We had a talk with Linda Lezius from Wild & Root food collective in Berlin. During our conversation, Linda helped us discover new ways to implement restaurant businesses and reminded us about the importance of focusing on values as a starting point to create dining experiences.
What does Wild & Root do?
Wild & Root is an agency for food communication. In the last five years, we have worked around campaigns, strategies, and events. We are a collective of people from different backgrounds including designers, photographers, videographers, illustrators, journalists, chefs, project managers, and architects. Our ambition is turning values into experiences, especially for heart-driven and sustainable companies.
Which are the most exciting aspects of your job & mission of your food collective?
I would say diving into the world of a food business to understand which story they are telling us. A lot of businesses already offer great products, but they don’t know how to communicate their value— or sometimes they don’t even know the value. Restaurants don’t just sell products or services and some of them don’t want to just make a profit. They often aim for a greater impact and we see many examples in Berlin. This is when we come into play to help them embody their principles and we’ve worked with restaurants and food companies in Portugal, Switzerland, and Germany. It is important for a restaurant to communicate their value, which is what makes people come back usually, more than a great pumpkin…or well, we need both of course.
What would be your main advice for restaurants to improve their communication?
Every restaurant owner starts with a story of why they end up working in gastronomy. I’ve seen a lot of people following the same kind of narratives of what’s already out there. I’m not saying that they copy, but many restaurants are similar to each other, and rather than expressing themselves, they do what they should do or think they should do. So, my advice would be to underline your own story. And to not be afraid of doing it differently than others. Also, I’d say not to limit this story-telling to the process of making a dish, but to expand it to the whole restaurant environment, from service to interiors, or to how people speak to you, for example. Or even the way you eat food— we always eat with knife and fork…who says we always have to eat with knife and fork? And it is not needed to be a high-end restaurant for creative story-telling. Every simple restaurant can implement a strong and unique concept.
“Our ambition is turning values into experiences”
What’s your favorite restaurant in Berlin?
I usually choose where to eat depending on what I feel that day, I’d say. There is such a great variety of restaurants here and a lot of new creative concepts. And in general, I love exploring new places. But I like FREA: they have a great approach to zero waste & plant-based cooking, in the way they focus on great products rather than promoting the philosophy behind their dishes. They don’t shout out to be plant-based because they consider this should be the new normal. And on the other hand, they show that it is possible to work on zero waste or use organic products and still being profitable.
Where do you source products in Berlin?
From local farmers. Of course, this includes the whole Brandenburg area. There are so many amazing farmers in and around the city, however, they can’t always deliver on a regular basis. This is also why a lot of great products stay in Brandenburg and not enter Berlin: farmers just can’t afford to take care of the logistics and deliver every second day of the week. This is something that I think could be improved by working around relations between restaurants and farmers— otherwise, we’re going to have all the high-end restaurants ordering from the same farmer, for example.
We recently talked about food art with Tainá from the Food Art Week. How is food art different from food design?
It’s a tricky question because, in the end, it’s hard to separate. In terms of food art, I’d say it’s linked more to the imagination and raising questions or triggering emotions (when it’s interesting art). Food design is more about look, function, or trying to answer questions or solve problems. But they go along with each other, even in our work at Wild & Root. That’s why we define it as eating design, which doesn’t mean only focusing on products and modifying them. We’re not just about “what do I do with an apple: cut it in slices or cubes?” but we take into account the quality of products and type of production, the logistics, and the entire experience of consuming it.