Falafel connection: Live from Berlin

October 23rd, 2008 Istanbul

Monday, October 20, 2008
ISTANBUL – Turkish Daily News

Dozens of people gathered Saturday evening in a Galata restaurant to learn to make falafel with a twist: The chef was projected large and wizard-like over their heads via the Internet live from Berlin.
Julie Upmeyer and her “Virtual Chef” initiative held their borderless feast at GŁney Restaurant, one of 40 venues that hosted events this weekend as part of this year’s art festival Visibility Project in Istanbul’s Galata neighborhood.

Upmeyer said she was amazed by the way cooking brought people together. “Chefs from the GŁney kitchen worked side-by-side with Virtual Chef guests to fry falafel balls, while Galata locals were speaking live with our chef in Berlin in Turkish, English and German.”

Hoping to open people’s eyes to the “unseen,” the one-day fest combined everything from art exhibits in teahouses to oddball performances on sidewalks. In this respect, Virtual Chef’s connection to a chef in Germany, who had sourced his ingredients in exchange for providing a service, certainly suited the vision of the festival.

The story behind the dish

The project began when chef Karl Heinz Jeron sent the group a list of ingredients to collect for the meal. As they searched for the ingredients, the participants met people and explored places and shops new to them. While watching each other via a live media stream on Internet TV, Jeron shared with them the story behind his version of the falafel.

His project “Will Work For Food” explores the labor and barter economy. During the project, he provided small robotic vehicles that traded their manpower for food. The vehicles can draw and whistle. In exchange for a bit of food, people borrowed the vehicles to serve their needs. He received lentils, flour, arugula salad, garlic, lemon and some spices and herbs.

That’s when a falafel recipe came to Jeron’s mind. He customized the recipe, replacing the chickpeas with lentils and adding flour to make the dough a bit more solid. After practicing for some time, he agreed to join Virtual Chef and share the fruits of his barter.

A native of Detroit, Michigan, Upmeyer said food was universal and commonplace, though ultimately quite personal. “Eating is the closest connection our body has to the outside world.”

Julie Upmeyer caravansarai.info@gmail.com or julie@active-ingredient.net

Recipe: ‘Will Work For Food’ Falafels


1 cup lentils, cooked (cooking time depends on which lentils you use)

1 tablespoon flour (maybe more) Make one dumpling. Fry it. If it falls apart, use more flour)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup finely minced onion

2 tablespoon finely minced parsley or rocket salad (I used rocket salad, but if you cant get it take parsley)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

2 cloves garlic

freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon lemon juice

a pinch (or more) of cayenne pepper

oil for frying (i.e. canola, sunflower, avocado),

no olive oil, it cant stand high temperatures!!!


1 cup plain yogurt

1 tablespoon minced mint

1 clove garlic

1 tablespoon lemon juice


Drain lentils and put into a good processor or blender. Add the baking soda and salt. Blend until you have the texture of coarse breadcrumbs or fine bulgur wheat. You should NOT have a paste.

Empty lentils into a bowl. Add onion, parsley, cumin, coriander, garlic, black pepper, lemon juice, and cayenne. Mix gently with a fork. Do not pat down. This mixture should be loose and crumbly.

Put 2 inches of oil in a wok or other utensil for deep frying and set to a heat on a medium-low flame. You need a temperature of 350 to 375 degrees Farenheit. While the oil heats, form the first batch of patties. Using a very light touch, form patties that are about 2 1/4 inches in diameter, about 3/4 inch thick in the center and less so at the edges. Do not pat down or try to be too neat. Put as many patties into the hot oil as the utensil will hold in a single layer. Fry about 4 minutes or until the patties a reddish brown on both sides. Turn at least once during the frying process. When the patties are done, remove them with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.

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