Ask the Foodie: Maximilian von Poelnitz (Secret Ingredients)
Well-travelled Maximilian von Poelnitz, originally from Germany, helped launch Secret Ingredient just over a year ago, with an idea to supply everything needed for cooking a gourmet meal at home.
With its mantra "no shopping, no chopping", the company delivers ingredients fully prepped and hob-ready. It already brings a warm glow to its clients, co-founder von Poelnitz, 28, says. Now he is on a mission to bring that glow to the streets that surround his business.
There seems to be a "from scratch" philosophy at the company. Some of your spices are ground locally, aren't they?
We get an ancient-looking man to blend garam masala for us, and then we create a spice mix based on it for the Indian curry.
How else would you like to promote local produce and shops?
I'm thinking about creating a live wall, so all of our herbs and spices will be grown right here.
Why did you choose the PoHo area (around Po Hing Road) to base the company?
It's beautiful here. It's a great neighbourhood. I'm having an event here on December 8 for the whole street. It's going to be a big street party. We've got all the shops here, all the galleries involved. I've got beer and wine suppliers, so every shop will have wine and beer. Each store will have coupons, and then I'll put a notice up on our website so people can buy tickets.
Do you have a chef's background?
My partner is a chef. I was in investment and corporate real estate for four years.
Why did you jump ship into food?
I don't function so well in the corporate world - I'm a better entrepreneur than I am an employee. I went on a trip to Berlin, and I saw something similar to what Secret Ingredient does, at a supermarket. I thought if we could tweak the idea for here, it might just work.
So where did the idea for making gourmet meals at home come from?
We were thinking about what makes a great meal in a gourmet restaurant. What makes it great are the sauces, the spreads, the marinades, and the rubs - that is really the crux of a great meal. We thought that [the lack of quality ingredients] was probably stopping people making a great meal. So we decided that was what we needed to be making.
So people don't already do it at home?
Our customers are often busy people who don't have much free time. But they do want to eat a balanced meal. If you look at our menu right now, we create a wasabi rub for the steak. We create an apple cider vinaigrette that goes on chicken, as well as a salad. How often do people do that?
Why don't customers just order take-out instead?
We're much more of an experiential brand. I'm trying to give a great at-home experience, whether you're on a date, or cooking with your children.
What's the best meal you've ever cooked for someone at home?
Pan-roasted salmon with blue cheese and a balsamic reduction. If I wanted to get the girl, that's what I'd make.