The cook serves the food
Sarah Wiener once cooked her way into the hearts of Hollywood stars with her pastries. She later catered to filmmakers and artists from a converted truck and on fine china sourced from flea markets. Today she is among the best known chefs in Germany, appears on television, authors cookbooks, runs an organic-certified restaurant and a catering business, owns her own farm and is dedicated to sustainable dining pleasure.
“Being able to cook for yourself means you don’t have to rely on strangers to be fed,” according to Sarah Wiener. She discovered her love for pastries while growing up with her mother in Vienna. In her youth she hitchhiked through Europe before ultimately landing in Berlin, where she found the launching pad for her gastronomical career in her father’s art restaurant. Today Sarah Wiener is a famous television cook, cookbook author, businesswoman and advocate for sustainable enjoyment. “Cooking is creative, satisfying, sensuous and fosters attentiveness. Cooking slows you down – and rewards you in the end,” she said in explanation of her passion. To complete a project yourself from beginning to end – from comprehension to conception and on to testing and customer care – is not only the credo of BSI, but also of Sarah Wiener. Very much in the spirit of “the cook serves the meal.” The business- woman revealed to us what drives her along every step of the value creation chain – from vegetable farming to inspiration, to creation and serving, and on through to customer feedback.
Open for every culinary direction
As long as the food is regional, organic and genetically unmodified, this passionate chef is open for any culinary direction. Depending on the weather and mood, she likes to cook pasta, soups, stir-fried vegetables and naturally pastries. Meat and fish are allowed now and then – meat preferably in the form of a roast. Besides her love for cooking, she is especially driven by curiosity for good food and the constant miracle of transformation. The impassioned chef obtains inspiration from everywhere: from the people she meets, from books, markets, other countries or things she hears, in the bathtub or while hiking in the countryside. “It doesn’t take much to set my brain on fire,” according to Sarah Wiener. When she holds an especially delicious cheese or beautiful artichoke in her hand she looks forward to cooking and eating them, even while still shopping. Besides good ingredients, socializing and taking time for cooking are crucial factors for her. If there is enough of everything available, a tempting treat arises from something healthy, or a “Schmankerl” as the Viennese chef would say.
“I have never cooked for target groups, but for individual people.”
Sarah Wiener, chef for sustainable enjoyment
Good food only with good ingredients
The end product thus depends on the ingredients. “The quality of the soil, the production and the breed, the feed and the butchering all have a great impact on the taste of a food, as well as on our future,” of that Sarah Wiener is convinced. That is why she has shifted her emphasis from the kitchen to the nutrition policy discussion. Full of passion, snappy arguments and personal dedication, she encourages people to cook for themselves with natural ingredients instead of eating conserved convenience food. She encourages people to look for species-appropriate livestock farming as well as seasonal and regional goods while shopping, and, with her cookbook, provides instructions on how the ingredients can be prepared to be especially tasty.
Qualified craftsmanship instead of industrial mass production
Creativity is demanded in gastronomy. It is not a matter of constantly reinventing the kitchen, but to think sustainably and entrepreneurially. With all the industrial mass production, “good craftsmanship is unfortunately dying out,” according to Sarah Wiener. “Qualified employees are sought after: inventive cooks, friendly waiters as well as passionate bakers and innovative butchers.” The impassioned cook attempts to retain craftsmanship in gastronomy: “In my company we share and embody values: we cook so that reason and wellbeing have top priority with everyone. We also view it as our societal obligation to inform and educate our fellow humans about their food. We want responsible eaters who know where their food comes from and how it is produced.” This must, of course, also make economic sense. You need to find a compromise with which you “remain true to yourself, but can also take others along with you,” states the passionate cook. One of her aims is to encourage the craft of cooking in younger generations as well as to shape culinarily responsible people. She formed a foundation towards this end, which is intended to give children and young people an appetite for diverse nutrition and to introduce them to cooking themselves using fresh ingredients.
From waitress to entrepreneur
Her entrepreneurial, innovative thinking was also the cornerstone for her success. The daughter of the Austrian author and jazz musician Oswald Wiener and the visual artist Lore Heuermann spent her wild childhood and even wilder youth surrounded by the humble circumstances of her mother in Vienna. This may well explain her love of pastries. As a young woman, she hitchhiked through Europe, undertook her first culinary travel adventure. She ultimately landed in Berlin, where she got by working as a waitress and by selling baked goods and cakes in her father’s art restaurant. Her pastries amazed the Oscar prizewinning actress, Tilda Swinton, who hired the young, ambitious woman right away to cater her next film shoot. A career grew from her passion: she founded her own catering company at the age of 28. From her mobile kitchen – a decommissioned truck from the former national army and fine china from the flea market – she began catering to film teams, advertising filmmakers and musicians, then soon also weddings, art openings, fashion shows and receptions.
