What springs to mind when you think about the German culinary experience? If you stumbled for a couple of moments, don’t worry. Thankfully necessity is the mother of invention, and right now an emergent third-generation of top restaurants are rewriting Germany’s gastronomy blueprint. Communally pledging a manifesto which promises to cement a new identity for German dining culture and what that means on the world stage.
The manifesto, called die Gemeinschaft, (which means “The community” in german) is the brainchild of four avant garde restaurants who share the common aim of elevating German cuisine above somewhat fragmented, and often debilitating, stereotypes. Die Gemeinschaft’s founders are: Ivo Ebert and Andreas Rieger of einsunternull, Spencer Christenson, Christoph Geyler and Dylan Watson of ernst, Sebastian Frank and Jeannine Kessler of Horváth, Micha Schäfer and Billy Wagner of Nobelhart & Schmutzig.
We’re changing things. In the fields, in the kitchens & in our heads.
The duty is incumbent on them, as the representatives of Germany’s new food future, to succeed where many of their predecessors previously failed. They aim to unite the country’s culinary community and establish new food systems in place of those which have historically championed large scale production and a proliferation of foreign products, as a result of a highly industrialised agriculture system and middle-man trade culture.
1. The respect for the Local Food Culture
We are unwilling to accept the mediocrity of a system of food and agriculture that inherently engenders middling culinary arts and an indifferent food culture, and which floods our markets, kitchens and restaurants with characterless foodstuffs.
Two of the manifesto’s quadrants employ a vocally local approach to the produce they work with. One of Germany’s newest Michelin stars, einsunternull, begins its meal with the battle cry “forget everything you’ve tasted before”. A direct call-to-arms against the country’s endemic habit of looking beyond its borders for ingredients and influence. Likewise, the Lokal stalwarts, Nobelhart & Schmutzig, stretch this notion one radical step further by refusing to work with any product not pertaining to the surrounding Brandenburg region. This means no lemon juice, no pepper and no olive oil in any of its dishes.
2. Back to German Terroir
We believe in an agricultural model dedicated to the best-possible foodstuffs. In farmers who, like us, are pursuing the finest possible taste in what they produce. Who challenge us to understand the essential nature of their product. And who push us to work with products that grow on the land, and in the process to become better and more creative chefs.
The participating restaurants all advocate a new type of German cuisine. It’s one that doesn’t look outwards for influence; one that makes demands of its diners; and one that conveys the essence and uniqueness of Germany’s terroir with arresting significance.
3. Emotional closeness to local communities
We value local communities. It is not about geographic proximity, but rather emotional closeness, direct dialog and respectful collaboration between people, producers and sellers all working toward that same goal of better food.
It’s not just about physical locality though, die Gemeinschaft’s manifesto also champions emotional proximity to cross-border ingredients; specifically when they foster and forge direct agricultural partnerships with small-scale producers – paving the way for other restaurateurs to do the same in the future. Sebastian Frank, head chef at two-starred Horváth, brings self-sourced products from his home region in Austria into Germany for example, and ernst cooks seasonally with ingredients proffered by producers it has visited and made a personal connection with (including lemons from Sicily and Austrian Mangalitza meat).
4. Eating is an agricultural act
We remember that, as Wendell Berry once said, "eating is an agricultural act." What we eat has a direct influence on how our world is used. Assuming responsibility and changing things is often uncomfortable and difficult to do alone.
There are a scattering of other restaurants in Germany including Heroldsberg’sSosein, and essigbrätlein in Nürnberg, which employ similar methodologies. Joachim Wissler, head chef at the triple Michelin-starred Vendôme just outside of Cologne, recently echoed his support of the die Gemeinschaft as well, emphasising to an audience at Düsseldorf’s Chefs Sache conference that the work being undertaken by the manifesto was of utmost importance in securing a promising food future for Germany.
5. Reestablishing the connection between land, food and restaurants
We hold that reestablishing the connections that have been lost between land, food, producers, restaurants and each other is an act of essential collective goodness.
The emergence of die Gemeinschaft gives a vision and purpose to Germany’s dining culture; reigniting the country’s gastronomy spark and imbuing a newfound sense of pride in kitchens across the country. It also means that in years to come, the world will know exactly what the German culinary experience is. Here’s looking forwards…
Dal is one of those recipes that goes all the way back to the Indus Valley Civilisation. Unlike dishes such as biryani, brought to India by the Moghuls, it is one of those foods that has always been there. It is therefore a building block of Indian culture.