Munich’s culture is shaped by extraordinary women. As we put “all eyes on culture”, we would like to introduce you to a few of them. This time: Katharina Inselkammer. With her inclusive deli, Oktoberfest host Katharina Inselkammer is proving that Munich brings people together all-year-round, and not just for two weeks.
A day when you could fry chips in the hot air. A location between Dumpling Square, Puree Line and Platform Potato. The Land of Plenty? No. The former “Pfanni” building in east Munich. The new Werksviertel quarter has been growing here, where potatoes used to be turned into mash, since the summer of 2017. 2,200 apartments and 10,000 jobs are to be created here.
“Everything is moving so quickly!” says Katharina Inselkammer. The brunette restaurant owner is standing in the Werksviertel, pointing behind her and then in front. “There is now an absinthe distillery over there and the new concert hall will soon be built in that space in front of us.” Inselkammer is very familiar with Munich and how it is changing: she has worked in the restaurant business for almost 30 years.
Of the 30 members of staff, a third are “special people” – the name Katharina Inselkammer gives to people who live with a physical or mental impairment. It was her son that gave her the idea.
Together with her husband Peter, she runs the “Platzl Hotel” at Marienhof and houses guests from all over the world. During Oktoberfest, she works from the Armbrustschützenzelt tent, which her family has run for over 25 years. Six million people from 75 different countries travel to the Wiesn for Oktoberfest each year, to sing together and dance, arm-in-arm, to Robbie Williams’s song “Angels”. The great village of Munich – the “global city with a heart” – has stood for diversity, tolerance and solidarity since time immemorial.
But, when more and more people come to Munich and make it more and more diverse, the challenge to grow together and live together also increases – and no-one knows this better than Katharina Inselkammer. It is one of the reasons she started her most recent project back in November 2017: the inclusive deli “Kunst Werk Küche”. It is a special restaurant set in the heart of the ever-expanding Werksviertel district and lies amongst start-ups, retailers, restaurant owners and artists.
Inselkammer has been working as a volunteer for years – she calls it a family tradition. Now she has brought together all of her dedication to this cause in the “Kunst Werk Küche”. Of the 30 members of staff, a third are “special people” – the name Katharina Inselkammer gives to people who live with a physical or mental impairment. It was her son that gave her the idea.
“He attends a Montessori school. There are 22 children in the class, including three disabled children. If something doesn’t work as it should there, they simply change the rules.” And if it works in school, it should also work in the workplace. This concept has been applied to the “Kunst Werk Küche”. But it is anything but child’s play.
Inclusion is everywhere: the furnishings are a pot pourri of old fixtures from a jeweller’s dating back to 1903, old-fashioned leather armchairs from Inselkammer’s “Platzl Hotel” and exhibits on loan from the Munich Potato Museum. The menu includes Asian roast pork and apple and lemon soup with popcorn. Just like a jigsaw, everything comes together to form a harmonious whole.
“I want to demonstrate that a diverse team can work just as well together”
And Katharina Inselkammer is right at the heart of it – the pink apron of her Dirndl is crisply ironed, her floral earrings sparkle. She says that she is tired today. She stayed up playing cards last night after meeting with the other Oktoberfest landlords. She doesn’t look tired. Plenty of studies show that helping other people brings happiness. Katharina Inselkammer's smile is proof of this. She radiates joy.
A hand-cut crystal glass of tap water sits in front of her; a thick “Havana Club” highball glass is also nearby: “Look, even the glasses show what it is about” she says. “Each glass is different; each glass fulfils its own purpose. That is inclusion: everyone is different, but everyone has something to contribute and everyone gets the same opportunity.” These people are given names and faces during a tour of the catering and events kitchen on the first floor.
Everyone has a own story, own challenges - and talents: the colourful patchwork bags, which a special employee makes in her free time from silk Dirndls and other pieces of fabric are available to buy for four euros in the deli. The pot washer doesn’t have a disability but has lived ten different lives: “I had a taxi company, was a policeman, a teacher, an alcoholic for 15 years and have been dry since 1st April 2015”, he explains, laughing, before disappearing into the cold store complete with hairnet and apron.
“The combination is key”, says Inselkammer. “If there are enough people to help the people with a disability to get started, both parties can learn from one another.” It may take a person with a disability five or even eight times to understand how to polish the tableware correctly, and this in turn can allow their supervisor to see a new side to themselves – for example, how patient they can be and what pure gratitude looks like.
“I want to demonstrate that a diverse team can work just as well together”, says Inselkammer, making her case. She talks about successful catering contracts for the Bavarian state parliament, for Bayern Tourismus, for Allianz, for nurseries, offices and law firms.
There are already organisations like the “Kunst Werk Küche” in Munich. “The Cantina Conviva in the Blauen Haus” immediately springs to the mind of Inselkammer – all of the helpers there have some sort of disability. But no other project is as complex as hers. “I didn’t want the people with disabilities to just be dogsbodies or to be the key focus like at sheltered workshops”, says Inselkammer. In the “Kunst Werk Küche” they are part of a team.
It is about working together for one another. “Everyone longs for recognition and wants to be able to say: I am a person! I am capable!” Inselkammer wants the people with disabilities to play a key role too. That is why, over the coming year, she is planning on sending a non-disabled and a disabled member of staff to college together so they can work together towards a qualification. A booster club has already been approved.
“Inclusion doesn’t have to be charitable”, emphasises Inselkammer again and again. She purposefully founded her company as a GmbH (equivalent to a British ltd.) and not as a social enterprise. “Guests shouldn’t come here out of pity”; instead, they should come here for the same reason they would go to any other restaurant, “because it the food is good”. In order to ensure it does taste good, the quality must be right; that much is clear.
Katharina Inselkammer is very strict when it comes to the food. Up to 2,000 dishes can be prepared in the ultra-modern kitchen: “We cook regional, seasonal food: there are mushrooms in September and the blueberry syrup is currently being made for the winter punch.” Head chef Oliver Munder directs operations.
“That is inclusion: everyone is different, but everyone has something to contribute and everyone gets the same opportunity.”
The deli has already developed an excellent reputation as a restaurant in the Werksviertel: visitors to the district seek refreshments and enjoy cold cucumber soup and sparkling peach juice; whilst construction workers from the surrounding building sites pop in for a coffee. But many guests are still unsure how to behave. Inselkammer is often asked how to act around the people with disabilities. Her answer is always the same: “act normally”.
But she is well aware that the inclusive approach has its limits: “During the two weeks of Oktoberfest it simply isn’t possible; everything has to move so quickly – there simply isn’t time.” Working and living together, growing together and sticking together – it isn’t all sunshine and roses; that much is clear when you see Katharina Inselkammer at work.
Inclusion only works thanks to people with real dedication, patience and, yes, money, or at least financial support. A city like Munich that is growing at a faster and faster rate, and changing too, needs people like Katharina Inselkammer. So that Munich remains as it always has been: a city that brings people together.