So it´s been a while since I wrote something, and that´s mostly because I was busy cooking!
Although I know I never could be a real chef, nor would I want to be (I spent 4 years working in a restaurant as a student – I´ve seen things…), I still have this romantic idea of spending my days in a professional kitchen. Normally it´s either/or: your´re a chef and you´re in the kitchen, or you´re not. Until now.
On my newest volunteering endeavour I am helping out in the kitchen of a new restaurant in Neukölln where chef Daniel allows anyone who doesn´t immediately cut their finger off to assist him in preparing his creative menus. Peeling, chopping, mixing, baking, frying, stirring, styling the dishes – anything. So much fun!!!
And it´s for a good cause as well. The restaurant is called Restlos Glücklich, which means “completely happy” and “happy without left-overs” at the same time in a clever German word play. The reason? They cook with products that would otherwise be thrown away. And thus with “left-overs” that could still make people perfectly happy!
Every week a number of organic supermarkets and wholesalers deliver foods that have become “unsellable”. This ranges from funky-shaped cucumbers to mislabeled wine – and everything in between. I was really shocked to see what great quality they receive. Baskets of strawberries that looked better than what I get on the market, boxes full of seemingly freshly harvested beetroots – and all this would have ended up in the bin?!
It´s as ridiculous as it sounds. Sure we sometimes have to throw away a too brown avocado or a potato that almost walks away on its own, but mostly there is nothing wrong with the food. The people at RG therefore usually talk about food that they “saved”. I guess “unsellable” depends on your perspective, and raises a few questions about what we demand as consumers…
In any event, it is RG´s goal to battle food waste by cooking with what others deem unfit for sale, and thus for consumption. In addition, they want to raise awareness on food waste and teach people on how they can reduce it. After all, Germany throws away tons and tons of food every year.
Therefore the restaurant is non-profit; they have only three people on their payroll, keep the rest afloat with volunteers, and pour everything that doesn´t go towards unavoidable costs – like some staple foods (e.g. salt, sugar) or investments in equipment – into their capacity-building programmes.
The amazing part is that chef Daniel knows only relatively last-minute which products are available for his menus. Normally chefs order based on what they want to serve their guests; here the cook uses whatever turns up. Challenge accepted! He even tries to come up with different dishes every evening.
As perishable products like meat, milk, and eggs usually can´t escape the bin, the menus are often vegan. Although we did use some feta and honey last time! The restaurant is open on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening, so please do come by to support this great cause! I promise you everything is prepared with a lot of passion and creativity 🙂
Kienitzer Str. 22
Wednesday – Saturday