Interviewed August 2009
Sven Elverfeld has been head chef at Aqua for nine years, which in 2009 was awarded its third Michelin star. Located in the unlikely setting of Wolfburg, the meal that I had at Aqua was very fine indeed. The restaurant also currently gets 19/20 in the Gault Millau.
Q – How long have you been cooking professionally?
Since 1983, must be 23 years now – including my apprenticeship.
Q – Where did you train to cook?
I completed two apprenticeships: the first in a confectionery/pastry shop in a small village place to Frankfurt / Germany. After that I started with cooking at a private cooking school owned by Lufthansa, also in Frankfurt.
Q – How would you describe your style of cooking?
I focus on my own very modern interpretations of classic and traditional dishes. Almost every region has a certain dish or speciality that they are known for and people have grown up with. I try to recall people’s memories by deconstructing these dishes and turn them into a new modern version. My own creations always have their roots in German or French cuisine because excellent techniques and best ingredients are never out of time.
Q – Is there a secret for a successful restaurant?
You need a talented team who finds it fun to do the job, your own style of cooking, loads of persistence, great passion and the continuous will to develop yourself and new ideas.
Q – Do you have a “signature dish” or favourite dish you enjoy cooking?
There are a lot of to be honest. One is my interpretation of a traditional dish from where I grew up: It is called ‘Frankfurter Grüne Sauce' (green sauce) with potato and egg which I combine with a nice soured boiled lamb meat from the German region ‘Müritz’.
Q – Do you have a favourite ingredient?
Quality is what matters – my favourites range from good aromatic tomatoes and dived scallops.
Which restaurant do you most enjoy eating at on your night off?
We do have quite a good traditional Italian restaurant over here which serve one of the best wood oven pizzas in town…
What is your most interesting or fun experience from your time in restaurants?
Every day is new, full of exciting and sometimes fun experiences. Afterwards it is always difficult to pick those moments. The only thing I know is that there have been a lot over the years…
What would be your “last request” dish?
I cannot say.
Is there another chef that you most admire?
Dieter Biesler who was my first chef when started cooking professionally and who inspired me with his passion and skill. From nowadays, there is a guy in Chicago who astounded me recently with a nitrogen-frozen Wagyu beef. It arrived at my table four courses before I was supposed to eat it and was meant to be placed there while I watched it and ate the other courses. The chef’s name is Grant Achatz and the restaurant is called Alinea.
Any advice you would give to someone wanting to become a chef?
It has to be a dream, something one definitely wants. One has to realize that it is a job without much spare time… When this is fine, try to start cooking for the best restaurants while keep on training as much as you can. If you are really talented and have the passion to succeed, you will succeed.
Any final thoughts you’d like to add?
I am really looking forward to this year’s International Festival of Food & Wine in October (22 – 25). We host several dinner events, around 1000 guests in four days. One event is dedicated to the outstanding cuisine of Rene Redzepi, from Copenhagen’s restaurant NOMA. Also Sang Hoon Degeimbre from Belgium’s restaurant “L’Air du temps” will be there and numerously awarded “Winemaker of the World” Jim Clendenen, from Santa Barbara’s premier winery Au Bon Climat. And then there is my own kitchen party with culinary friends like Nils Henkel and Michael Hoffman…