“Make falafel great again” is Wael Thib’s motto for the food truck that’s been parked next to the Wedding U/S-Bahn station for seven years. Born in Jordan to Palestinian refugees, Thib came to Berlin with his parents in 1984. After stints in the hotel business in London and Cologne, he decided to realise his “falafel dream” in his hometown with his own stand in 2010. Here at the aptly named Falafel Dream 2010, the speed-talking 38-year-old serves homemade falafel, halloumi and Gemüse with creative toppings: Club Mate sauce, anyone? Soon the truck will get replaced by a double-decker bus – partly funded by a crowdfunding campaign that ends October 18. (Perks include t-shirts, a “falafel flat rate” and a sauce named after you.) Today, he thanks the humble chickpea for all the possibilities it’s opened up.
What type of food do you cook?
I cook Arab vegan and vegetarian food – the only unhealthy thing is the falafel cooked in oil. There are no preservatives and I make everything myself. I’ve chosen to perfect the few things I offer instead of serving a million different dishes. That way I can spend more money on ingredients of proper quality, because the base will always be the same.
What is your most popular item?
That would be the falafel! The secret to it all is the sauces I offer – seven regulars and one that changes each week: Club Mate, Fritz Kola, bitter chocolate and so on. So the food will never be exactly the same, because you can always try a new combination of sweet, bitter, spicy. You might find better falafel balls somewhere else, but the overall impression will always be better here.
The food trend you hate the most?
I don’t like places that brag about quality and then it’s obvious that the food comes from the freezer. Or where the döner skewer just hangs there the whole day, rotating constantly – then I’m not sure you can talk about ‘quality’. I eat meat, but at some of these places it’s just pieces of meat cramped together so you’re not sure what’s going on. You have to know what you’re eating.
Do you have a cooking tip for people?
Everyone can cook – you just need to use your imagination. And then you need to make sure that your ingredients are fresh and know where they come from.
A dining tip (other than your own restaurant)?
Uh, that’s dangerous – then I’m creating competition for myself. No, I recommend all places that have a small menu. That way you can be guaranteed that they know what they are doing, and if that’s the case then their passion is also part of the food experience. If you have a menu that goes from Istanbul to Ankara, it’s no good.
The best thing about owning a restaurant in Berlin?
In my case, because I have a truck, the best thing is that I can move around. My business is good, but if it didn’t work out I could just turn on the engine and try somewhere else. You can’t do that with a regular shop without the risk of losing money. But I’ve also come to love my regular customers – they’ve kept my reputation strong during tough times, and that’s the reason I now get calls to come and do catering from Hertha Berlin to Potsdamer Platz.
What’s the worst thing about owning a restaurant in Berlin?
The amount of patience. You need to have a loooot of patience before it’s worth your while. Your health can be at risk and your stress level is at a constant high. It’s a long haul before it pays off and the customers start recognising your effort. I worked more than 80 hours a week for a long time, and it’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve been able to close down for the weekends.