Autor: Mario

The virus ripped gastronomy’s heart out. Will it ever beat again?

A many gastro stories are being told these days. One is missing and it begins, well, on Valentine’s Day…

Written by Mario Münster

In mid February – in fact on Valentine’s Day – I had what turned out to be my second to last „normal“ restaurant day here in Berlin before a virus from a Chinese food market flipped gastronomy upside down. I had a friend from Warsaw in town and since we were late planning and since it was Valentine’s Day we didn’t manage to get any reservation at a considerable restaurant. But this is Berlin and a little impromptu rock ’n roll attitude to a proper gastro night never hurts. So we simply decided to play it by ear, willing to challenge our luck and ready to deal with whatever the night has to offer culinary wise. By the end of that night we had eaten and drank at five different places – from a market hall to restaurants and wine bars, from slurping oysters to devouring porcini Tiramisù, to drinking many shades carbonic maceration.

Part of that night’s magic was that it was one of those nights during which you meet familiar faces at each of the places you visit: High Fives and hugs with staff and owners, hugs with friends and folks from the community who accidentally happened to eat or drink at the places we had chosen so randomly.

During this seven hours journey of pure joy we ran into C. at two different places, a guy who works as a sommelier here in town. Being both not good in memorizing names we used to call each other by the name „Beef Tongue“ every time we accidentally met after our first encounter late last year. Why „Beef Tongue“? Well, we first met at some sort of pop-up food thing at a wine bar and ended up at the same table hosted by a mutual friend. C. had just ordered a beef tongue sandwich. Since we both never had beef tongue before, after he took a healthy bite from his sandwich he passed it over encouraging me to have a bite from this juicy something. This was heaven. Yes, the sandwich for sure. But even more the setting, the encounter, the complicity of two strangers losing the remaining parts of our culinary virginity over glasses of natural wine, the candle light reflecting from the oil and sauce that dripped from our fingers. It was the kind of magic that happened back when people who run bars and restaurants could do what they originally wanted to do, the reason why they decided to work 80 hours a week, the idea that pushed them to the crazy decision to live a professional life on margins as thin as vermicelli : Bringing people together over food.

 

Once upon a Vitello Tonnato at Paris‘ Racines. What happend in January now feels a thousand worlds away…

So far, the magic of great hospitality survived the flip-flopping millennial staff with it’s lack of sense for commitment and dedication, it managed to deal with the wave of food bloggers turned wannabe taste makers who never chopped a single onion in a professional kitchen, and it shrugged of the Instagram ladies who shared snapshots of dishes every Italian teenager has a better understanding of than they do. Great hospitality was resilient to all these challenges. It took a virus to rip out gastronomy’s heart.  Crash, boom, bang.

As much as restaurants are reinventing themselves theses days, as much as they are creative and passionate in offering their services in the most inspiring ways, as much as they use the power of community to support each other… nothing can replace the emotional aspects of sitting at a table inside a lively restaurant. Nothing can replace that distinct soundscape of chatter, music, and kitchen noise. Nothing can replace the chat with the somm, the hug with the owner, the cheerful waving to the chefs, the brief exchange about that heaven like chocolate mouse with the table next to you. Nothing can replace the encounters with strangers you accidentally meet on a communal table and that eventually become your close friends over time. I mean, simply put: Can you imagine having a bite from a stranger’s sandwich at a packed bar, right now? Or even in  six months from now?

This is what makes me the saddest. Of course I feel with all the owners and staff of small restaurants who struggle financially – many of them being friends – and this too makes me sad or rather really concerned. But we all together lost what used to be the heart and soul of gastronomy – for now. And no loan, no government support program, no VAT reduction, no fancy take-out thing can replace this: The human factor, the interaction, the joy, the slap on the back, the carnival of culinary happiness.

