In December 2005, ECLA’s head chef Roger Langkamp started his own catering business, Langkamp Gourmet Catering. Langkamp who decided to become a chef when he was still in Kindergarten has been cooking professionally for seventeen years. He has degrees in Hotel Management and Catering Management from Wihoga in Dortmund – one of the best Hotel Management Schools in Germany – and held several management positions in large catering companies before launching his own business. Langkamp and his team prepare all the meals for ECLA on location. Here’s what the man behind ECLA’s high-quality meal plan has to say about the catering industry, ECLA, and cooking in general.
What motivated you to start your own business?
When you’re working for big companies there is so much pressure to reduce staff and other costs. After a while the only way to reduce more is to save on quality. But this is only short-term savings because in the long run your clients will look elsewhere. I was talking to Dick Shriver [ECLA’s Provost Emeritus] one day and we had the idea to do something together. So Langkamp Gourmet Catering was born out of that conversation.
What is the best part of being an entrepreneur? What is the worst part?
Having your own business means more peace and less stress. You’re not responsible to somebody above anymore. You’re only responsible to your clients, so you know whom you’re working for. You can apply your own ideas of quality. You lose creativity when working within a system because you can’t turn left or right without asking somebody above you. The worst part is actually starting your own business in Germany. It’s not so easy at first. There are a lot of applications, paper work etc.
Where do you find inspiration for your weekly menus?
I am always trying to adapt new things based on my travels or something I’ve recently tried at a good restaurant. Also, I change our standard six-week menu based on the season.
What is your favorite dish?
I don’t have a favorite dish but I like Asian food, especially Thai food. I also like Austrian desserts.
How is working at ECLA different than other kitchens?
You have to be quite flexible because working at ECLA can mean surprises every day. Working here is much nicer because ECLA treats its partners very fairly, very diplomatically.
What do you like most about working here?
Every day is fun.
Do you have a cooking philosophy? What is it?
Good quality is most important. I would never serve something to other people that I wouldn’t eat myself.
Is this it or do you dream of becoming a German-version of Jamie Oliver one day?
There are already so many [Jamie Oliver wannabes] on TV. Why should I go on [TV]? You never know what will happen in the future but for now I would say this is it. At some point, you have to make a decision. What’s more important: a more stressful job or something that’s a little bit more relaxed and satisfying?
What Berlin cuisine should everyone try at least once?
Berlin isn’t famous for its cuisine, so I would say Currywurst.
Roger recommends the following places in Berlin.
Low-range: The Weinerei’s 3-course menu on Thursday evenings (Kollwitz Str. 41)
Mid-range: Neugrüns Köche (Schönhauser Alle 135a)
High-range: Shiro i Shiro is a creative newcomer (Roxa-Luxemburg Str. 11)
Best brunch: At ECLA of course! No, you can get a good, affordable brunch at Maccaroni (Lychener Str. 41)
Best place for Kaffee und Kuchen: Either Anna Blume or Sowohl als Auch (Kollwitz Platz)
Best farmer’s market: Wittenberg-Markt and Kollwitz-Markt Best atmosphere: Spindler & Klatt (Köpenicker Str. 16-17)
Best place to get Berlinerisch and/or German food: Metzer Eck (Metzer Str. 33)
Best place for Currywurst: Konnopke (Schönhauser Allee 44a) or Witty’s (Wittemberg Platz).