Selfmade Experts: Alexis Goertz on Edible Alchemy

Alexis Goertz | ©Maidje Meergans

Edible Alchemy was founded in 2013 by Alexis Goertz and Natalie Elizabeth and brings together all the knowledge they have acquired about fermented foods

Alexis Goertz is the expert in fermentation and co-founder of Edible Alchemy. I have been excited about this topic for a long time and it is incredibly gratifying that Berlin offers exactly the right environment for this form of edutainment (i.e. a mix of education and entertainment) to become a point of interest. Here, the 27-year-old Canadian describes her story and her career in her own words:

Edible Alchemy is an edutainment platform on which bacteria, yeast, and mold are celebrated as much for their amazing taste as their numerous health benefits! Think cheese, wine, beer, bread, kimchi, and sauerkraut… There is a wide variety of good bacteria in probiotic food that helps our microbiome (i.e. our internal gut environment) function at its best. That means good digestion that easily breaks down other food, enables us to be able to absorb all the nutrients, protects us from bacteria and viruses that would make us sick, helps us to properly absorb and breakdown fats, and so much more. There are definitely reasons that the ancient technique of fermentation still exists in many cultures.

I came to Berlin as a printmaker, fermentation expert, and English teacher. I opened up the first ever “Bacteria Bar” at an open-air festival in Neukölln and sold living drinks like kombucha, water kefir, and ginger beer. The interest I received from the Berlin crowd was huge – my bar sold out in just a couple hours. A decision was kind of made for me that day: I put my focus into the microbial world of fermentation and deliver interactive workshops, consult for restaurant chefs and bar keepers, and offer webinars and online courses.

My best friend – and Edible Alchemy partner – Natalie and I had already traveled the world a couple times around to acquire some know-how and bacterial cultures and decided to share that information with those who wanted to listen. We were lucky to meet sake samurais, kimchi specialists, cheesemongers, miso experts, and even the guru Sandor Katz. The more information and experience I acquire, be they failures or successes, the more there is to add to my repertoire and expertise in the field. I am mostly self-taught. That has meant a lot of research into good and credible articles and books as well as talking with practiced microbiologists, doctors, health coaches, nutritionists, and similar people to acquire solid and studied facts.

I’ve studied gut health and learned a lot about the gut-brain connection. But the practical, hands-on side of it was acquired by dedicating myself to the curiosity of fermentation and microbiology and doing, doing, doing: trying, failing, having things explode, trying again, tasting the delicious results, and witnessing those beautiful fermentation bubbles. The idea of the “perfect kombucha” is really dependent on your personal taste buds. I like mine pretty bubbly – as opposed to rather flat, which some other people like. That means a longer secondary fermentation time in a tightly closed bottle and perhaps with an extra sweetener in there. The main thing for real kombucha is that it is not pasteurized and is still living. And that may mean getting a small, slimy treat in each bottle (aka SCOBY, “Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast”).

I’ve been fermenting as a business now for over five years and it’s been a pretty bizarre niche to be in. People really questioned by career choice as a fermentation expert or “bacteria barista” for the first couple of years I was doing it, but the trend has prevailed. And for me, that shows how much it was needed and how much interest was there. I’m happy I stuck with my gut (pun intended) and kept up the quirky work. I want to get living, fermented, probiotic foods onto store shelves. Everything that you’ll find there right now is pasteurized, and so I consider it a large part of my job (and partly my responsibility) to educate people about the meaning of living foods and how that can work on a scale larger than just our homes. I am starting an Edible Alchemy online academy and, through that, am reaching a wider audience than just my immediate surroundings. I hope to make these skills not just available to the world, but also accessible and fun.

You can find upcoming workshops here: Hot sauceFruit vinegarHerbal tinctureKimchi Kraut,Ginger beerAs well as the online Fermentation Master course here.

General information can be found also on the website here and via the Instagram account @ediblealchemy.co here.

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.

Updates about her next professional steps can be found at https://www.linkedin.com/in/juliaknolle/.