By: Amanda Sandström Beijer
Foodie Per Meurling gudes you through Germany's and Berlins best restaurant. His Instagram is the most popular food related account in the city.
"There was something that came to me during the lockdown, to put up some recipes with local ingredients. That particular dish comes from a cookbook written by Nadine Redzepi, the wife of René Redzepi who started Noma. It's a damn good recipe indeed.”
Maybe Per has plans to create a cookbook himself, but he’s not going to promise too much.
”I’m really restless, which leads to that I’m starting new projects over and over, which I, in turn, may not finish. That's in my nature, says Per humbly.
But given that he’s Berlin's most renowned food reviewer, I am not really willing, as an outsider, to agree with him. His Instagram is constantly updated as if it was run by an entire team. But no, Per is alone in the project.
”I have my brother-in-law who is a photographer and helps me with some pictures sometimes, and a freelancer who helps with a some admin stuff, but I mostly do it myself.”
There has always been an interest in food. Although he doesn’t come from an especially food loving family. Growing up on the Swedish west coast, he had an interest in fishing and enjoyed reading cookbooks.
”It started to get more serious when I moved to southern Sweden to study. Then I started working in a kitchen at Campus. There I helped with everything from lunches to Sunday dinners and seating in restaurants. I did this for several years and that’s also where I met my wife, who shares the food interest with me.”
It wasn't until 2009 that he came to Berlin, a city that has always been something of a focal point.
”I have always been drawn to Berlin and the liberal mindset here. It's like there’s less of the bad things about Germany. Less of the rural and conservative.”
Back then Per worked full-time in the tech start-up scene, something that was in line with his studies in finances. At the same time his food interest grew into an obsession and became a major focus.
”I didn't consider working in the food industry back then. Although I was of course hoping that there might someday be an opportunity.”
Even though Berlin Food Stories was started in 2012, it wasn't until 2016 he could go all in on the project.
”When the company I worked for lost an investment round and was forced to kick half the company, the timing was good. Things had already started going well for me and Berlin Food Stories then.”
What had started as a pure interest project, where he had mostly created lists of different restaurants, had now evolved into a place where people went to get restaurant tips.
“I've always had the entrepreneurial spirit, like many of my friends, and this platform became my way to reach an audience. Then the forum grew attracting more followers and a wider audience through Social Media and all that. I got a start-up capital when a company I had been involved with and built up got sold. So I thought, fuck it, I'll take a year and see what could happen if I work wholeheartedly on Berlin Food Stories.”
And so, he stayed on. "After starting to work on something that you are completely passionate about, it's hard to let go and do something else."
Per launched a website and realized that he must be a good photographer to reach his audience. So he took a photo course together with his brother-in-law.
”He got completely hooked, and still works as a photographer today. Even though I sometimes feel that I may not have sufficient ambitions for professional photography, I enjoy to constantly evolve my photography and my aesthetics.”
Per says that he has grown together with Berlin, and that he’s happy to do what he does in this city and not somewhere else.
“When I came here in 2006 to live for three months, the food culture was completely different from what it is today. Back then the first tourist boom began to hit Berlin and the restaurant scene was nothing like it is today"
“If you wanted to eat something fancy, there were only hotel restaurants to chose from – and that’s not too nice. They are damn traditional, boring and inanimate, like, a lack of soul. And then there were casual eateries. But nothing in between. Like this place for example.” he says, throwing a glance at the restaurant we are sitting at.
"There were simple Turkish, Chinese and Thai places and there was a lot to discover there. But Berlin has become a bit like New York or London, in the way that there is such an extreme variety today. You can eat, from low to high, anything, and find at least one good restaurant in any original kitchen. It’s very special."
“Something that doesn’t exist in the Nordic countries for example. You won’t find, a North Chinese place or extremely good grilled kebab, but here there’s plenty. They can certainly cook better Michelin food in Copenhagen or Stockholm, but when it comes to the simple and more casual, Berlin is very good nowadays.”
Per says that Berlin has been less good at finding its own dishes, and has instead followed trends from other food cultures, but done that very well.
“It has happened a lot within the Asian cuisine, restaurants that you see everywhere in Berlin. Just by sitting here we can see maybe ten, or even twenty places.”
“There’s Ramen over there, simpler Vietnamese, a more modern Vietnamese there, dumplings there, and a really cool sushi place with dry ice that smokes and all that stuff, over there and so on. It is the Vietnamese who have built them and own them. And they are never bad. Especially if you visit Berlin, you will be very pleasantly surprised."
Per is currently updating his pizza list. This makes us change the subject to how the pizzas have evolved here over the past years.
“In Berlin the development has been exemplary. Only ten years ago there was only really bad pizza in this city, but today there are maybe ten world-class pizzerias. It has evolved so much.”