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The Special Taste of Time – Chef Vadim Ursus in a Short Interview with This Place

Im Gespräch 30.01.23 4 min. read

Chef Vadim Otto Ursus, born and raised in Berlin, Prenzlauer Berg, opened his restaurant "otto" towards the end of 2019, creating a place where German cuisine succeeds in the culinary transformation from typical heavy home cooking, to a modern interpretation. Garnished with lightness, spiced with international flair, and rounded off with the ancient art of fermentation.

Together with Cate Gowers and  Sören Zuppke, Vadim sends a greeting from the kitchen to Berliners and city visitors from Thursday to Monday, letting them know how closeness to nature and originality can, and should, taste.

 For the exclusive opening event of This Place on 11.01.2023, Vadim, Cate and Sören created a flying dinner that follows the holistic concept of Self-Care

In a short interview for our blog series "In Conversation", restaurant owner Vadim talks openly about everyday rituals, a sense of regional responsibility and the taste factor "time".

1. Vadim, a central element of the brand philosophy at This Place is the integration of rituals into everyday life. What rituals accompany you privately through the day? And what role do rituals play for the kitchen and service at "otto"?

No matter how stressful my day is: I try to get together for a meal regularly - both with my girlfriend Leonie and our son and with my team at “otto”. 

I am convinced that eating together creates a moment of calm and community. After all, this is where we exchange ideas about the experiences of the day or the upcoming tasks for the service. 

On the one hand, this ritual brings an important structure to the (working) day and, on the other hand, it also enables small, important moments of togetherness. 

2. During your chef training, you looked into the pots of Norway, Portugal or even Mexico. But while in many restaurants in Berlin a distinct exoticism is part of the menu, the majority of your ingredients grow outside the gates of the capital or come from organic farms that are as regional as possible. What made you decide not only to work with local heroes, but to be one yourself?

It has always been important for me to take responsibility myself as well as helping to shape my surroundings and create spaces myself. I was born and raised in Berlin - between Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg - I feel connected to my home. 

Therefore, the decision to work within our region in "otto" has clearly more logical than more romanticized reasons. 

"It has always been important to me to take responsibility myself. And by that I also mean helping to shape my environment and create spaces myself. "

3. Scrolling through the Instagram account (@Otto_Berlin), colourful flowers are a frequent companion to many dishes. Is it simply a case of "the eye (and the camera) eat with you"? Or are the blossoms much more than just a natural decorative element?

Working with only regional, partly wild-collected products, reflects the beauty of a season in Brandenburg as well as the beauty of limited availability. 

The blossoms are certainly beautiful to look at. But in fact, the flowers provide an important and independent taste component. We do not use them purely for decoration.

otto Berlin  

4. In the Schorfheide-Chorin biosphere reserve in Brandenburg, everything revolves around time and a special traditional craft. The preservation of food thanks to fermentation. Why are fermented foods an integral part of your menu? Why do you rely on a process that requires a lot of time and patience and that contrasts with the typical fast pace of the gastronomy business?

Working with ferments is an important part of our kitchen, allowing us to work regionally all year round. Thanks to fermentation, we can preserve products from summer - and we can offer our guests a wide range of selections and flavors all year round. 

Moreover, the pure flavor transformation through this process is an essential culinary element.

Products that require a long time to mature cannot be reproduced very quickly. They need this time to develop their full aroma.

"Giving products more time also stands for taste, enjoyment and appreciation in equal measure."

5. Self-care, taking care of oneself, and one's own needs, is a process of being inside and outside. If self-care were a menu at "otto", on which 3 ingredients would it be based on and why? 

I think treating yourself to a good meal in good company always does you well. If I had to break it down to three ingredients typical for "otto", it would be:

  • Brown butter. It's an important ingredient in my cooking and good for the soul!
  • Garum. This is our homemade fish sauce made from trimmings, bones and offal. It symbolizes our holistic use of food and thus respect for the product.
  • Pickles. They are an essential part of our menu and good for a healthy diet due to the various fermentation and ripening processes.

Main image:
Vadim Otto Ursus (second row, right) and Sören Zuppke (first row, right) together with This Place founder Laura Simonow (second row, left) and the two teams from "otto" and "This Place" during the store opening on Jan. 11, 2023.
Second image:
Small delicacies: Finger food à la "otto" during the opening ceremony at the flagship store.