Partners in crime: Valentina Härtel and Patrik Kusak are the founders of Oscar Bóbolo, a food brand consultancy based in Düsseldorf. But what exactly is that? Well, they call it branding with appetite, and we add that love goes through the stomach. Not only are they life and business partners, but also they turned their passion into profession: the simple pleasure of enjoying good food together.
When I first heard “food brand consultancy” I didn’t quite know what that could be…
Valentina: Let me tell you that you were not the only one. The thing is that this kind of concept was not existing in Germany until now. Oscar Bóbolo is a niche consultancy, which is specialised in food. Furthermore in marketing, design and classic consultation. What kind of machines, what kind of packaging, what kind of interior and so on.
What did you do before founding Oscar Bóbolo?
Valentina: I studied Trend Forecasting in Barcelona and Communications and Marketing in Düsseldorf, where I met Patrik. We worked in agencies, before founding our own. Our main focus was always food.
Patrik: During my studies I was already working freelance for different clients. After receiving my degree I worked in an agency in Cologne. But soon the question was: do I want to spend my life working in an agency or do I want to start my own business? That’s why we came together with this idea.
You started in April 2016, which is pretty recent. How is it going so far?
Valentina: Pretty good. We recently got a new partner. Do you know Slow Food?
Yes, I know it as an alternative concept to fast food.
Patrik: Exactly. But Slow Food is not only a concept, but also a grassroots organisation, which was founded in 1986 by Carlo Petrini in Italy. It stands for sustainable foods and promotes local small businesses in contrast to globalisation and industrial food production.
How does a typical day at work look like?
Valentina: To be honest: there is not such thing like a typical working day, because our projects are very individual. We counsel product-start-ups, who want to launch a new drink or we organise food trend workshops. If we have something like a branding project, it takes much longer.
Patrik: Our system works with our network of experts and we work project-orientated. We both are responsible for the marketing and the design, but if our clients need someone to develop a new product or a product designer, then we take on boat our experts and work up the project together.
What was the most exciting project you worked on lately?
Patrik: We supervised a new German deli named KörriKari, which has a fast good concept – the opposite of fast food. So basically: it’s fast and it’s good. And it wants to revive the classical meaning of the currywurst innovatively. It will be launched in this year’s fall in Düsseldorf, so stay tuned.
Talking about Düsseldorf with a population of 650.000, how much potential has it? How open are the people here when it comes to food innovation?
Valentina: I think there is a lot of potential, because Düsseldorf is an international city. People here love to go out and eat well, they know a lot about innovative food concepts, but unfortunately there is not such a big offer. Simply because people are not courageous enough to start something new. They are anxious about being the first. The funny thing is, when one starts something new – just consider the burger restaurants – the others follow immediately. That’s typically Düsseldorf.
“People in Düsseldorf love to go out and eat well, they know a lot about innovative food concepts, but unfortunately there is not such a big offer. Simply because people are not courageous enough to start something new. That’s typically Düsseldorf”
Who can change that?
Valentina: The younger generation! They are more courageous.
Patrik: And it’s already changing. There was a shift, when Yomaro Frozen Yogurt opened at the Carlsplatz. Now there is also Laura’s Deli with a fresh and modern food concept. Or Lakrids – a shop dedicated to liquorice, usually coated in different kinds of chocolate, which is a particular and really caps it all off. It’s all about a certain twist. The premium kebab shop Baba Green recently opened at the Wehrhahn, which is reaching to a younger audience. With a beautiful interior and a lot of innovative foods. Falafel with sauerkraut or bulgur with pomegranate.
Which importance has food in Germany?
Valentina: Compared to other European countries Germany is not very food-orientated. People didn’t have much after the war. In countries like Spain, Italy or France everything is about food. The whole family reunites and eats together, people love to eat for many hours, they spend a lot of money on food. They support local food producers and love to shop on the market. In Germany there is furthermore a discounter-culture, naming Aldi, Lidl and co.
Patrik: Talking about France for example the food consciousness has historical and cultural roots. After the French Revolution in 1799 people didn’t know what to do with all the redundant cookers, who had been in the service of the aristocracy. That’s why they opened their own restaurants for the bourgeois. That was the beginning of the Haute cuisine, which is a common culinary reference in the whole world. In my opinion Germany has to wake up. Sadly the moment of waking up is always connected to different food scandals, like the horse meat scandal or the mad cow disease. Of course this helps people to enable new thoughts and an awareness concerning food.
“In France the food consciousness has historical and cultural roots. After the French Revolution in 1799 people didn’t know what to do with all the redundant cookers, who had been in the service of the aristocracy. That’s why they opened their own restaurants for the bourgeois”
How did you find the Name Oscar Bóbolo and what does it stand for?
Valentina: That is exactly what we wanted to do with the name: We want people to question what is behind Oscar Bóbolo.
Patrik: Oscar represents our roots and our sphere, meaning Germany. We are specialised in the German market. And Bóbolo is more creative, it stands for all the things, which inspired us during our journeys. There are Spanish, Italian and French influences, which reunite in this Surname.
“The name Oscar represents our German roots and our sphere. And Bóbolo is more creative, it stands for all the things, which inspired us during our journeys. There are Spanish, Italian and French influences”
Your passion for food – how did that evolve?
Valentina: On the one hand we received orders from the food industry. And on the other Patrik and I love to travel and to eat well. Since we are together we cultivated our own tradition to travel to little remote villages for example in Italy and spend our money on food. The San Pellegrino Guide was our check-list, we tested nearly all the restaurants on that list.
Patrik: And sometimes we didn’t even have money to travel back home (both laughing). Our passion for food was shaping since then. We love to cook together, we love to try new things. Basically we turned our passion into profession.
Do you have any restaurant recommendations in Düsseldorf for our readers?
Patrik: You definitely have to try the Pizza Romantica. There are a lot of places who label themselves with having the best pizza in town, but honestly the one there is really the best. It is a tiny place and I think the biggest part of the interior is taken by the oven.
Valentina: Another insider tipp is Em Brass. It is a tiny place with a terrace, it’s a fusion-cuisine, italian, french, asian.
What do you want for the future?
Valentina: We want to grow in the first place. But more important we want to establish and entrench Oscar Bóbolo in the next following years. Our aim is to be the contact person for food companies in Germany regarding food marketing, consulting and design. In ten years I would love to work in a big loft, with its own gastronomy, with trend workshops, artists – generally speaking: an exchange place for innovative food businesses and founders.
Patrik: Because we centralise on a certain branch, you can think in any direction. And that’s the interesting thing about food. You can link it with everything and everyone, because it’s a basic need. And we want to make that a little better for Düsseldorf and for the world.