Maybe if you could first of all introduce yourselves.
Gilad Lipschitz: My name is Gilad Lipschitz. In Israel I was the vice CEO of the Benedict restaurants. We have eight restaurants there, and then when it was decided to open one here, I was sent here by the company to start developing the Benedict here and being in charge of the opening from the beginning, from finding everything, starting everything, recruitment of all the staff, and actually bringing everything we believe in the Benedict here. We bring actually a lot more than just the menu. It’s a whole concept. It’s a concept for breakfast lovers, people who really enjoy breakfast at all hours of the day, bringing a great place with a great environment with amazing service, very warm and friendly, fun place to be at – you can always come and have your breakfast at any hour of the day. That’s what we believe in….this is our breadbasket from our own bakery. Our shop is right there with bread and cakes.
And where we are now is a hotel.
Gilad: It is. It is the Max Brown, Ku’Damm. It’s a brand from Amsterdam.
Dror Pinto: The ground floor is the Benedict.
Gilad: Bendict is from Israel. The first Benedict was opened in 2005, a small restaurant on the corner of Jabotinsky street in the center of Tel Aviv. And after that, two years later we opened another one in the heart of Tel Aviv. And from there we opened a few more. We went outside of Tel Aviv already.
Gilad: This is the first one.
Gilad: Why not? Amazing city. Great vibe. Definitely breakfast lovers.
Dror: Round the clock.
Gilad: Round the clock. It’s a city that lives 24 hours. Like Tel Aviv. Very similar.
Dror: If you don’t mind, I think you should start by telling how the Benedict was born. This is not like a conventional restaurant. It serves 24-7 just breakfast. It’s not a conventional point of view. Even in a culinary point of view. Even in daily life. Because usually you have breakfast in the morning, lunch at mid-day and evening you have dinner. But here you have just breakfast 24-7. The idea was born in the mind of two nightlife guys in Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv has a really cool, upbeat nightlife. If you know music you probably know about it. Music and techno and electronics. And because they worked all night, they work up every day late and they couldn’t find any breakfast. So when they thought about the opportunity to open a restaurant, what kind of restaurant we want to open – they decided to do just breakfast. It started out they just wanted to open a late breakfast. And then they said, “You know what? Why stop there? Why not have breakfast whenever you want?” Just breakfast, and a huge selection of breakfast. And the best breakfast they can make. So this is the way Benedict was born. This was the start. Because Tel Aviv, like Berlin is a 24-7, round the clock city, where everything happens all the time. Like Tel Aviv, you can find whatever you want in Berlin: chef restaurants, clubs and all sorts of this to do round the clock, when ever you want, what ever you want. This was the secret of the success of the Benedict in Tel Aviv. It was actually at the time the only restaurant that worked 24-7. And the innovative part is, it’s just breakfast.
Gilad: it was actually the only place that served breakfast after eleven o’clock. Most breakfast places were coffee houses back then. Only a few restaurants would serve breakfast until ten, eleven. Most coffee houses would have a breakfast menu until twelve, and then you move to lunch and then dinner. If you were a nightlife person and you wake up really, really late you had nowhere to go out and have a breakfast. Really, each one starts a breakfast at another hour of the day. Everybody starts their day at a different time and they have their breakfast whenever they wake up. And this was actually the first place that delivered this.
This idea of nightlife – when you look at the area that this restaurant is located in – this used to be the hub of Berlin back before the Wall fell. In the time being the focus changed to the east. So it’s an interesting idea to open it up on Uhlandstrasse.
Gilad: That’s exactly that. First of all the area is starting to wake up again. A lot of the youngsters are starting to come back, a lot of nice, cool, hip places are opening here. And that’s exactly also what this area needs.
Dror: Everything is going west right now. This is really the big vibe in Berlin. The east is really full. Everything is going west. But this is the surreal thing about Benedict. You are stopping the day at one point of time no matter what time it is. It could be breakfast, it could be lunch, it could be dinner. It could be the middle of the night – and it’s morning here. And I think no matter where you open Benedict, it will happen in the same way. Because Benedict is not only in Tel Aviv right now. It’s also in other parts. It doesn’t have necessarily the most sensational nightlife, but it always works no matter the time of the day. We have eight restaurants with Benedict right now. And I think it works. And you see here during the middle of the day the business man, during the morning in the middle of the week it will be families. And in the evening you will see cool people from all over Berlin who come to enjoy this surreal thing.
Gilad: Everyone loves breakfast. Everyone loves it. That’s why you always have at our restaurant a nice mixed crowd. Because, who doesn’t love breakfast?
Would you say it’s more of a younger clientele?
Gilad: It’s mixed, completely mixed.
Why not in the States as well?
Gilad: Maybe one day. You never know.
The name Benedict comes from Eggs Benedict.
Dror: Yeah, it comes from Eggs Benedict. It’s actually after Lemuel Benedict. The legend tells that the dish was named after him. He was at the famous Astoria hotel in New York, and when he woke up after a night of drinking he came down to the chef of the restaurant with a bad hangover, and what he really felt like having was toast, poached egg, bacon and hollandaise sauce, just asking please bring that to him. And the chef created this dish for him, and it was such a huge hit – everyone wanted it and enjoyed it, and he decided to call it after him: Benedict.
Is that like the specialty of the house?