A September evening at Berlin’s Barra

I can tell the story of my life so far simply by arranging scenes from bars and restaurants in a chronological order for a period of four decades. I’d say I was hardly four weeks old when my parents first took me with them to Gianni. The Italian immigrant who had a pizza place in the village next to the even smaller village I grew up. As a child the weekends were dedicated to winery visits with the family at one of the many wineries that also offer snacks at Germany’s breathtakingly beautiful Rheingau valley. I didn’t knew much about Riesling and botrytis back then. But I loved how everyone on the table was happy. I loved the wine makers‘ big smiles when they came to the table refilling the grown up’s wine glasses straight from unlabeled 1 liter bottles filled with a juice I only later learned to love, and only later I was reflected enough to identify this juice as the main reason for my father’s early death in 2003 – living close to Riesling was a bad strategy for an alcohol addict. In my mid teens, I had pizza Fridays with a group of four friends. We met in the evening walked the two kilometers through the forest to the next village and had pizza before we walked back in the dark. What followed was „Schnitzel Tuesday“ – this time with an even bigger group of friends – at a pretty rustic restaurant that offered all kinds of crazy Schnitzel creations for 9 Deutsch Mark (folks, that’s 4.50 EURs) every Tuesday. Unforgettable a creation they called „Schnitzel Amsterdam“ – a Schnitzel topped with Hollandaise and cheese. Fun fact: Carmello, the owner of Schnitzel paradise was from Sicily. Once I moved to Berlin in 2000, once I started traveling in an more intense way in the early 2000s I started adding many new stories to this book of joy that I’m now cherishing as a blessing and that sits on the imaginary book shelve of my story written so far, next to the book that tells the soundtrack of my life from the Beach Boys to Interpol.

Il Santo Bevitore,  a wine bar oasis at Florence’s Oltrarno hood, far away from the tourists

What I’m trying to tell you is: As much as I love food, as much as I have memories of crazy meals and breathtaking wines, my love for gastronomy is based on the social factor of it. All of my life restaurants and bars have been my second home. A world in which I celebrated, mourned, meditated, fell in and out of love, cried, argued, sang, and laughed. And this is why I feel that as much as this virus keeps me locked-in, it has also locked me out from a world that is so dear to me and many of my peers. The doors to gastronomy as we knew it are closed. Hospitality’s heartbeat stopped. Will this universe ever re-open in a way that it can provide us with the love and soul I mentioned above? I have my doubts. For now no new chapters will be contributed to the book of gastro joy. And yes, it’s heartbreaking.

Mario Münster is an independent consultant for content creation and a communications strategist. He is the host of Staff Meal Podcast – a podcast covering the politics of food –  and co-creator of Kevin Knapp Beats N Eats, a video series about food and house music. Follow on Instagram.

 

Photography

I was ignoring photography for the first 37 years of my life. In 2017 I started collecting minimalistic snapshots of colorful urban and natural landscapes. Now I can’t live without this obsession. Follow my pastelmania on instagram.com/mario.muenster

Some of my photos are available as framed prints at WeFoFo

Exhibitions

upcoming
To The Skies / Mario Münster & Keith Telfeyan
September 6th 2019, Mosto, Berlin

past
Group Exhibition „Publicity“
Antilia Gallery, Puglia/Italy

Potrero Hill, San Francisco, 2018
San Francisco, 2018
Berlin, 2018
San Francisco, 2018
South Africa, 2017

 

San Francisco, 2018
Berlin, 2018

 

Berlin, 2018
Baltic Sea, 2018
Venice, 2018

Talks & Public Speaking

Lectures, workshops, talks:
I share insights on independent publishing, creativity, campaigning, and storytelling. Drop me a line if you wanna learn more.

Gigs so far at University of the Arts Berlin, Humboldt University Berlin, University of Leipzig, Social Media Week Berlin, Creative City Berlin, Hering Schuppener Digital, 365 sherpas, Ministry for Employment, Social Welfare, Family, Integration of the state of Hamburg, Syrian Cultural Index.

