Interviewed November 2010
Michael Hoffmann is chef/patron of Margaux in Berlin, which he runs with his wife Kathrin. He has earned a Michelin star for Margaux and has a passion for vegetables.
Q – How long have you been cooking professionally?
My cooking education started in 1983-87. At this time I studied the basics of French classic cooking with very good chefs. In 1988 I started cooking top cuisine and learned in several restaurants. I’ve been wearing the "White Jacket“ for 28 years.
Q – Where did you train to cook?
There where several stations studying in different categories, which was important for my professional career. Hotels in Switzerland and individual restaurants in Germany with big Hotels of 1000 bedrooms. Then a leasing job in a little bistro - as well as restaurants awarded with 1 to 3 stars. Still the most important chef to me is Eckart Witzigmann.
Q – How would you describe your style of cooking?
A description of my own cooking style is difficult. Responsibility is my first rule as well as ethics to food and dishes. My style of cooking is a creative mixture of using vegetables which I cultivate myself (80% of our vegetables).
Q – Is there a secret for a successful restaurant?
That is very difficult - but I believe honesty and always stay true to yourself doesn't conflict with economic success.
Q – Do you have a “signature dish” or favourite dish you enjoy cooking?
I like to cook vegetables dishes, especially with various preparation of cooking - for example in summer time we preserve vegetables - and in winter time we combine these aromatics with the dishes. A main dish is the interpretation of celery as well my seasonal vegetables which look different to each season and candied aubergine with smoked cream of topinambur.
Q – Do you have a favourite ingredient?
There is not one favourite ingredient, there are several and especially the own cultivated products from my garden – all other products are from personally known producers all over Europe - that´s important for me. All products must have an ethical codex.
Which restaurant do you most enjoy eating at on your night off?
That depends on the occasion - I like a good seasonal restaurant with perfect cooked simple dishes as well as sometimes sushi or Italian food. The only important thing is respectable work with excellent products.
What is your most interesting or fun experience from your time in restaurants?
Difficult... but I think the most interesting experience has been changing the dishes with more vegetables especially of my own garden, which has been noticed right away from our guests and the success of this strongly new way confirms me to follow up this way.
What would be your “last request” dish?
I’ m not able to answer this questions. I’ve never made thoughts about it and it probably depends on the situation....
Is there another chef that you most admire?
I only admire chefs which I know and where I ate already - but Eckart Witzigmann is my favourite chef, for me he is the most sensitive chef. For a long time I was very fond of Alain Ducasse and his way he integrated with much intelligence his gastronomic concept into a system – and Pierre Gagnaire, a top chef with incredible creative ideas. Today I prefer the Scandinavians - especially Rene Redzepi - who changes with pressure his concept. But meanwhile I distinguish between an employed chef who has a safe backing with a lot of money or a "self made chef" with high quality and creativity and even economic success.
Any advice you would give to someone wanting to become a chef?
Look for a kitchen where you learn the classical handiwork in cooking. Never lose ethics and respect for the products. Discipline is the first priority!
Any final thoughts you’d like to add?
In the future we will work more and more with authentic and forgotten products and find out about and concentrate on the essentials of taste.