Dror: That’s definitely one of our specialties. We have a few of the classic Eggs Benedict, which you can find in a lot of places, with smoked salmon or bacon. And we bring a few of our special creations with the Eggs Bendict. We have it with shoots of asparagus, we have it with mushrooms, and we have one – we call it Eggs Benedict Sloppy Joe with beef. And every now and then we come out with specials where we like to play with variations of the Eggs Benedict.
What am I eating right now?
Dror: This is the Tower of Babylon. It’s our version of a sabich. In Israel we have a lot of street food. Because everything is fast and hot, and people are always in a hurry and crazy. So we have a lot of good street food. And the sabich comes from the Iraqi Jewish community. And it’s a pita pocket with tahini sauce.
Which is also something typically Middle Eastern.
Dror: Yeah, it’s sesame based…And you have fried egg plant and you have fried potatoes, and you eat it so messy, standing in the middle of the street. But this is more sitting down, and I want to say elegant.
Gilad: It’s our creation. We call it Tower of Babylon. Also because Babylon is the name of Iraq. And the way we built the dish it looks sort of like a tower with the layers of the potato hash-browns, the egg plant, tomato and hardboiled egg and the tahini which we put on the top,
Where do you get your ingredients from?
Gilad: Everything is from here, from Berlin. And our eggs are free range, which was very important for us.
Dror: They had to be fresh. When you are making poached eggs for Eggs Benedict, the secret is to have really, really fresh eggs. And if it’s not fresh you can’t create this nice aesthetic. And the rest is local.
Nothing from the Middle East.
Gilad: I don’t think the tahini comes from Germany.
Dror: It’s from the Middle East somewhere.
Gilad: But the amba, which is the actual spice we mix in with the tahini, comes from Israel.
Dror: Is it curry or mango based?
Gilad: It’s based on mango.
Can you tell me something about the founder of Benedict?
Gilad: There are a few founders. There are four founders, four young guys who got together. The first thing they actually opened was a bar. Their dream was to open a restaurant like this. But before opening this type of restaurant they actually opened a small bar. That was their first business and it was their way of jumping into the business world, having their own business, getting into the community life. And that bar did really, really well in Tel Aviv. And therefore about a year and a half later they opened the first Benedict.
Dror: Israeli cuisine is made of a lot of influences because Israel is a country of immigrants. And I think that the truly only thing that you can say that is Israeli per se is the breakfast. The first breakfast was developed at a kibbutz. The rest is a mix, a great mix of a lot of influences from Europe and from the Middle East and from North Africa and from America and from England and from Russia. But the breakfast is truly the only thing that you can say is Israeli. And that’s why Israel is famous for its breakfast. Every coffee shop and every restaurant and every hotel will serve you an amazing breakfast. And I can honestly say that the Benedict took it to another level and created really a remarkable breakfast. And this is why Benedict is so successful in Israel and successful here – because of this approach to breakfast.
Gilad: We want to be able to fulfill everyone’s wishes. What do you want? What do you like the best for breakfast? It’s always important for us to learn and adapt and bring new things to the table and wrap it with the whole experience. You come to a place where you enjoy sitting at; it’s a nice place; it’s a nice environment; the music is always very nice; the staff is friendly; all the food is very fresh; everything is homemade – that’s something that is very important for us. And that’s our belief, and that’s why it’s important for us to come and be the first Benedict that’s outside of Israel.
Can you tell me something about some of the externals: the music, the ambience, décor.
Gilad: The music is always based and inspired by music from around the world, which also is always a bit mixed. You have your softer music, a bit of the soundtracks for movies, songs that you find yourself sitting and you start singing them slowly and just moving your head a little bit gently. We try to adapt a little bit according to the hour. The softer music in the morning, the busier music in the evening. We like to combine a bit of jazz…
Dror: The whole idea is to make people stay and feel at home and stay as long as they want. Because breakfast usually you eat really fast and you need to go. And this about stopping at a certain time and relaxing and enjoying. That’s why I said it’s real, because you are stopping in the middle of the day/night and sit down and eat slowly. I think you should talk about the special dishes that you can only have here.
Gilad: When we decided to bring Benedict here we also wanted to create a few new dishes which we don’t have on our menu in Israel. So we brought our head chef from Israel and combined with a few people from here and brought about the Eisbein Stulle, which is typical German and came out a huge hit. People love the dish. We serve it with two poached eggs on top.
It’s hard to find Eisbein in Berlin. It’s like a Berlin speciality, but you can hardly find it anymore.
Gilad: Which is weird, yeah, because I’ve been to a few places – and only a few places would have them, but most places don’t have them any more. But we really want to bring something that – like you with the Eisbein Stulle you kind of gave like a little smile, because it’s something that everyone knows about. We wanted to bring our own creation to it. We have a dish called the Tsar’s Delight, which is based on a bit of a Russian breakfast with the flavors of some smoked salmon, sour cream, with a bit of caviar. Silniki, which is pancakes based on quark. We have a vegan muesli, which is based on nuts. With the vegan breakfast we also have our version of the vegan omelet. It’s not based on eggs, but on chickpea flower. It’s also very popular here. It goes really well. It also has it’s own vegan dips. And Korean – we have the steak and eggs Korean style, which is a flank steak marinated with kimchi rice and a fried egg on top.