While attending the workshop, Crafting The Terroir Cocktail at Tiger Bar this October, I found myself sitting among an intriguing group of bartenders, winemakers, journalists and sommeliers in animated dialogue. Learning that terroir – to most of us familiar in the context of wine – can also be used in mixology was not the only thing that made me listen carefully as the team explained their craft. It was the one-word mantra that everyone in the contemporary gastronomy scene is so overly familiar with but in this context, suddenly gained a completely new depth of meaning. The word sharing.
These days it’s all about sharing at the restaurants, pop-ups and culinary temples around the world. They revolve around the family-style meal, where it is not only about sharing your food; it’s also about fostering a verbal, mental and bodily connection.
But do we all really understand and practice the concept of sharing? When it comes to sharing knowledge, the gastronomy scene in particular is still more than hesitant. Knowledge is power and knowledge is money. This is a universal fact, especially in a highly competitive industry such as gastronomy. And since we treat knowledge as a commodity, why would we care to share when tangible rewards are not a given?
If you look at restaurants it seems an unspoken rule that even though every good restaurant works like a well-oiled machine, the individual departments have a solo attitude. Exchanging information, skills and expertise is not traditionally practiced, even among one’s own colleagues. The kitchen creates the menu; the sommelier and bartender compete in finding creations to fit the dishes; the service staff orchestrates their own show – each department goes on their own little journey. To overcome interdepartmental boundaries and emphasize the empowerment of the industry through knowledge-sharing was exactly what the teams at Tiger Bar and Panama Restaurant set out to do. So they invited professionals from different realms of gastronomy and got them into one room to engage in a shared learning experience. As part of their Terroir Cocktail concept, they promoted their belief that going on a journey as a team, within a company and within an industry at large, can take you miles farther than when you walk the path of discovery in solitude. The Terroir Cocktail concept presented itself as a perfect opportunity for this, as it is itself the product of interdisciplinary exchange across a large network of professionals.
“It all started when our Head Bartender, Matt Boswell, was asking Head Sommelier, Nick Pratt, about the way terroir impacts wine during our weekly creative meetings between the kitchen, bar and wine team. We hold those meetings exactly for this purpose, to give team members a platform to share their knowledge on food, drinks or whatever it is they are specialized in. In this case what made it special was that what started as a simple exchange of knowledge between two colleagues quickly turned into a mutual sharing of knowledge not only between the restaurant teams but with people from outside the company, winemakers and spirit producers as well,” said Joshua Lange, F&B Director of Panama Restaurant. “Matt wanted to learn more about terroir in wine because he was stunned by the depth and structure a certain terroir can give, something the sommeliers shared with him. It was then during a tasting that the group suddenly came up together with the idea of resting spirits on terroir to see if we could create the same kind of complexity in a cocktail.” The sommeliers and bar team joined forces, quickly coming to the conclusion that in order to fully explore what terroir had to offer they needed help from the winemakers.
They contacted wine producers all over Germany, one of whom was Clemens Busch. He was both willing to share his knowledge about how different terroirs effect the taste of his grapes and wines as well as to share his very terroirs with the team: he actually brought stones from his vineyard.
Meanwhile this process of exchange had become a self-accelerating force, with more and more people contributing. “You can develop this concept in so many different ways, working with shrubs or cordials in the bar, different fruit wines and ciders, or of course in the dishes coming out of the kitchen. We couldn’t possibly come up with every inspiration all by ourselves, or better – we don’t want to. The reason why we decided to share this concept with other bartenders and sommeliers was that we wanted to motivate them to join us on this exploration and develop completely new ideas, things that we would have never thought of. We strongly believe that ideas only get better when you openly engage in sometimes unexpected and random experiments and dialogue.”
Noemi Dulischewski, hospitality insider and founder of the platform, Berlin Hospitality Staff, is also a big proponent of the “sharing is caring” concept. “Berlin’s gastro scene is still in its infancy. We can achieve so much more and put Berlin’s gastronomy on the international map if we don’t see each other as competition but as a strong community that shares knowledge, skills and passion and supports each other.”Noemi sees sharing as vital for creating new concepts and for training skilled staff. “BHS is a platform for posting vacancies as well as knowledge exchange, industry news and initiatives that drive our increasingly vibrant industry forward. More and more skilled hospitality staff from all over the world are moving to the city, an exciting opportunity for Berlin to learn, develop and flourish as a whole.”
When I opened one of Berlin’s culinary publications the day after the workshop at Tiger Bar I found an article calling for the end of the sharing fad. I smiled and sat down to write this article on my newly found care for sharing. Because even though we may soon experience a renaissance of the me-myself-and-my-plate policy in the restaurants of the world, the real sharing is just gathering its entourage – family-style.
Mascha is the first participant of our management trainee program at Contemporary Food Lab. She started the program in January 2018. What she enjoys most about the program is gaining insight in all the different departments of hospitality and getting to know the whole team. Her endurance is tested when she has to serve the good food to the guests instead of eating it herself in the end of a long shift. Her favourite drink & snack at Tiger Bar: Panama Empanadas with Sesame Ponzu along with a Dirty Tonic.