• Food
  • Chez Emil: The French bistro wunderkind who almost lost it all


Chez Emil: The French bistro wunderkind who almost lost it all

Emil Senkel lost his money through a bad investment in Tesla stock, but that was only the start of his story...

Photo: Chez Emil

Who is Emil Senkel, the 19-year-old chef-proprietor of Chez Emil? The term “wunderkind” doesn’t quite suffice. This is the type of kid who, in the throes of an Elon Musk obsession that also saw him make daily after-school pilgrimages to Grünheide to keep tabs on the still-in-progress Berlin-Brandenburg Gigafactory, scraped and borrowed to purchase €8000 worth of Tesla stock behind his parents’ back, only to lose it all when the pandemic hit. The type of kid who, having miraculously persuaded the company to return the money in full (he was a minor at the time, after all), made the split-second decision to re-invest it in a tiny former bakery on a Moabit side street, which he singlehandedly renovated – first into a lockdown-compliant takeaway café, then a full-scale French bistro.

It’s a great story, and Senkel knows it. He’s printed it on the menu, in case you missed the framed articles from Business Insider, Edison and of course Tesla Magazine hanging on the walls of the otherwise bare-bones space. But it won’t pay the bills forever, so luckily the food can speak for itself. Did we mention Senkel spent his early childhood in Lyon, started cooking for his family when he was 12, and completed a pair of culinary internships prior to the Tesla saga? At Chez Emil, he and his sous-chef Antoine (the restaurant’s oldest employee, at an ancient 23) put their own spin on bistro tradition, like a comforting creamed spinach and goat cheese tart or a vertically stacked, crisp-topped potato dauphinoise.

Larger plates include boeuf bourguignon or “Butterhuhn”, a cinnamon and cardamom-spiced original invention. It’s all available a la carte or in three-course menus that cost €30 tops. Moabit locals have already cottoned on, dropping by for lunch or just a cup of coffee and a mouth-puckering citrus tartelette. Worried their money would be going straight back into Musk’s pocket, we were relieved to find out Senkel has exchanged his original goal of saving up for a Tesla Model 3 for loftier ambitions: namely, launching a Europe-wide “Chez Emil empire”. But if you’re reading this, Elon, know that you’ve got a standing invitation.

Bochumer Str. 17, Moabit, Tue-Fri 11-21, Sat-Sun 11-17, €€