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Sophia Rudolph.

Head chef at Panama, Berlin.

Sophia Rudolph.

Head chef at Panama, Berlin.

Sophia Rudolph

Head chef at Panama, Berlin

In this episode, German chef Sophia Rudolph prepares one of her recent dishes. Sophia was born and bred in Berlin. As a teenager, she moved to France with her parents. It’s there where she entered the culinary world and studied under renowned chef Alain Ducasse among others. Back in Berlin, she quickly turned heads working as sous-chef at Weinbar Rutz for four and a half years and after, she started heading the kitchen at Panama. Her French influences shine through as she always puts produce first and fuses French cuisine with regional produce and beyond. Next to her occupation as head chef, she’s also culinary director of the Contemporary Food Lab. There, she takes care of Panama’s logistics and develops new culinary concepts for clients and in the Lab’s own name.

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Sophia, what does your perfect kitchen look like?

I really think that the best cooking is done with gas, specifically for the stove. I enjoy working with new ovens though, especially the type with different functions like grilling, drying and steaming, for example. At the Friends Space, the oven featured a great drying function, which you don’t usually have with other appliances. It’s at eye level so you can observe what’s happening inside really well and it also speaks for the functional design of the kitchen at Friends Space. The size of a kitchen depends on what you're doing with space. If a kitchen is way too big, you might get lost in the space. If it's more open, smaller, people are forced to be more organized. Work surfaces need to be large enough, with ample storage and cool spaces. This allows you to work  properly and store everything at the right temperature. A central cooking block is practical because it fosters an exchange between different stations, similar to what we have at Panama.

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Do kitchen surroundings influence your cooking?

Of course! If you have a certain amount of tools and gadgets you’re able to approach your produce differently. We have a deep-fryer, for example, which doesn't mean we want to churn out fries but it's always fun to come up with new ways of incorporating that into our cooking methods. Our grill plate is another thing we use often. I think that could also be a super fun toy for the fanatic home chef. We work with a wooden charcoal grill, which means we always think of new ways to put it to use. But we don't just want to go the boring route of grilling fish or meat, instead we use it for a ton of our vegetable dishes. We really like grilling fruit as well. And this definitely plays into the recipes, simply because we want to use these great tools that we have on hand. And then you get the benefit of playing with something like smoke.

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Cooking in the Friends Space, you found yourself in a new environment. Which appliance or feature did you like the most?

The cooktop with the integrated ventilation unit. Especially in an open kitchen it’s very convenient if the hood doesn’t hang from the ceiling, taking up too much space. The fridge was great, as well. It has enough space and cooling compartments with different temperatures so you can store and cool every produce really well. Fish and vegetables stay super fresh which is very important for a ceviche - the dish I prepared at Friends Space.

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… and what’s the equivalent to the fridge at your restaurant Panama?

In every professional kitchen, just as in the Panama, every product category are cooled in different types of fridges or cold houses. Meat, for example, needs to be stored in a cooler place than vegetables. That’s something you could easily do with the Siemens fridge as well.

What kitchen utensils would you recommend for the home cook?

If you’re really serious about home cooking, an oven with a steam combination function is a great addition, for example. There are smaller tools, which are helpful and versatile, too: a good high-power mixer is a nice addition. You can do so much with it: from purees to smoothies, juices and so much more. An immersion blender is small and can come in useful in many ways as well.

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If you’re not developing new ideas in your own restaurant, where do you draw inspiration from?

I collect ideas in my notebook. Sometimes that leads to a new recipe or I find produce that I want to try out for a recipe. I also go out to eat a lot! This is incredibly important for inspiration. The rare times I go to see my parents is special, as well. I love being inspired by them. They’re incredibly cooks. Sure, sometimes you see something and want to add that visual part onto a plate. It's different components and influences that sometimes might turn into an idea or sometimes will be noted and then, further down the line, it flows together. I think of inspiration as a ongoing process.

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