Berlin Travelogue Heroes #4 Susanna, the Italian intuitive chef

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"I realize that what I wanted to do is to use food as a way of gathering people, educate through food and raise awareness on what we eat!

Could you introduce yourself and tell us what’s your passion project
I have been passionate about food for over 15 years- to the point that I’m thinking about food all day long: how to transform it, how to create something new. The possibilities are infinite, so it’s never dull. I grew up in a suburban area of Milan next to the lakes, and I never actually got discover all the Italian cuisine until I left. It was ten years ago I believe, I went to live in Istanbul for a while. There I discovered an entirely different food culture - still quite Mediterranean but with its blend. I met amazing people who taught me how to make real soups, how to season your dishes -- to the point that I can honestly say it is one of the reasons why I am in Berlin - the place where Turkish culture is very much visible.

How did you start your own project?
Up until last April, I was working in an Italian restaurant and for a catering service for startups.  So one day I’m there at the restaurant cutting all of this prosciutto, and thinking like… why am I even here? This food is sad.  It was then a series of happy coincidence, so I quit my job, went traveling and when I came back I wanted to rebuild my creative confidence.

How did it feel?
It felt amazing. I spent all my days running in the park, I started to write again and take photos. You know I never believed in my creative capacities but I got to learn that creativity is not about talent, but about practice. I learned a lot in the restaurant scene but one of the reasons my food tasted good, is because it was made with love and passion. Cooking is magic, it is all about the energies you put in the food. If you are nervous while cooking, it’s going to have a repercussion on the taste.

 Turkish market at its best!

Turkish market at its best!

So you started to do your own thing…
One my best friend is also a chef from Jerusalem -- we didn’t really believe in the food we were making in the restaurant so we started to create our own pop-up dinner project. Twice a month in Berlin we were doing it in this cafe of friends, little pop-up dinners, very laid back with friends, 5 - 7 € a dish, just so the people get together. But all vegan and gluten-free. Not because I have anything against gluten, but when you give the task to an Italian to do a vegan dish, he would be like ok, I can make a pasta!  But gluten-free... he wouldn’t know what to cook. So I thought now THIS is challenging, this is how I’m going to get out of my comfort zone.

I guess it was the beginning of many other projects?
Yeah! Let’s face it, in 2018, you can invent your job if you want to! And I realize that what I wanted to do is to use food as a way of gathering people, educate through food and raise awareness on what we eat! From there I jumped in another adventure, thanks to Travelogue. When Hana, created “Berlin Experience Makers”, I really wanted to start teaching what I knew - and host my own workshops. I saw this post of a girl - Linda - that has a creative food agency, saying that she wanted to do some more sustainable creative project. On the 8th of January we met, and on the 10th of February, we were doing our first workshop.

What’s your routine before getting into the creative process?
There are two different ones. I go to the market and buy what inspires me or if I was dreaming about something specific. Or I love to cook with leftovers, creating something gourmet with what is there.

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"Cooking is magic, it is all about the energies you put in the food."

In your own world, what would be the capital of food?
Israel. Both because there is a lot of influence from different cuisine and the products are amazing! It’s very vegetarian-friendly, very fresh and very colorful. They have a natural way of eating that is very healthy.

How is it to be a chef as a women point of view?
When I was working as a chef, I felt that the culinary world is a very masculine one whereas it’s one of the most matriarchal things. It's all about groups of women coming together, making something to feed the community. But when you are evolving in your career as a women chef, it’s very hard. You have to prove yourself twice as much. But it always depends on which place and culture you find yourself at the moment. In Berlin, for example, you have less this feeling.
 

When was the last time you got impressed by a chef?
The thing is that I’m not really difficult with food, I’m like we say in Italian, “buona forchetta”. To be honest with you, the few places that I love the most in Berlin are the doggiest (laughs). One of my secret places - it might be very unimpressive in terms of the place and the products that they use but it’s so yummy! They make fresh Zaatar pizza If you want to risk the adventure, it’s a tiny Lebanese place on Sonnenallee next to the big flower shop, not saying more.

Take a look at the pictures of our workshop, here!

Interview made on a happy day the 22nd of February in Berlin
Made by Annalena & Antoine - beautiful pictures by Kama