Interviewed August 2012
Thomas is owner and head chef of La Vie in Osnabruck, awarded three Michelin stars in the 2012 Guide.
Q – How long have you been cooking professionally?
I started cooking in 1979, so altogether I`ve been cooking for more than 30 years now.
Q – Where did you train to cook?
I trained to cook at the Schweizer Haus in Paderborn, a city in North Rhine-Westphalia and then worked at the Düsseldorf Hilton under Günter Scherrer, the Landhaus Scherrer in Hamburg, the Grand Cru Restaurant in Lippstadt and the Restaurant Jörg Müller in Westerland on the island of Sylt. In 1989, I moved to Baiersbronn to take up a post as Chef de Partie at Harald Wohlfahrt’s Schwarzwaldstube. I see this as a key moment in my career, since in addition to the discipline and consistency that are essential for any successful chef, I was particularly intrigued by the down-to-earth attitude and humaneness that Wohlfahrt showed towards the people who worked for him on a daily basis. I couldn’t have been better prepared to take up the position of Chef at the La Table Restaurant in Dortmund in 1991 where I gained my first Michelin star five years later, followed by a second one in 1998. In 2001, I scooped the Gault Millau “Rising Star of the Year” award and was voted “Chef of the Year” just five years later. Together with my wife Thayarni Kanagaratnam, I have been running Restaurant la vie in Osnabrück since April 2006. In 2009, I received the accolade of becoming a Relais & Chateaux “Grand Chef”, while the la vie was granted membership of “Les Grandes Tables du Monde” at the beginning of 2010. In 2011, we were awarded with the third Michelin star.
Q – How would you describe your style of cooking?
I would say that my cuisine is full of variety and very strong regarding the natural flavor of each product. In addition, many of our dishes are based on a declination from one or more products.
Q – Is there a secret for a successful restaurant?
I think you could sum it up with love and passion – because if you really love what you do, than it will be very good. It is the passion for this work and the enjoyment to create something special for every guest.
Q – Do you have a “signature dish” or favourite dish you enjoy cooking?
A "signature dish“ for this philosophy is our dish "lamb from front to back“ or the “red mullet with spiced oil”.
Q – Do you have a favourite ingredient?
I love to cook fish. But the greatest joy I have is when I cook with fresh and first class products. Only then, you have the chance to place the original and pure taste of a product in the foreground. To achieve this, we are often experimenting with various techniques to create "taste bombs“. Sometimes, this takes weeks. But of course, the different cooking techniques are also playing an important role
Which restaurant do you most enjoy eating at on your night off?
Friends of us have a nice Italian restaurant in Osnabrueck where you always meet somebody you know. However, in addition, I love to eat the Tamil dishes cooked by my wife at home.
What is your most interesting or fun experience from your time in restaurants?
I have spent many nice moments in restaurants, so I can not recall this one special moment. However, the best experiences are always the ones that I have made together with friends, sitting around one big table.
What would be your “last request” dish?
For me, it would not be the question what – but with whom. I would prefer to have fun and eat with all of my beloved ones.
Is there another chef that you most admire?
Yes, there are some. For example Jonnie Boer and Sergio Hermann. But I am also impressed with the work of Johann Lafer and Juan Mari and Elena Arzak. Lastly, I am a fan of Jean George Klein and Andreas Carminada.
Any advice you would give to someone wanting to become a chef?
Say goodbye to your girlfriend. What you need is discipline and a healthy dose of dissatisfaction, to never stand still. It is also important to notice all the things that happen around you in order to draw the right conclusion from it.
Any final thoughts you’d like to add?
I think that is everything.