Interview: Ludwig Cramer-Klett, Founder of Katz Orange

Ludwig Cramer-Klett Portrait

In 2008 I moved to Berlin. At the time there was Scala, a club with a slightly strange setting where I met Ludwig Cramer-Klett: predominantly small ravers (and others who wanted to be) danced, spread over five floors, in a run down house on Friedrichstraße and drank copious amounts of lovelessly-mixed cold drinks. The atmosphere was great and Scala became our second living room.

Someone introduced me to a tall guy in a grey suit. And in response to my harmless yet naïve question: “And what do you do?” I got a relatively clear reply from the man who turned 38 this year: “I find myself.” This is my favorite anecdote about the gastronome and Munich native, Ludwig Cramer-Klett. I remember it every time I enter the courtyard of his enormously successful restaurant, Katz Orange (opened in 2012) on Berlin-Mitte’s Bergstraße. And every time I’m impressed by how far the former finance expert has come.

After his childhood in Bavaria and Switzerland, among other jobs he worked as an investment banker in many parts of the world. By his own admission this was followed by a few years of meditation and time spent with shamans. It’s almost no wonder that afterwards his destination wasn’t exactly clear – but he’d take it.

Our little interview with the entrepreneur, who after ten years of travelling the world, has now quite clearly arrived at himself and his destiny. He’s just opened his fourth gastronomic location in in Berlin.

CFL Canteen

The CFL Canteen has just opened, in addition to Katz Orange, Contemporary Food Lab and Candy on Bone, it’s your fourth project. How did it come about?

It began when one of my best friends asked me if we wanted to open a small catering establishment in a building he owns. He also runs the just opened co-working space “The Workspace” on the upper floor there. This friend was looking for good food for his co-workers. At the same time we were looking for possible spaces for the manufacture of Candy on Bone, the deli that we’re going to open in a few days on Planufer in Kreuzberg.

For a long time we knew that there weren’t many good lunch places in this corner of Berlin, we thought about a system modeled on the cuisine of the CoB lunch concept, which goes beyond the originally planned café.

What exactly is behind Contemporary Food Lab?

CFL is a smorgasbord of projects and enterprises around the theme of man, nature and nutrition. In our journal we express our curiosity and multidisciplinary perspective.

From this multi-faceted perspective we’ve also established companies in hospitality and soon retail and educational projects, moving towards the development of technological applications. You could say we are a multidisciplinary network and company. But you could also say that we’re a kind of creative hub or incubator around the theme of food.

Katz Orange was established over three years ago. It’s always full, included among the guests are many international visitors and everyone loves it. It’s reportedly especially loved by stars and starlets from New York and Hollywood. What do you think they like most about it and can you give a little insider info to our readers?

Katz Orange will be four years old in January and it’s true, we have many international guests, of which one or the other have been prominent personalities: We’ve had beauties like Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Alba, there have been some fun evenings with Mario Testino, Tom Hanks told us that it’s his new favorite place in Berlin, after Steven Spielberg’s visit we took on catering for his private jet because he couldn’t get enough of our roast lamb and Lou Reed visited us shortly before his death and thought it was so great that he came right back the next day after giving his last concert in Berlin.

I think people like the mix of the relaxed atmosphere and the high demand for quality, both in terms of cuisine and drinks. With us there’s no celebrity alarm despite the prominent guests. We’re an inclusive location, not exclusive. Everyone is treated equally with kindness and sincerity. Every guest is left in peace. No pictures or autographs.

You changed careers. Do you remember the moment when the concept for Katz Orange was conceived?

I’ve had a vision of becoming active in gastronomy for a long time. It’s been present all my life and was able to thrive and grow in me. At some point, while with a tribal shaman in the Amazon, I had the inspiration to immediately move in this direction after my return. In the beginning I briefly questioned it because it would mean a complete lifestyle change. But very quickly I saw that I shouldn’t ask what I want, rather simply follow what was clearly shown to me.

In the early moments was everything that would come over the next few years clear to you? The team and the original idea have grown significantly over time.

We now have more than 60 permanent employees. I immediately knew that this was only the beginning of the journey. How exactly it would be formed only came with time, of course. To a certain degree I just let it come to me.

But somewhere deep in me I also had a clear idea of the future, which pretty much coincides with what has developed. But I also haven’t counted on it, and I won’t. I simply try, day by day, to do my very best.

Sometimes I have a vision: I am the first dog in front of the sledge. Somehow I know the direction, but I’m not exactly certain where it goes, I can’t yet say, and in the end I’m just pulling the sled for the entire day, just like any other.

Last but not least: What’s next? What wishes do you still want to fulfill? Where do you see all of this in five years?

We’ll see where the canteen, and especially Candy on Bone, go. For now I’m excited about it. We’ve been working on the project for almost three years. Of course we have a few other projects in the pipeline, but one after the other. As I said, day by day.

CFL Canteen
TRANSLATION: ALICIA REUTER
PHOTOS: ROBBIE LAWRENCE

Julia co-founded one of the first fashion blogs in Germany in 2007 and became a freelance consultant for digital strategies after publishing her first book in 2010. After an eventful four years with Condé Nast working mainly in the digital department of Vogue Germany, she decided to launch her own online magazine with her dream partner, Veronika Heilbrunner. She is based in Berlin and loves to read books.