Photo © Kreativwirtschaftsberatung Berlin

Food

I’m a co-creator of the video series BEATS N EATS with DJ & Producer Kevin Knapp.

 

Creator and host of Staff Meal, a podcast about restaurant staff meals.
Listen to the podcast on Spotify, iTunes, or Soundcloud.


Founder and director of THE WINE. Bespoke wine delivery, shop, bar. Collaborations with Kitchensurfing, Kinfolk, Freunde von Freunden among others. (2010-2015 )

FOOD CONTENT

How does COVID-19 affect restaurants and their ecosystem of suppliers? When restaurants were forced to close in March 2020, I created a video with a simple message regarding a complex truth.

Publishing

A Syrious Look

Co-Founder / Publisher of „A Syrious Look – A Magazine about Cultural Displacement“   an English language print magazine I co-created with Mohammad Abou Laban and Ziad Adwan in 2016, covering arts and culture in exile

Get the magazine here!

Photo: Saskia Kyas

Praise for „A Syrious Look“:

„Serious and Syrian.“
Der Tagesspiegel, Berlin

„A Berlin, les artists syriens retrouvent le gout de la création.“
Le Figaro, Paris

„Berlin, capital of Syrian cultural diaspora.“
Wiener Zeitung, Vienna

„A Syrious Look – about the big issues of the cultural superstructure.“
Süddeutsche Zeitung, Munich

„Beautiful layout arouses curiosity…“
SRF Radio, Basle

ROSEGARDEN

Co-Founder / Publisher / Managing Director  of ROSEGARDEN Magazine. A german language cultural print magazine I co-founded with Maren Heltsche, May-Britt Frank-Grosse and Bertram Sturm. (2013 – 2018)

Praise for „ROSEGARDEN“:

„Magazines like ROSEGARDEN show us the strengths of paper.“
Süddeutsche Zeitung

„The interviews in ROSEGARDEN are always just so…cool.“
Audible.co.uk Blog

„Exciting: Bold photos on matt paper.“
ZimmermannEditorial

Consulting

I’m an independent consultant for communication & content strategies, storytelling, content creation, and campaigning with a focus on political, social, and cultural issues. I bring with me 20 years of experience.

Clients:
Amnesty International, WWF, Kiron, Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, Öko Institut e.V., Rights Direct, fördern und wohnen Hamburg, 365sherpas, Hering Schuppener Digital, Stories Unlimited, among others.

Over the last 20 years I worked on projects with:
METRO, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, SPD, CDU, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, Presse- und Informationsamt der Bundesregierung, Auswärtiges Amt, Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales, Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung Berlin, Bayer AG, Hermes Group, Philipp Morris, Novartis, among others.

About

I’m a Berlin based Content & Communication Strategist, Wordsmith, and Founder of Magazines. It’s fair to say: I believe in the power of written and visual stories.

I work as an independent consultant for communication & content strategies, storytelling, content creation, and campaigning with a focus on political, social, and cultural issues.

I was a co-founder and managing director of the independent print magazine ROSEGARDEN (2014 to 2018).
And I’m a co-founder of A Syrious Look – A magazine about Cultural Displacement.

I give lectures and do public speaking on independent publishing, creativity, campaigning, and storytelling with gigs so far at the University of the Arts Berlin, Humboldt University Berlin, University of Leipzig, Social Media Week Berlin, Creative City Berlin, and various organizations.

I’m obsessed with everything you can eat or drink. That obsession made me become a wine importer for a few years and in recent years I wrote about food as our most important cultural heritage. I’m a co-creator of the video series „Kevin Knapp Beats ‚N Eats“ and I’m hosting „Staffmeal Podcast“.  More here…

I’m a founding member of KOMBÜSE – an association specialized in communication consulting for social entrepreneurs.

From 2010 – 2015 I was the owner of THE WINE – a Berlin based bespoke wine service.

Always open for ideas and coffee:
post(at)mario-muenster.de

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