It’s an exciting time to be in Berlin. People are arriving here from all over, and bringing with them the ideas they have about the things they are passionate about. They’re coming here, taking chances, and shaking things up! To our eyes, this is resulting in a refreshing culture emerging of small, independent, family run businesses who are not afraid to do things their own way.
We wanted to take a closer look at some of our friends who are also in the business of hospitality. Places which are stepping outside the box, and perhaps shaping the world little by little while doing it. We thought a good place to start would be to talk to some of the cafes and restaurants around Berlin who stock our Fountain of Youth. These businesses each have a unique story, and we wanted to find out how they got to where they are. This is what The Monkey Loooves is all about.
For our next installment we took a short walk over the Oberbaumbrücke to meet with one of our neighbours, Maria, who opened a cafe / restaurant / yoga space five years ago called New Deli Yoga. “I wanted to build a unique place, where people like me and people not like me could sit on a big table all together” she says. “Where strangers could exchange their talents and their ideas and form connections”. Maria compares New Deli Yoga to a big salad bowl, with different things all coming together. It’s a nice way to look at the way she got to where she is too.
Maria is not a trained chef. She’s a trained make-up artist, which is what brought her from Cologne to Berlin 16 years ago. She’s always worked in the hospitality industry however, and as she says, has always thrown her heart into the job. It was the connection to people and being a part of something which kept her drawn to this line of work. Fostering a sense of family was one of the first and clearest parts of the concept for New Deli Yoga. However she says “I wrote 15 fucking pages for the business plan, but it was strange, because I still didn’t know how the place would turn out.”
One thing Maria knew for sure though, was that yoga was going to be part of it. After spending time in India in her 20s, where she sought out a specific yogi to learn from, she considered becoming a trained yoga teacher herself. However something about the institutionalization of the process (at least in the western world) was off-putting. Maria believes that yoga should not be a job or a profession. “I don’t believe in paying for yoga. It should be for everybody”
Having said that though, people need to learn somehow. So New Deli Yoga offers people the chance to try it out. On Mondays and Tuesdays, in the mornings and in the evenings, Maria holds classes for the community in the main room of the Deli. She says “I always have wanted to teach, and I’ve always wanted to host”.
The food at the Deli is vegetarian and vegan. There are salads and juices, sandwiches and cakes. And there’s The Stack – a classic of the Deli – which is, as Maria says, “just a bunch of really good stuff piled on top of each other” (All made in-house too). She avoids some of the more commonplace menu items you might find in other vegetarian or vegan cafes. There are no smoothie bowls or smashed avocado on toast at the Deli. Maria is proud of the fact that everything on the menu comes from one of her ideas and the recipes are her own.
Actually Maria takes pride in the fact that she does a lot of things her own way. She says “I don’t compare myself to others. The Deli is unique, and it will stay that way”. She doesn’t feel the need to comply to the strict lifestyle that perhaps people might assume of a vegetarian yogi. “Why should I tell a myth? I drink whiskey…and right now I’m siting here with a hangover! This place gives me the freedom to be who and what I want”.
One of the things she wanted from the get go was a massive communal table in the middle of the space. She wanted one five metres in length, but in the end had to settle with a three metre one. She says at the beginning no one would sit at it, that people didn’t really understand it. Apparently it was only Australians who would walk freely into the shop and sit without hesitation at the big table.
Her customer base has evolved now to include locals – both German and those from elsewhere – and visitors to Berlin. Her employees are mostly from the UK or Australia, and at least for the moment, are all women. We were curious to know if this was a conscious decision on her part. Maria admits that she likes the flow of the way women work, but the reason the people on the list of her current employees are there has more to do with other attributes than their gender. “I only hire cats – not mice. If a cat jumps out the window, it will land on its feet. It knows how to use its sassiness wisely! We women are tough, but sometimes it’s dangerous to be too much so. It means it’s difficult to ask for help, and it’s important to have a balance in your life, and in your relationships. I was a rebel and I was a punk, but now I listen more”. So has she worked out that balance? It would seem so. “What’s important in life? Be true to yourself and kind to the others”. Sounds good to us.