Widely considered one of Europe’s top vegan chefs, German-born Josita Hartanto is the owner of Lucky Leek in Berlin and the author of two cookbooks.
• Trained at Steigenberger Hotel in Berlin
• Held various stations, including chef, at the hip restaurant Oxymoron in Berlin
• Landed the head chef position in 2010 at La Mano Verde, Berlin’s first vegan restaurant
• Opened Lucky Leek in 2011
• Published “Vegan Genial: Aufregend Anders Kochen” (Genius Vegan: Exciting Different Cooking) (NeunZehn, 2013), followed by “Vegan Schnell Schnell: Genial Einfach, Einfach Genial” (Vegan Quick, Quick: Simply Genius, Geniously Simple) (NeunZehn, 2014). A third book, “Vegan Genial in 15 Minuten” (Vegan Genius in 15 Minutes) (NeunZehn), is scheduled for release at year’s end.
• Recommended in the Michelin Guide, one of few vegan restaurants.
A Vegan Innovator
There are two kinds of vegan and vegetarian cooking—making foods that mimic the meat versions or working with ingredients to create original and innovative dishes.
Josita Hartanto does the latter.
Recognized as Germany’s most creative vegan chef, Hartanto has earned praise throughout Europe for her creative yet simple approach of layering flavors and textures by way of seasonal produce and protein-rich ingredients.
“I’ve always loved cooking for my family even as a child, so it was an easy decision to be a chef, and made very early in my life,” she says.
Choosing vegan, however, came later. Noticing food waste, especially meat, enticed her over time to pass on animal protein. She discovered that deep and satisfying flavors could be harnessed from meatless ingredients and decided on a vegan style of cooking.
For Hartanto, “the perfect food probably is raw food as it is very beneficial.” But preferences are “individual so there cannot be one perfect diet,” she says.
In fact, the diners at Lucky Leek are far from just vegans. The trend of meat, fish, and dairy eaters including vegan dishes is growing globally, which is reflected in her clientele. Like those who value higher-quality ingredients, these diners see plant-based dishes as nutritious and environmentally friendly.
Hartanto applies the same philosophy to cooking that she would recommend to anyone interested in eating vegan.
“Be creative and have the courage and spirit to try new things,” she says. “If you don’t go your own way, you will always just follow others.”