Onur Elci
Mobile Chef and Communications Manager at Kitchen Guerilla, Hamburg
MINI × FvF
Workplaces > Onur Elci

Always on the move and constantly in exchange with likeminded chefs who peek into pots: this is the everyday of a Kitchen Guerilla. Throughout Germany and around the world the mobile chefs are just as likely to find themselves in extraordinary locations from country guesthouses to construction sites bringing people together for a meal. Open minded and without prejudices Kitchen Guerilla wants to know who sits across from you at the table.

Onur's favorite Hamburg spots

Onur Elci takes us with his MINI on a city tour through Hamburg to show us some of his favorite places, that please our senses of taste, smell and sight. His watchful, laughing eyes have a talent for spotting the extraordinary.

The Kitchen Guerilla Garage

We met with Onur in his duel office and kitchen studio set up in a garage. As the culinary globetrotter works in different locations daily with his mobile team of chefs, the garage location is enough for the everyday business of the core team. We were welcomed with a hot aromatic coffee from the Hamburger roastery Black Delight and immediately noticed: the emphasis at Kitchen Guerilla is on quality.

Tell us a little bit about yourself?

I was born in Ankara and with my family we moved to Istanbul when I was four. I lived there until I was 17. After that I went to Spain for two years where I finished high school in Basque Country. Since I went to a German school in Istanbul, and my brother was already doing product design in Hamburg, eventually I was drawn there as well in 2002.

When I arrived, I began to studying History and worked in what was our bar at the time, the Familieneck in Ottensen. We sunk a lot of money into the bar, earned a bit of money, and celebrated even more. Later I studied Social Sciences and worked for an agency in the field of strategy and conception commuting between Berlin and Hamburg.

How did Kitchen Guerilla begin?

Food has always followed me like a shadow and eventually my family launched Kitchen Guerilla. As I began to help out more and more, I cut my ties with the agency world and now at Kitchen Guerilla I’m a partner. I mainly work on marketing and communication. However, because the project started with no business plan, intuition plays a big role in all decisions. We want to do what we love.

What is your favorite kind of cooking within the context of Kitchen Guerrilla?

That’s a really hard question. Whether French, Italian, German, Turkish or on evenings when we cook something like Argentinean, we don’t set any limits and this is a challenge. Something always likes to go wrong, but that’s okay. At Kitchen Guerilla, we’ve never understood ourselves as mere cooks. For our events it’s more about the social aspect – of being together at a big table. What we want to happen is that people who don’t know each other sit together at a table and exchange ideas. Anyone who has spent an evening with us should think, “Wow, that food was delicious and I also met a few really great people who I would have never met in a restaurant.”

You lived in Istanbul until the age of 17 – the city and Turkish culture must have been a big influence.

Yes, of course. I grew up right in Istanbul and my father, for example, has only been in Hamburg since 2014. The decision to go forth into the world was a very conscious decision by my family. We wanted to experience something new, to learn new languages, to see new countries. My adult life has taken place in Hamburg – I’ve had great successes and failures here. I can live a life that would have never been possible in Istanbul.

How did you grow up in Istanbul?

We were raised to be very socially aware because my parents are old leftists. They raised my brothers and I with corresponding values, really opening our eyes. Early on we had a sense of the social and political grievances that exist in Turkey. For some time we’ve been doing events with Kitchen Guerilla and a local team in Istanbul. Because of this we’re often there and have had the chance to discover the city anew – especially in terms of culinary developments. We know a lot of really great stores and how to get the best products. We use some of these contacts for the German side of the business as well.

Do you bring a lot of new recipes from your travels home?

Yes, and we do a lot of documentation on our blog with photos, recipes and videos of our trips and events.

Kitchen Guerilla Office

What are some of your favorite places in Hamburg?

In addition to the many locations what we take over for Kitchen Guerilla, soon we also have our own space in Altona. We can use it in multiple ways, for example, for exhibitions. The location used to be a workshop for the Altona Theater.

Café Klippkroog

We pile into the car and drive towards Altona to visit Klippkroog, on Großen Bergstraße. It’s a busy street with people strolling around, outside the café some sit in the sun and enjoy steaming coffees and tempting snacks. The Klippkroog is located in a wonderfully yellow-tiled historic house, tastefully designed in and out.

Do you have a special connection to Klippkroog?

My brother and his partner build the shop. Since the Klippkroog belongs to a friend of ours, we helped with the choice of food producers and with other little things. Almost everything on the menu is produced regionally. I eat here all the time for lunch. The work “Klippkroog” comes from “low” German and means “little snack.”

Große Bergstraße  is a place of gentrification, we always knew it would happen sooner or later. Sometimes it’s pretty crazy here – and I like it when it’s thoroughly mixed. It really reminds me of Neukölln in Berlin.

Claus Kröger - Coffee, Tea and Wine

After our visit to Klippkroog we stop in front of a nice-looking shop painted in blue. Written over the door in golden letters is “Claus Kröger.” The cute shop, which from the outside looks very simple, has it all! Rooms nestle together overflowing with tea, chocolate, coffee, hand made wooden products, Opinel knives and other household design objects or delicacies, waiting to be discovered. Onur excitedly tells us what happens in the shop.

