The surfer's kitchen: Kitchen stories by NEFF

Grub's up, then Surf's up

Story

The Ingredient

THEY USED TO WORK AT AN ADVERTISING AGENCY - UNTIL THEY DROPPED IT ALL AND STARTED WORKING AS NOMADIC SURFING COOKS.

HE'S SALT, AND HE'S SILVER

Thomas Kosikowski (top left) and Johannes Riffelmacher are living the dream:

three years ago, they quit their jobs at an advertising agency, and they’ve been travelling, cooking, and surfing ever since. In 2014, they made their way through South America, finding out about the best surfing spots and tastiest treats between Cuba and Chile, documenting their discoveries in the form of a book, Salt and Silver. With 141 recipes from eight countries, the cookery book presents the cuisines of each country, focusing on dishes as diverse as ropa vieja, a Cuban beef stew, Mexican fish tacos, and a soup with banana leaves from Nicaragua.

Learning by travelling

Learning by travelling

Thomas, Johannes, when did it happen? When did you think: “Right, we’ve had enough. We’re dropping out?”

J: There wasn’t one particular moment. It happened gradually. I was caught in the hamster wheel of a career in advertising and could feel how I was getting unhappier day by day.

T: I had just finished a work experience placement in a company producing advertising videos in Barcelona and the danger of falling into the same trap as Johannes set off a fight-or-flight reaction.

J: One day, when we were both feeling really down about the whole thing, we had a few beers in a pub and decided that we had to make some big changes to our lives. What we didn’t know, though, was where this decision would take us.

So you went to South America

So you went to South America. Why there, specifically?

T: The main reason was the possibility of travelling along thousands of miles of surfable coast. All the way from Tijuana in the north of Mexico right down to southern Patagonia, it ’s one surf spot after another.

J: We also felt that the culinary traditions of South America are underrepresented in Europe, and that motivated us: with Mexican and Peruvian cuisine, South America has two of the world’s most exciting food cultures. What ’s more, you can make yourself understood across the whole continent with just two languages: Spanish and Portuguese.

Grub's up then surf's up

Grub's up, then surf's up

On Mallorca, the best waves come with north and north-westerly wind. The Alcudia Bay is where the "radest" breaks are to be found.

Making visions a reality

Making visions a reality

Why ever did you come back to Europe?

T: Ask a ship’s captain: the harbour it comes from is just as important as the ship itself. We’ve both been living in Hamburg for years. This northern German city is our home – and coming home is just as nice as leaving on an adventure.

T: We didn’t just want to laze about on the beach, but to actually achieve something. We’ve got a good network of people in Hamburg, and that ought to help us to make our vision reality.

What is your vision?

T: We want to open a restaurant. That was always our dream, and we want to place it at the core of our project, to make it the place where everything comes together. Everyone can be a part of Salt & Silver; all they have to do is come and eat with us.

J: We’re going to shut up shop every winter and travel a new continent. In spring when we return, there’ll be a new menu reflecting what we’ve learned. Freedom isn’t about swanning off and then doing what you’ve always done. We want to create something new.

T: That’s the plan.

» FREEDOM ISN’T ABOUT SWANNING OFF AND THEN DOING WHAT YOU’VE ALWAYS DONE. WE WANT TO CREATE SOMETHING NEW «

How important is good planning if you’re trying to find freedom

How important is good planning if you’re trying to find freedom?

J: The most exciting things that happened on our journey through South America came about by chance. If you plan every detail, you miss the best stuff. So when planning our trips, we generally tend to limit ourselves to an overall direction: the rest can, as far as we’re concerned, be left to chance.

T: The thing about plans is that, more often than not, they don’t work out anyway. We familiarise ourselves with the food culture and everyday life of the country we’re traveling to. It’s never a bad idea to find out something about the history of the place and learn the key phrases in the local language, either.

If you market yourselves professionally in the way you two do, isn’t there a danger that “freedom” just becomes a hollow catchphrase?

J: Stories aren’t things that just happen in thin air: they are experiences. And once you’ve had an experience, why shouldn’t you tell people about it if they are interested?

T: Salt & Silver becoming more widely known is a nice side effect of what we are doing – but not the reason we are doing it. Our freedom and our adventures are not in any way faked; we live what we do.

How does feeling free influence the way you cook

How does feeling free influence the way you cook?

J: There was this one time in the Amazon basin when we went out with local fishermen. They and their families still live without electricity and other modern conveniences, and so they have no choice but to eat what they can find in the rainforest. We went piranha fishing with the village children, using a dead seagull as bait. Then we cooked with the families.

T: You learn to improvise and to limit yourself; that, in turn, makes you feel more confident in what you’re doing and we made the books to pass on these experiences if for no other reason.

J: Not that we think of ourselves as genius cooks! We don’t even claim to be trained chefs. What we definitely are, though, is passionate – and that’s something that most other cooks have respect for.

Cooking as part of the adventure…?

J: In a way, yes. Then again, there are some adventures we’d rather forget. Like the time Thomas got arrested in Mexico, in the middle of the night, with a shotgun against his head. I was lying under a truck and could see the whole thing.

How did that happen

How did that happen?

T: We were spraying graffiti – which, in hindsight, may have been a bit stupid – and then the cops came.

J: Our experiences in South America have, on the whole, made us far more humble. We are grateful for everything we have in Germany: in lots of Latin American countries, none of the basic elements of prosperity and security that we enjoy in central Europe can be taken for granted.

T: That doesn’t mean we’re going to stay put, though; and we’d be very happy if we were able to inspire other people to break out of their cages.

Is there any way of keeping the feeling of freedom if you go back into the world of work?

T: We earn our living doing what we like doing best. That, for me, is “freedom”.

What does coming back mean to you?

J: Coming back means getting ready to set off on our next adventure.

We earn our living doing what we like doing best

» WE EARN OUR LIVING DOING WHAT WE LIKE DOING BEST. THAT, FOR ME, IS “FREEDOM".«

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