“With something as essential as food, you should always ask yourself, what it is that you are eating and where it comes from." Florian Kliem
"Its still of good quality, so why throw it away?” Florian Kliem
In front of a large old market hall in the center of Kreuzberg, a group of men sits on crates and drinks a coffee. It’s early in the morning and the guys are getting ready for a new day of work. Florian Kliem (28) and Julian Karnetzky (26) are two of them. Together they run the ‘Kantine Neun’ in the 120-year-old market hall. Everyday, between 12.00-16.00, the Kantine serves lunch that almost completely consists out of food that is grown and produced in Berlin and Brandenburg. Their mission: to make people aware of the value of food.
Since September 2012 the Kantine, which literally means canteen, is located in the Markthalle IX. But Florian and Julian, both originally from the area of Frankfurt, already knew each other from before. Julian explains: “The Kantine is operating about one year now, but before that time we already worked together on a project called ‘Projekt Umdenken’. The idea behind this project was to bring young and creative people together to create new economical systems – systems that are sustainable and fair.” The Kantine was its first creative venture.
Since Florian had been working as a chef for many years already, they decided to focus on food. But, that was not the only reason. Florian: “We realized some things in the world aren’t functioning well. For example, the way in which agriculture is organized is really damaging to the environment. Or the fact that people eat too much meat. So, we asked ourselves, how can we change that?”
To Florian and Julian it was clear: they needed to raise more awareness about the production of food and decided to do that by establishing the Kantine. Florian: “With something as essential as food, you should always ask yourself, what it is that you are eating and where it comes from. Food actually becomes part of your body – it’s not like a pair of jeans you put on and take off again.”
Florian and Julian don’t like to be certified with the label ‘Bio’. Although this has become quite a popular trend in Germany, they don’t consider it the answer to the problems in the food industry. Florian: “Because it has become such a trend, Bio food also developed into an industry of its own. It works almost the same as the production of conventional food. To us, the only solution is awareness – only that is sustainable. A trend is not.”
Florian continues: “For example, when people realize that in the middle of the winter tomatoes actually can’t grow in Germany, they ask themselves where these tomatoes came from and under which circumstances they were cultivated. Spanish tomatoes for instance, are produced with the usage of pesticides, which pollutes the land. The people that work on these fields receive almost nothing for their work. When people become aware of these circumstances, hopefully, they won’t buy those tomatoes anymore.”
“Therefore”, Julian adds, “it is important to us to work in a very open and transparent way. We work very closely with farmers in Berlin and Brandenburg. These are small food suppliers that we know personally and where we can easily drive to. Not just to be sure the food is produced in a fair and environmentally friendly way, but also so people feel personally connected to the food they eat.”
Florian and Julian have also asked farmers to grow vegetables that people have forgotten about over the years, like kohlrabi, all sorts of carrots, beets and cabbage. Florian: “The vegetables we use depend on the season. We also buy food that farmers consider over-production, or vegetables that for instance aren’t good-looking enough to be sold. It would be a waste to throw away – the quality is good.”
About 150 people visit the Kantine every day for lunch. Florian and Julian would like to see that number doubled in a few years. Apart from the regular customers, mostly people that work in neighboring offices, come here to eat. Florian: “We serve the food very fast and make sure it’s always price worthy. Each day we serve a vegan, a vegetarian and a dish with fish or meat. We also offer a dish that is made out of yesterday’s leftovers. Its still good, so why throw it away?”
People react very positively on this dish, Julian explains: “People appreciate that we aren’t a restaurant that throws everything out at the end of the day. We make something creative out of it, something nice with good quality.” Florian adds: “To people it’s not uncommon. At home you also wouldn’t throw something out after one day either. So why should restaurants?”