While some relationships are fleeting, true friendships can last a lifetime. At Fleischwolf und Lotte on Körtestraße in Kreuzberg, you can find high quality, vintage-style cookware, from brands that have been around for decades, and some even for centuries. Once you bond with one of these sturdy tools, they will become your faithful kitchen companion, for life.
Owners Patrick Thommel and Jörg Hennerich, have been buddies since childhood, when they were growing up in the small town of Ravensburg next to lake Constance in the south of Germany.
Their friendship developed into a business partnership, when Patrick one day picked up his phone, texted Jörg and proposed the idea of opening a cookware store in Berlin.
So tell us more about how this came about.
[Patrick] It was kind of a childhood dream to have a store like this of my own. My family has been running a business similar to this for more than 140 years in Germany, so I’m kind of addicted to cookware and kitchen tools.
[Jörg] I had just quit my job of 16 years for a large publishing house and was looking for the right opportunity, when I received a long text message from Patrick proposing the business venture. My immediate thought was “that sounds like a great idea!”. I was in London at the time, so I flew back to Munich where I was living, packed up my things and moved to Berlin. In January this year, we registered the business, and on the 4th of April, we opened.
I’m kind of addicted to cookware and kitchen tools. (Patrick)
For Patrick this was a natural choice, but Jörg, you went from publishing to cookware. Have you had any interest or involvement in anything cooking related before?
[Jörg] I was always interested in cooking and did and internship at a restaurant when I was younger. Preparing — and even more so — eating good food, has always been something I’ve been passionate about (laughs).
The products you carry in the store are all traditional, vintage-style cookware from brands that have been staples in Europe for decades and longer. Do you have any specific childhood memories attached to any of these cooking tools?
[Jörg] Yes, I do, with the tool called Flotte Lotte. I have fond memories of being a child and watching my grandmother use it to make applesauce. Every year in autumn, all the kids would pick apples and bring them to her kitchen, where this tool was in use constantly.
(A Flotte Lotte is called a food mill in English and is used for pureeing boiled apples, or any kind of boiled fruit or vegetable into sauce.)
The Lotte is also part of our name…
Yes, I was going to ask about your name. Fleischwolf, which translates directly to meat-wolf, sounds cryptic to a non-native German speaker. Explain.
[Jörg] They are two very traditional German kitchen tools, the Fleischwolf being a meat grinder and the Flotte Lotte a food mill. We like their link to tradition, and how they sound together.
[Patrick] And 1874, the number below the name, was the year when my great-great-grandfather founded our family business in Ravensburg, which is named Thommel (like my last name).
Preparing — and even more so — eating good food, has always been something I’ve been passionate about. (Jörg)
Having the right tools is really important when cooking. You have a kitchen in the back where you offer cooking classes. Can you tell us more about that?
[Patrick] The initial idea was to have a place where our friends, family and customers would have the opportunity to try out the equipment we sell in the store, and to pair that with a classic cooking course. We offer classes in traditional cooking, prepared using the equipment we sell. We allow the participants an opportunity to feel the difference between cooking with a solid iron pan, compared to a normal teflon pan that you buy in any store.
[Jörg] You get to see the tools in action and have proof that the tools are great, because we use them ourselves.
Are the classes open to anyone?
[Patrick] So far we’re not publishing a schedule online, but that’s something we’re working on.
At this point we’re trying things out to see what works. We just had an evening with an italian chef and also rented out the kitchen to a woman who gives classes in fermentation of sauerkraut and kimchi.
And you told me before that you hosted a Moroccan Tajine cooking class…
[Patrick] Yes we did! We would like to arrange our own classes with various chefs, and also rent it out to others who can host courses or events. As long as the concept fits with what we do here in general.
[Jörg] A sushi class might not work, since we don’t sell the proper equipment. We try to stick with more traditional (mostly European) methods of cooking.
We also avoid anything plastic and stick with natural materials as far as we can.
[Patrick] And we don’t have a single thing here that’s electric.
With a new-found interest in cooking, the demand for high-end cooking tools is a natural consequence.
Traditional cooking and preparation methods like fermentation have been experiencing a resurgence. Farm-to-table and nose-to-tail eating all go hand in hand with a demand for quality. Would you say there’s also a new-found interest in good quality tools like these?
[Jörg] Definitely, with a new-found interest in cooking, the demand for high-end cooking tools is a natural consequence. Quality has increasingly become a priority over the last five years.
Just this month you launched your new concept, the Grandtools box, which is a custom-made wooden box, filled up with several layers of selected cooking tools from the store. Tell us more!
[Patrick] Containing all necessary cookware for a kitchen in very high quality, the box works as a starter kit, or as an upgrade for any kitchen. We have included products that work on their own, but are really special. As an example there’s a bread knife from Güde, developed in 1923 by Franz Güde, called the bread saw, because it’s 50 cm long. Of course everyone has some kind of bread knife at home, but very few has a nice one like this one.
[Jörg] Yes, in many ways it’s a starter kit, or an upgrade or graduation from your first Ikea tools. Everyone has a kitchen, and often people have two after they form a partnership with someone and end up with duplicates of everything. The Grandtools are the perfect upgrade.
We immediately had associations to a dowry or hope chest.
[Jörg] Yes, this was something that of course crossed our minds as well, as it does make a great gift for someone who is getting married. But they could also be for couples who get divorced…
[Patrick] Yes, most commonly when couples divorce, the man leaves the wife and kids in their previously shared place and moves into a small place, where he will need to get everything anew.
Basically the idea is that if you buy a vacation house, be it a small cabin in Norway or Sweden, a hut in Switzerland, a ship or what have you, you have one box as a starter kit and you know that you can cook practically everything. And in addition the box is beautiful.
You had the box custom made and it’s really nice. What would you use it for?
[Jörg] The box is nice and stable and can be used for anything from a toy box to a night stand, which I used it as when I first moved here.
[Patrick] You can put wheels on it and use it as a table with storage. And it’s perfect for the kid’s room!
We continue to chat as we make our way through the store and take pictures. The banter, jokes and laughs shared between the dynamic duo makes it obvious that they enjoy both about what they do and the company of each other, proving that friendship, just like a well season ironed pan, can only get better with time.