„One part is the idea, the other part is finding the right people”An open-minded perspective about gastronomy lead Anton Michel to bring a bite of modern British cuisine to Berlin-Moabit, keeping untouched its taste of urban and hip food like in London.
INTERVIEW: CRISTINA SÁNCHEZ BILD: ALEJANDRA LORETO
e’s young, unexpectedly so, for someone who not only was trained under the wings of Marco Müller at the Rutz and Kolja Kleeberg at the Vau, but has also already opened his own restaurant: At only 24 years, chef Anton Michel runs the Richwater & Mitchell.
The restaurant is a project that emerged from the fusion of his Anglo-German origins and as a tribute to the two cities that have made him the top-notch chef he has become.
The result is stunning: The guests are a diverse blend of people from all corners of Berlin, the decoration a mix of the previous Greek-themed interior combined with the ambiance of a London club, and the menu a marriage of innovative food and the legacy of the paternal wine shop “Weinmichel”. One can feel the enthusiasm of a team that’s committed to authenticity and the new trends that are bubbling up across this city of contrasts.
I can only offer my deep gratitude to all my staff and the people who have worked here, who do a lot more than I can reasonably expect from them.
What makes Richwater & Mitchell special compared to other restaurants?
Since we opened last January, we are the only restaurant in Berlin which has decided to produce British cuisine on a high level. Something that is not just fish and chips or pub food but more a sort of odd cuisine level. Therefore, we take British ideas and use local products. There are a lot of influences from London but most of it is just my own idea to show what’s happening in England. Gastronomy plays such a large role in culture that you have to check what is normally on your plate, especially now that we are facing more important nationalistic overtones in a lot of stuff. It is important to note openness in culture by openness in food.
Which were the main challenges that you faced at the beginning?
On one side, the cost of renovating an old restaurant. It was higher than expected because anywhere you looked you found something that hadn’t been changed in the last 20 or 30 years, so you have to either leave it or invest a lot of money to replace it. On the other side, the search for good people to work with, who share your vision, who love what they do and who are not afraid of working a bit more, especially at the beginning. Here, we start together at 10 am, in the kitchen, preparing the food and trying out new ideas for the menu. Then, the service comes in to prepare the dining room and we work till late at night without losing our good mood.
Apart from the higher costs involved, are there any mistakes you made at the start?
I think that more important than mistakes is the ability to recognize them. There was not one big mistake we made, but lots of things that we have had to adjust during this three months. The important thing is to recognize if you are doing something which is not working, and not to continue doing it because you thought it was a good idea. For instance, we changed the style of our drinks menu, we changed the portion sizes in the kitchen…and other bits in order to create a better experience.
Now, I don’t think we have any unhappy customers as we ask them for a honest opinion. So far, we have reached much more than we expected, we are full almost every evening. People are coming here from Neukölln, or farther away, because they’ve thought the idea was interesting enough to be checked out. And that is amazing, I’m really thankful for the fact that we have created something that people find attractive.
What do you find special about Berlin?
I´ve been living in Berlin for seven years now and I really enjoy its atmosphere as the gastronomy scene is really relaxed and open to new ideas and new influences; it’s especially a right place to start out with your own restaurant. Of course, you have to be aware of the regulations and do your homework first. Do not expect anyone to do it for you and be sure that you have a plan b and also a plan c. Actually, you can’t be certain of anything. Apart from that, I think this is a good city for the food sector since a large part of the population here is interested in trying new things, at least once.
Have you felt a change within Berlin’s lifestyle since you came here?
There’s more interest in the food scene than when I first got here. In these last years, you get a lot more mixed people coming into restaurants in search of what typically guests wouldn’t try; something new that they’ve seen in young restaurants. That’s something which is happening in all of Germany.
This is Moabit, that is the Beusselkiez, and for this reason, the restaurant should also have something handmade and the charm and character of a shop.
We chose this neighborhood due to its nice and relaxed atmosphere and because it hasn’t been overloaded with restaurants and many people with creative ideas yet. Also, what I enjoy is that all the young people who had been opening businesses here are really open in their attitude. There’s a lot of exchange on what we are doing here. For example, there’s an ice cream shop down the road which makes fantastic ice cream that we sell here in the restaurant as well. Moreover, we have friendships here with a couple of other places just because they enjoy what they are doing and enjoy being in the kitchen.
What are your future prospects for the next 5 years?
I’m really focusing on what we need to achieve and improving the service in this restaurant. However, this is definitely not the last thing I will do in the gastronomy sector. For now, I can only offer my deep gratitude to all my staff and the people who have worked here, who do a lot more than I can reasonably expect from them. This is the most important part of a business. One part is the idea, the other part is the people you find to make it come true. I’m always open and thankful to new ideas and it takes a lot of weight out of my back to find along with my people the right way to create the best experience for our customers.
Das Interesse für den Food- Bereich ist heute definitiv größer.
Auf der einen Seite waren das die Kosten für die Renovierung. Das Restaurant ist sehr alt und die Kosten waren höher als erwartet, denn überall, wo man genauer hingeschaut hat, sind einem Dinge aufgefallen, die seit zwanzig, dreißig Jahren nicht mehr erneuert wurden. Also musst du es entweder so lassen oder für einen haufen Geld ersetzen. Auf der anderen Seite, war es aber auch schwer, gut ausgebildete Mitarbeiter zu finden, die meine Vision teilen, ihre Arbeit lieben und keine Angst davor haben, auch mal ein bisschen mehr zu arbeiten. Wir fangen hier um zehn Uhr morgens gemeinsam in der Küche an, bereiten das Essen zu und tüfteln an neue Ideen für die Speisekarte. Dann müssen wir die Tische vorbereiten und die Gäste bedienen. Wir arbeiten bis spät in die Nacht. Und das, ohne unsere gute Laune zu verlieren.
Ich denke, wichtiger als die Fehler selbst ist die Fähigkeit diese zu erkennen. Es gab nicht den einen riesigen Fehler, der uns unterlaufen wäre. Aber eben die vielen kleinen Dinge, die passiert sind in den ersten drei Monaten und die man hätte anders machen können. Wir haben Kleinigkeiten geändert, auf die uns unsere Gästen hingewiesen haben, als wir sie um eine ehrliche Meinung gebeten haben. Bis jetzt haben wir damit mehr erreicht, als wir erwartet haben. Jeden Abend sind wir ausgebucht. Das macht mich richtig glücklich und ich bin sehr dankbar, dass wir etwas geschaffen haben, das die Leute anziehend finden.