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Making it in Germany: a home-cooking American

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Making it in Germany: a home-cooking American
Photo: Cynthia Barcomi
14:14 CEST+02:00
The Local's new series "Making it in Germany" presents Cynthia Barcomi, who has made a name for herself in the German capital by starting a local chain of eponymous cafes, Barcomi’s.

Famous for their homemade American-style baked goods, the two cozy eateries offer both expats and Berliners the chance to taste favorites from home – like muffins, bagels, and carrot cake – or sample them for the first time.

Name:

Cynthia Barcomi

Age:

45

Where do you live?

Berlin

Where are you from originally?

Seattle, Washington

What did you do before coming to Germany?

I had just finished my degree in Philosophy and Theater at Columbia University in New York.

What brought you to Germany and when did you come?

I came in 1985 and worked as a professional dancer for eight years. I felt like it was such a luxury to live and study in New York and, when that was over, I didn’t want to live the life of a starving dancer. So I just decided I was interested in living in Europe and that if I was going to do it, I should do it now. It was a totally blind decision.

What was your first job in Germany?

At first, I was a choreographer’s assistant and from there it was all about building connections. You have to build up your own network.

How did you find your first job in Germany?

I started taking dance classes and the choreographer just noticed me.

What do you do now?

During the morning, I’m running the stores and in the evenings I’m usually working on recipes or writing my cookbooks.

What gave you the idea?

I had had my second child and wanted to do something more compatible with having a family. I woke up one morning and thought: “I really want to roast coffee beans.” I didn’t know anything about coffee beans at the time.

What were the biggest challenges you faced? How did you deal with them?

I didn’t have any money or security. I went to at least a dozen banks. They kept telling me that if it was a good idea, we’d already have it. I definitely had to stretch the truth a little bit about my experience. But I think the biggest challenge is really figuring out how to execute a good idea, not just coming up with one.

What’s your best advice for ‘making it’ in Germany?

If you can get through the whole procedure of getting started, you’re going to make it. But you do have to be extremely self-critical and know your strengths and weaknesses. And then definitely you need perseverance. It becomes kind of an obsession.

What’s the biggest difference about working in Germany compared to back home?

Germans don’t have that entrepreneurial sort of spirit. As Americans, we feel like we can do anything – that if you work hard enough, sooner or later you can do it.

What’s the best thing about working in Germany?

I really like the constant challenge of being a foreigner, integrating into society. I love going back to New York, but it doesn’t mean I want to live there.

What’s the worst thing about working in Germany?

I don’t really have one. I feel really positive about being here. I am really grateful – people have embraced Barcomi’s.

How’s your German? What language do you speak at work?

My German was pathetic when I started but I’m fluent now – I’ve been doing business in German for 15 years. I always speak in German. I rarely work in English.

What is your favorite recipe?

I love chocolate chip cookies.

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