranteed to blow your mind away.

Q: Which other restaurants can you recommend? Apart from yours, obviously. 

A: I like to hang out in the Prater Biergarten on sunny days and have some classic Schnitzel along with a cool beer. Hard to beat! Other than that, there’s the Cocolo Ramen on the Gipsstraße, definitely worth a visit.

Alright! Thanks for taking the time, Stephan, we’ll see you soon!

The Scene – Henrik’s Wedding!

 

Weddings are romantic and glamourous. The same can’t be said for the Berlin district of Wedding, a pretty rough and tumble working class district, next to hip Mitte, trendy Pberg and residential Pankow. It has been constantly hyped in the media, as the next place ripe for gentrification, but it has yet to happen. Well, not on the surface anyway. The Wedding scene is happening but it’s very underground, which is why Wedding is such a cool place to go out.

Over the last few years, Wedding has been on the radar of students, artists and party hungry avangardists. I love talking to taxi drivers to get the gossip on where are the secret new bars, as well as finding out where they’ve been dropping off and picking up cool customers. Lately, the word on the street is they have more business in Wedding than the bourgeois neighbourhood of Pberg.

So, I set off on a mission to find what was really going on Wedding. First stop was the cool eatery Volta on Brunnenstrasse. Stephan Hentschel, the former chef at Cookies Cream, opened up his own restaurant/bar on the border of Bernauerstrasse, which separates Wedding from Mitte. It’s not a secret anymore, every table is occupied by an interesting crowd who love the creative interpretation of Hentschel’s kitchen, who also plays with some German favourites, breathing new life into them. The drinks are super strong too!

Next, I headed to the area between Gesundbrunnen and Wollankstrasse, where a bunch of alternative Kreuzberg look-a-like bars have popped up. First stop, Fos, a cool bar and lounge, full with gadgets and second hand furniture. At first glance at the drinks menu, I thought I’d travelled 15 years back when a wine glass costed approx. 3 euro. The bar’s most eye catching element is its DIY ceiling. If you don´t have money for professional sound isolation,  use egg cartons! The crowd were laidback in comparisson to Neuköll’s hipsters and expat inhabitants.

There I met a friendly, real Berliner from the ‘hood, who invited me to join him at the next bar. After a vodka shot in the bar Studio8, we walked a couple of blocks and reached the Barrikade bar. My new friend told me that is one of the last remaining squat bars in Berlin (although the squat itself doesn’t exist anymore). There wasn’t a single tourist or expat in sight. The crowd was as authentic as its neighbourhood itself: Turks screaming loudly in front of a football match on the TV screens, cheerful alternative types, Cindy von Marzahn look-a-likes, drunken workers still believing it is happy hour, lost house wives from Moabit and anti fascists planning their next coup.

After a longer conversation about GDR with a talkative woman, I said goodbye to my friend and headed north of Bornholmer Brücke, to the rough Soldinerkiez. Totally off the beaten track is Kugelbahn. When somebody opens a bar in the middle of nowhere and the place is packed with hip, sexy, chilled, mixed people of all ages, you know it’s already a success story.

It’s a retro lounge, cool bar, and event space. This is the tipping point of a new scene that is heading north of Berlin, as well as south. After a couple of nasty drinks, flirting with the bar man, it was time for some clubbing. The most famous club in Wedding is Stadtbad Wedding but instead I decided to visit Humboldthain under the station of S-Bahn with the same name. Inside were banging techno music, psychedelic lighting, smoke, loud party freaks and energetic youngsters. In the summer time, they offer after hours clubbing in garden.

Wedding has an emerging new bar/club scene that is so authentic and laid back, it makes you want to return. See you there next weekend.

The Wedding Hotspot Hit List

Here’s some other places to check out in Wedding

Laluz

Lottingers.  

The Castle Pub

Kikisol

Moritzbar

Jatz Bar

Wedding Soul Party

Supermarkt