A ladle of ... organisational flair

New trends constantly shake up the industry – we are tracking them down. In our series ‘A ladle of ...’ we periodically present exciting projects and personalities from the food and gastronomy scene. Today’s 3-question interview: Hendrik Schellkes and Frank Hartmann, Managing Directors of Wellfairs GmbH and founders of the Gourmet Festival, Europe’s largest open-air food event.

Gourmet Festival Düsseldorf


Mr Hartmann, Mr Schellkes, do you still remember your first Gourmet Festival? 

Hartmann: Of course! I can still see the beginnings back in 2010. It was 16 degrees outside, with heavy rain and 60 exhibitors. Conditions were anything but ideal. 
Schellkes: True, but the next day was much better. And it finished really well – you just can’t go wrong with good food and good drinks. 
Hartmann: It showed us that, despite poor conditions, people want to visit this kind of festival. Also, there had never been a festival like this in or around Düsseldorf at that time. Yet Düsseldorf is predestined to be place to enjoy good food and delicious wine in a great atmosphere. 
Schellkes: The following year, we were able to move to the Kö, the Königsallee, which was lucky. Starting there with 80 exhibitors was still quite modest. But each year, we were able to attract more stallholders with our concept. At the same time, interest among the general public kept growing and today, Gourmet Festival is firmly established on the city’s events calendar. In 2019, we celebrated the largest festival to date with well over 200 exhibitors.

Frank Hartmann and Hendrik Schellkes, Managing Directors of Wellfairs GmbH and founders of the Gourmet Festival

Hendrik Schelkes (l.) and Frank Hartmann, Managing Directors of Wellfairs GmbH and founders of the Gourmet Festival 

A celebration of good taste

After 2 years the Gourmet Festival is back in Düsseldorf. More than 200 exhibitors turn the Königsallee into Europe's largest culinary promenade from 26 to 28 August 2022. METRO is at the heart of this festival celebrating international culinary culture – as a partner of the hospitality sector and main sponsor of the event.

What are the challenges involved in pulling together Europe’s largest open-air food event? 

Hartmann: I immediately think of the technical challenges. Ultimately, every screw and every cable has to be brought to the event site. Bear in mind that we start construction on a shopping street full of pedestrian traffic and by the first festival day, this has become the event venue. The logistical effort is tremendous.
Schellkes: Exactly! And added to the technical challenges are the content-related challenges. Each year, we must and want to evolve, to increase quality, to carefully select whom and what we are presenting to our guests. This is the only way to maintain our high standard. And this is where we complement each other perfectly. Frank has an eye on the big picture, contributes decades of experience and has an excellent network in Düsseldorf. I take more responsibility for the operational side and take care of the details. In the worst case, we might disagree if Frank keeps wanting to talk in detail about an issue, while I’m looking for a quick and perhaps not quite perfect solution. But that is precisely what makes us a strong team because we always find a good compromise.

Another burning question we’d like answered: is there something that you’ve never eaten but would like to try, or would never try?

Hartmann: Basically, humans can eat pretty much everything. But we’re shaped culturally to restrict ourselves from trying some dishes. I find it exciting to occasionally overcome this mental challenge. But I draw the line at endangered species.
Schellkes: If, like me, you don’t eat animal products, it’s exciting to combine things that don’t actually go together.

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