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Berlin Lobster: A plague turned into a delicacy

Interview with Lukas Bosch, Co-Founder of HOLYCRAB!

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European Business: Ms. Bublitz, Mr. Bosch, you describe the swamp crayfish as a plague. How did you first come across this unpleasant creature?

Lukas Bosch: Our first encounter with the Red American crayfish was very abstract and stimulated our synapses rather than our palates. I stumbled across it in a newspaper article in May last year - at that time, the Berlin Senate had recently issued a fishing permit to enable the reduction of the crayfish population in the Tiergarten where, during particularly wet weather, people would come across them on the cycle paths. We haven’t lived in Berlin for a while, and now only come across Egyptian geese - an equally invasive species - on the cycle paths along the river Main. These were brought from Egypt to Europe in the 18th century as ornamental birds. Unfortunately, they too have become very much at home here and, with their very aggressive character, threaten the indigenous ducks, geese and, more recently even the herbs used to make the beloved Frankfurt specialty, Green Sauce.

Juliane Bublitz: Back to the crayfish: The newspaper article was a typical ‘you have to’-moment. Why not turn a negative into a value-adding enterprise? After all, in its natural habitat in Louisiana, the Red American crayfish is not seen as a plague, but as a delicacy and a cult dish.

European Business: HOLYCRAB! recognized that people don’t like crayfish at their front door, but they love them on their plate. The journey from the streets of Berlin to the dining table is a long one. What are the steps that transform crayfish into a tasty meal?

Juliane Bublitz: We obtain the Red American crayfish, as well as other crustaceans which are officially listed by the EU as invasive, direct from anglers in and around Berlin. This is a little more challenging than the normal purchasing process in the gastronomy sector - we can’t simply go to the wholesalers or farms; instead we nurture close relationships with the anglers. This way, we can be sure that what we buy are genuinely local stocks of crayfish which, due to their negative impact on the ecosystem, have to be reduced in the interests of nature conservation. The result is exceptional product quality, and another contradiction: Urban wild animal quality, seafood from Berlin.

Lukas Bosch: The processing of shellfish is by nature quite costly - which makes the taste experience all the more rewarding. Our chef, Andreas Michelus, comes from the top level of the gastronomy industry, with experience in some of Berlin’s best kitchens. With absolute artistry, he turns crayfish and crabs into our street food and catering dishes. Our Berlin Lobster Bun is an interpretation of the classic lobster roll. The exact recipe continually changes, partly in accordance with the seasons. For example, our customers can enjoy a home-made Brioche with celery, blanched red onions, black walnuts, chamomile sauce and, naturally, their invasive shellfish of choice. In the catering segment, depending on the occasion, we offer ‘Crab-happens’ canapés, for example, made from Holy crab, chamomile, black walnuts, seaweed caviar and bread, an exquisite treat for the tastebuds at any business function or wedding.

Lukas Bosch
„The processing of shellfish is by nature quite costly - which makes the taste experience all the more rewarding.“ Lukas Bosch

European Business: You are actually a business advisor and a futurologist. Now, with HOLYCRAB!, you are company founders. How difficult has this change of role been?

Lukas Bosch: Since the focus of my advisory role is on innovation and business model development, the leap to company owner is not a great as you might think. On the contrary, the two activities complement each other extremely well. For several years, I have supported companies and other organizations in different sectors in the development of innovative products, services, processes, business models and strategies. Naturally, HOLYCRAB! is now benefiting from the methodological instruments I used and my experience in dealing with complex and uncertain situations.

Juliane Bublitz: As a futurologist, I am involved in publications, presentations and advisory projects in relation to megatrends, and how these can be exploited by companies and organizations. It is not so much about the clichéd ‘crystal ball’picture - rather than trying to predict the future, it is much better to actively help to shape it. HOLYCRAB! aligns itself at the interface between the megatrends of health, neo-ecology and globalization, and this connection enables the company to make a positive contribution in many different ways.

Lukas Bosch: I think the thing that underpins our individual activities and now our own entrepreneurship is the work at the company rather than in the company.

European Business: From an invasive crayfish, which no-one needs, you make tasty meals. How do you manage to engender people’s enthusiasm for your creations?

Lukas Bosch: This question reflects what is, for us, an exciting test field at the moment. Our current hypothesis is that the response depends enormously on the target group. Fortunately, our product offers so many facets, that a variety of customer groups are interested in us. On the one hand, there is the extremely high (wild animal) quality of the core ingredients, a quality which also extends to the other ingredients we use. You must also remember that what is seen as a plague in our country is often classed as a delicacy elsewhere. We are inspired by local recipes, but we are also very inventive ourselves - absolutely fundamental in generating customer enthusiasm is the experience that our culinary expert Andreas brings.

Juliane Bublitz: Of course, there is also the broad aspect of sustainability. Unfortunately, over the past few years, the term has begun to lose its appeal. Fortunately, what we bring to the table is not impacted by this. In the Berlin gourmet scene, our dishes do not need to hide. In this respect, we align ourselves to the trend of ‘hedonistic sustainability’ - alongside the classic gourmets, we also appeal to people for whom sustainability is important. With our products, neither aspect needs to be given up - sustainability must be fun!

Juliane Bublitz
„Our vision definitely extends far beyond shellfish and crustaceans, and also beyond Berlin. There are infinite numbers of invasive species around the world. Many of them have the potential to become culinary delicacies.“ Juliane Bublitz

European Business: You have not only transformed swamp crayfish into a new delicacy, you have also identified further ‘plagues’, among them the Egyptian goose. Is HOLYCRAB! likely to expand at some point to include ‘HOLYGOOSE’?

Juliane Bublitz: Our vision definitely extends far beyond shellfish and crustaceans, and also beyond Berlin. There are infinite numbers of invasive species around the world. Many of them have the potential to become culinary delicacies.

Lukas Bosch: Whether the next step is the Egyptian goose or in a completely different direction depends on a multitude of factors, which are not completely in our own hands. As a result, at the moment I can’t and don’t want to set out what the next step will be.

Juliane Bublitz: The fact is, we are researching and planning in diverse directions in relation to the invasive revolution, and we are happy about any predator which becomes a part of culinary nature conservation.

Interview: Aurelia Leppen | Photos: Basti Mowka, Nino Halm 

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