In between worlds – Tainá Guedes, a Brazilian chef with a taste for the arts
By Sarah Luisa Santos . April 7, 2015
I first got to know Tainá Guedes through researching chefs here in Berlin, for another project of mine.
After some googling, one website here another social media there, I soon came to learn that Tainá was actually one of my compatriots, born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil.
We set up a meeting at her office (more like her gallery/kitchen) Entretempo. At first I thought, “ok this is another gallery as she is also an artist”, but walking down Senefelderstraße, I must say I got puzzled with the gallery facade: one big see through window with a fully-equipped kitchen in the back of the room.
Was it there? Is it connected to this Café next door? Wait, what is this? Then came Tainá to greet me at the door.
I could not help but ask: so what is Entretempo about?
“This is a gallery/project space. Don’t worry, people usually get confused about what are we doing here. Even the neighbors from time to time come and ask what we are doing (laughs). The thing is that no gallery at the moment has an integrated kitchen, we are the first here in Berlin to do so. It is quite an innovative concept.”
Tainá went on to explain me that she had studied Gastronomy in São Paulo, shortly after opening a Japanese restaurant, Nakombi, over 10 years ago.
“It was a fruitful experience. I come from a mixed background. My mother is a Japanese descendant and my father Brazilian. I wanted express this mix between cultures, to translate the Japanese culture for a non-Japanese audience. But, in the end I had many problems with the chefs. I often wanted to experiment, for example, with a Japanese vegetarian menu, or add exquisite olive oil to some of the dishes, because we had found a very good olive oil producer, but the chefs would just cut me off saying no, it is not traditional.”
From her wish to have more autonomy in her own restaurant kitchen, Tainá went on to study cooking. Although it seemed to be an easy thing to do to once you have your own restaurant, the counterpart of this was that at the end she needed to put into practice what she learned, but how to be an apprentice in the kitchen of a restaurant you own?
“It was very complicated for me to actually work as a professional cook, because in my restaurant kitchen, people were super nervous about dealing with “the boss” and to look for an apprenticeship in the competition was definitely not an option.”
In between other projects, like the underwear brand she also created next to Nakombi, Tainá met Oliver Fuchs, German art director, and with whom she came to Germany.
“I met Oliver because of the fashion label I created, next to Nakombi, and he came into the project to do the branding. He started to ask me all these questions, like “Why are you doing this? Why do you have this design? Where do you want go from here?” and then I started to really ask myself these questions.”
“During this period, I also got in touch with this Japanese word Mottainai – meaning reduce, reuse and recycle – and also a way of thanking everyone that belongs to this chain inside this process. Then, the things I was doing in Brazil were not making sense to me anymore. That was when I had the idea to go to Japan. As a Japanese descendant the mechanisms are slightly easier to study there.”
Long story short, before Tainá spent her learning period in Japan she came first to Germany in 2006, and lived in Dusseldorf, one the biggest Japanese communities in Germany. Her way into a kitchen there was also not easy, as she tells me that she had to go every day for a month, asking for positions in Japanese restaurants for learning the first steps of her profession.
From this experience, she also developed a great interest for the Shōjin Ryōri – ancestral vegetarian Buddhist cuisine – also one of the principles of the macrobiotic diet, which Tainá had contact with since her early years through her father.
“I always had contact with the macrobiotic diet. My father was an avid follower of this. But my interest grew more and more towards the Japanese application of these principles, especially when I went to Japan and found a spectacular chef that followed this philosophy exactly.”
Back to Germany, with a sustainable, vegetarian and Buddist philosophy in her mind, Tainá had a job offer from Cookies Cream, a vegetarian restaurant in Berlin, that made her finally move to Germany’s capital. That was 2009.
Unfortunately, when she first arrived here, the job offer was canceled and then she found herself in Berlin ready to put all her fresh ideas into practice.
She started first to do creative catering, with which she had already experienced from her time in Dusseldorf. These jobs led her more and more inside the art world, as she was constantly dealing with food and art.
“In Japan, the art school is together with the cooking school. I don’t see one without the other. For me it is the most natural thing: food art.”
“That’s why I opened Entretempo. It is a gallery that has an integrated kitchen. We have exhibitions, we curate special projects, we do creative catering and give workshops – always connecting food and art, with a sustainable philosophy.”
Tainá Guedes is also author of book “Kochen mit Brot”, sponsored by Märkisches Landbrot, a German company that are pioneers when it comes to a practical, sustainable business model.
The book is meant to inspire people to cook with bread leftovers, avoiding any kind of waste.
Besides this, Tainá is also is the creator of Berlin Food Art Week, set to happen in June and in which BERLIN LOVES YOU will be media partners, profiling many of the participant artists and places of the event.
“I have this activist side of me, always linking my work with sustainability and respect towards our environment and everything around it. Here in Berlin people are very open to it, people are not only dreaming about a better future, they are doing it!”
Another of her projects is Share Your Food, first created in 2009 for BMW Guggenheim Lab, where she invited people not only to share what is on their table but also to answer the question “What do you think makes the world a better place?” – from the answers she printed a magazine. For this last edition, happened 6th March, the theme was LeftOvers, where people were invited to bring their own leftovers and sample a creative dining experience. (There will be another edition on the next 17th of April).
Currently the exhibition Food Waste Money is taking place at Entretempo, addressing issues surrounding these words and their connotations.
“I see people as born to cook. It connects us. I want to bring people together through food art, to bring new concepts and to develop new ideas. And, I think, Berlin is the perfect place to start that.”
Senefelderst. 29 – 10437 Berlin – Germany
Opening hours Tuesday to Friday 10am to 3 pm – or on appointment
Tainá Guedes is the CEO/curator.