What makes Claus Kröger so special?

It’s an incredible chocolate shop, run by the same family for generations. The range is incredible – they have about 30 varieties of green tea, really wonderful chocolate – amazing! A real institution.

PLY - Unestablished Furniture

Next stop is the furniture store, PLY. As we arrive, we are greeted by David Einsiedler – one of PLY’s partners. He is very happy to lead us through his special store full of industrial originals.

What makes PLY your favorite furniture store in town?

First of all, PLY has a great selection. They collect and buy their things only from stock sales, often in the East, at auctions and also develop their own products. It’s not a pure vintage store. In PLY you’ll find industrial originals next to furniture from the 1920s through the 60s, from, for example Jean Prouvé, Alvar Aalto, Egon Eiermann, Friso Kramer and Ilmari Tapiovaara.

Paola Alimentari

We are heading to Paola Alimentari to find the best herbs, the finest wine, and the most delicious olive oil in Hamburg-Ottensen.

As we arrived at Paolo Alimentari, we were cordially greeted by the very friendly couple. We sniff the fragrant herbs and Paola shows us the bright fresh lemons. In the secluded courtyard, we feel as though we’re in the heart of Sicily.

How did you find this very special place?

I discovered this shop as I was taking a walk through the neighborhood. I was immediately impressed by the special atmosphere and range of products. When Umur and I realized that we were both from Istanbul, our friendship was sealed. Paola and Umur are both in their early 60s and incredibly sweet. Each morning at 4am they drive to the market hall and buy only the best. Once my brother went with them and told me about how Umur went to all of his favorite handlers, and hand selected every product. Paola is a very good cook and she invites us now and again to eat in the courtyard. Umur is totally crazy about Flamenco and always pulls out his guitar and then it’s go go go!

Thomas Keil - Made To Measure Shoemaker

We stroll up and down a few streets and by chance meet Onur’s shoemaker, Thomas Keil.  He immediately invites us into his shop and studio. The space is impressive and immediately gives the feeling of having traveled through time. Traditional tools line the walls alongside lots of elegant footwear, leather and other quality materials.

What do you like about the shoes by Thomas Keil?

Thomas is a master shoemaker who produced his products by hand. It’s great to think about colors, cut or materials with him, and, of course, to wear a very personalized shoe. He has an immense sense for detail as well as an extremely good eye for quality and style. The shoes I’m wearing right now are by Thomas and we are currently working on the next pair as well.

How do you usually get around town with your family?

We use for example DriveNow a lot. This is a car-sharing service from BMW, MINI and SIXT. Car-sharing is generally convenient, because you can just use the car and park it anywhere when you’re done. The MINI is pretty comfortable. Two child seats easily fit and it has a big trunk, which is pretty important to me. The car rides really well, too. Driving around in the summer with an open roof is awesome – great for cruising to the Elbchaussee.

Say we wanted to take a little retreat from the city, what can we reach in less than 20 minutes for a bit of rest and relaxation?

Jenisch Park  – whether by bike or by car, it’s quickly and easily accessible. Despite the fact that it’s so close to the city, once you arrive in the wonderful nature reserve you have the feeling of being far from everything urban. It’s the perfect excursion to clear the head. Incidentally, there are wild herbs that you can collect and the naturopath Daniela Wolff offers tours through the world of herbs here. Anyone can participate without registration. The dates are on their website. This is really quite cool, pretty nerdy.

Jenisch Park

Café Paris

Café Paris is one of the best culinary addresses in Hamburg. Not only for the French menu, but the beautifully tiled room is a huge attraction. Onur is, as in all the places we visited today, a familiar face and warmly welcomed.

Do you have a history with Café Paris?

I met the owner and chef Michael Hermes a few years ago at a Kitchen Guerilla event. We started talking and at some point he mentioned that he would start to run a small restaurant with 80 employees in Hamburg – that turned out to be Café Paris. Since then we’ve been close friends.

This place was already one of our favorite places. Michael is a really great guy and our quasi-cook-sponsor. He taught us a lot because he’s been cooking for over 30 years and has a wealth of knowledge. In our Kitchen Guerilla team no one has training as a chef. Michael shares his infinite knowledge and secrets with us. He’s also allowed us to use the Café Paris kitchen to prepare for events. Michael is a real Hamburger, a great guy.

What do you recommend on the menu of Café Paris?

The Steak Frite is fantastic! I recommend a crepe or Le Plat du Jour for vegetarians.

Well then, bon appétit!

Thank you for allowing us to experience a day in Hamburg through your eyes!

Thanks!

This portrait is the first episode of our new series of personalized city guides city guides by Freunde von Freunden and MINI. The concept aims to create an access to the perspective of creatives on the cities they live and work in.

(DE)

Fotografie: Sarah Bernhard
Interview & Text: Anika Väth