“Being able to cook for yourself means you don't have to rely on being fed by strangers.”
Sarah Wiener, passionate chef and entrepreneur
When the cook and eater meet at eye level
“I like the individuality of food truck catering. Food truckers are dedicated young people full of dreams and drive. As a cook, you can look at those eating in the eye,” Sarah Wiener reminisced. “It is something special to see those you are cooking for, and it makes it possible to receive direct feedback.” The feedback she gets from her customers plays a crucial role in the development of her dishes: “Feedback is naturally very important to me. I gather it during test meals, chatting with customers and while catering, both before and after the event. And, of course, every day in the restaurant. That is when the analysis begins: what can you do better? What do you need to do differently?” Naturally, praise is also received. For Sarah Wiener, this is the “very personal reward and the joy of working.”
Direct exchange instead of 140 characters
The once one-woman company today runs an organically certified restaurant and catering firm with a headcount of around 100. Sarah Wiener herself is rarely behind the stove these days: “My emphasis has shifted to the media as well as in participation in nutrition policy discussions.” Digitalization also plays an essential role in her success: websites, social media, blogs and a computer game for children lend scope and enable her message to penetrate the respective target groups. The question regarding digital and analogue customer relationships could fill an entire book. “Note: a book, not a blog,” laughs Sarah Wiener. Although she cleverly uses new media, she describes herself as an “old-fashioned girl.” “The new media may have many advantages, be interesting and fast, and some food blogs are amazing, but nevertheless, I prefer to look people in the eye, love analogue stimuli, craftsmanship and the pleasure with all the senses. Whether for generation X, Y, K or Z: I have never cooked for target groups, but for individual people – people who appreciate lovingly prepared, individually cooked food. Even digital natives are unable to say no to good food and are happier with a direct exchange than with 140 characters,” the chef said with a smile.
“Only when I do something from the beginning to the end can I be the master of my craft.”
Sarah Wiener, owner of a farm, a bakery and a beehive
Doing things yourself from beginning to end
Sarah Wiener likes the value creation chain in its entirety. She takes this to such an extent that she raises her own bees, runs a wood oven bakery and has purchased a farm in Brandenburg, with fields and livestock. “I have fulfilled a long-held wish with my farm: to pursue the production of food from seeds to processing and thereby to precisely know the conditions under which the food is produced. Only when I do something from the beginning to the end can I be informed, and be the master of my craft. It is very satisfying and a wonderful responsibility, one that is fun,” according to Sarah Wiener, who went on to add: “I can build my own relationship to the processes and thus learn something. That makes me happy.” That probably explains Sarah Wiener’s success: She looks at the entire value creation chain, beyond the “cooking” stage – her business is vertically integrated. Yet nevertheless she focuses on her core competency and relies on the right partner in areas where her own creation does not make sense. “I do what I do,” explained Sarah Wiener. An example of when commitment, authenticity and passion are often more effective than a sophisticated business strategy.
Sarah Wiener discovered her passion for cook-ing in her father’s art restaurant in Berlin, which turned into the stepping stone for her own career. Here she prepared baked goods and cakes, the foundations of her first company: Sarah Wiener’s Pastries. She later founded “Tracking Catering,” through which she catered from food trucks to film crews, advertising filmmakers and musicians throughout Europe. Today, Sarah Wiener not only runs an event, conference and trade fair catering business, but also the organic certified restaurant “Hamburger Bahnhof” and the wood oven bakery “Wiener Brot.” Sarah Wiener regularly publishes cookbooks and has already appeared in various cooking series on television. Besides her business activities, the “chef for sus-tainable pleasure” is also involved in the nutrition policy discussion. She advocates for the retention of our natural basis of existence as well as for an ethical-ecological nutritional awareness in our society.
Menu of the future: What is our food worth? – Enjoy healthily and sustainably
Hardly any other top chef can top Sarah Wiener in this area: her commitment to down-to-earth, sustainable food production, to attentiveness and enjoyment while eating is highly topical. In her book “Zukunftsmenü – Was ist unser Essen Wert?,” she impresses with her knowledge of health issues and the destructive impact of industrial nutrition. Most of all, her strong sense for the value of our domestic products, for freshly cooked meals enjoyed together enable her readers to rediscover cooking culture and eating pleasure. She makes a valuable and important contribution to greater zest for life and sustainable eating.