We asked ... Volker Westermann, TV chef and host

"Kitchen and cooking are a bridge to inclusion"

Oftentimes, political questions lack a certain zest, a somewhat different kind of approach. Ever more frequently, this is also rumored to be the case for inclusion. Only a few people can disengage from such stubborn trains of thought. TV chef and host Volker Westermann is one of them. He spoke with REHACARE.com about inclusion found in cooking pots.


Photo: Volker Westermann holding a spoon in his hand; Copyright: inklusiv-kochen

Volker Westermann; © inklusiv-kochen

Mr. Westermann, in Germany you have become famous through "Dinner for everyone". How did you come up with the idea for this show?

Volker Westermann: My mentor has always been Alfred Biolek. We have been friends for about 25 years, ever since I had interned in the editorial department of his show "Alfredissimo" many years ago. I was able to do and learn a lot during my work there. In 2008, we then had the idea to try out a new format.

Let’s face it, there are generally only documentaries about and with persons with disabilities but no entertainment shows. And these people are certainly not part of the production team. This is why we decided on a cooking show with "Dinner for everyone". In over 20 shows, a celebrity guest and a guest with a disability cooked a delicious dish with me.

With your new project "inklusiv kochen" (English: inclusive cooking), you are on the road all over Germany and visit schools or workplaces. Why do inclusion and cooking go so well together?

Westermann: Even though the work in the studio was interesting, I wanted to reach people directly. And then I got two requests at the same time to stop by on location using the format. That’s how the idea was born. Unfortunately, inclusion is still a very difficult topic. I often miss the playful approach. The kitchen and cooking are a bridge to inclusion for me. In many homes and especially at parties, the kitchen is the central hub of life. And inclusion also means jointly being in the center of life. This works extremely well for cooking.
Photo: Volker Westermann cutting onions; Copyright: inklusiv-kochen/Fürst Donnersmarck-Stiftung

For Volker Westermann, the kitchen is the perfect place for people to meet - no matter with or without disabilities; © inklusiv-kochen/Fürst Donnersmarck-Stiftung

During all four days of this year’s REHACARE trade fair, you are going to be on site at the "Menschen mit Behinderung und Beruf" (English: Persons with Disabilities and Jobs) theme park. What exactly can visitors expect to see?

Westermann: Even though the theme park will focus on people in the primary labor market, I will be cooking and talking with different guests. It’s a lot easier to start chatting with people that cut or stir something. They open up and become "more real".

The cooking shows will take place three times a day and last about half an hour each. Whether it is red pepper and feta mousse, rheinischer Schlabberkappes (Rhineland-style cabbage with gravy famous) or waffles with berry sauce – things are guaranteed to be delicious.

What does inclusion mean to you?

Westermann: To me, inclusion primarily means that people from all walks of life live together in harmony. They enjoy living this way and they do so by choice without being told "from on high". Inclusion is when things start in the head and end up in the heart.
More about Volker Westermann (only in German) at: www.inklusiv-kochen.de
Photo: Nadine Lormis; Copyright: B. Frommann

© B. Frommann

Nadine Lormis
(translated by Elena O'Meara)