Tim Engelbrecht and his brother have founded Cookit 5 years ago and have stalls at three farmers’ markets: Cologne, Troisdorf and in Bonn where it all started. Their motto: one recipe, all ingredients, one bag.
We meet early Saturday morning before the crowds arrive. Tim had a short night as he had to work a bit longer than usual to prepare the Saturday sales. I am a bit nervous, as I conduct my first interview ever, but I know Tim and he is a fun guy, making it easy to me.
Askan: Hi Tim
Tim: Hi Askan
Askan: How long have you been at the Bonn market and what did you do beforehand?
Tim: We are now for almost 5 years at the market, we started with the asparagus season 2013. I went directly from university to the market.
Askan: You went directly from university to the market?
Tim: Already during my studies I worked on the Cookit concept. We opened the stall and then I finished my bachelor thesis. Somehow it just happened.
Askan: How would you describe your stall and what is being offered?
Tim: This is easy to explain: we always have six recipes to try. The customer chooses the recipe and gets a bag with all ingredients in the right amount needed. One can try it without having to buy extra ingredients or producing food waste. The underlying idea is to cook with regional ingredients.
Askan: Which recipes are the most popular with customers and which ones do you prefer?
Tim: Myself, I prefer hearty food, autumn & winter cooking is really mine, I love cabbage, cheese, everything which has a lot of power. With customers it depends on the weekday. During the week they prefer a light and quick cuisine, whereas at the weekend there is a tendency to cook more elaborate recipes.
Askan: So, the Sunday roast is still alive?
Tim: Yes indeed, meat based recipes sell more at the weekend.
Askan: When do you have to get up in the morning and how many hours do you make per week in average?
Tim: In average? Hmm … Let’s say it this way: we are lucky when we work less than 80 hours. The Bonn farmers’ market is unlike other markets open all day long. Everything you have to do besides selling, like filling up the cart, set it up and clean it you do outside the opening hours. I get up between five and six o’clock.
Askan: In all my conversations at various markets across Europe I got to know that it is very difficult to find successors for market stalls, due to the long and hard working hours.
Tim: Yes this is the case. We have the luxury that we start at the markets on Wednesday, we use the time until then to develop recipes.
Askan: What is fun in your work and what is not fun?
Tim: Hard to tell, this depends how the week is evolving. It is great to develop new recipes, to photograph and sell them afterwards. And what we all love is sales, on Saturdays, when the crowds come, the buzz never stops, and we have stress for 8 hours in a row, this is when we have fun. You realize that all your efforts work out and there is a real flow, this is fun. Less fun is of course when after 14 hours you have to clean up everything. Or the anti-day: you have prepared everything for the day and the local radio station announces a severe weather warning! You know instantly that in the evening you go back home with half of your prepared stuff.
Askan: How would you describe the Bonn farmers’ market?
Tim: I think it is a classic market, centrally located, full of buzz, a nice market. Meanwhile we have a nice diversity of choices. I also like that the market is managing the stretch between street food and classic offering. Here in the heart of the city, it is easy to get a good lunch at the market, and then buy some produce. It is a market I really love.
Askan: What should be improved or changed?
Tim: Well, … I don’t know. The market as it is now is around since a while. One may appreciate this one way or the other. I like changes a lot, especially visible ones. This creates incentives for people who walk by every day to join their work places. I like the fact that there is now more street food available. I would appreciate some additional delicacies, as something new is very interesting for customers – and for us as well (laughing).
Askan: Who are your customers?
Tim: Regulars, absolutely. We have customers who purchase from us since 5 years, and they have not left out any single recipe. We have customers, whom we are handing over our recipe cards they have missed during their vacation. The majority of the customers come at least once a week. We are not the kind of stall, where you walk by and say: great lets try it. Most people come by several times, and when the moment is right for them, they buy.
Askan: Bonn is an international city (e.g. United Nations etc.), do you have many international customers?
Tim: Rarely. There some international students who practice their German with our recipe cards. Generally our concept focuses on the local, regional cuisine. This has to fit your own taste and cooking scheme, which varies depending where you are coming from. But we speak English, whereas my French I learned at school is rather limited (laughs).
Askan: Thanks for the interview Tim.
Tim: Pleasure, it was fun!