Interviewed August 2019
Q. How long have you been cooking professionally?
A. Since 2005, when I joined the team at Intercontinental Resort (today a Kempinski hotel) in Berchtesgaden as a rookie, only 16 years old.
Q. Where did you train to cook?
A. In my first years in Berchtesgaden I went through a transformation – a 16 year old kid with a passion for cooking grew into an adult ready to take on a culinary journey. I was given room to grow, and the freedom that I needed. The team recognized my dedication, so that I soon got more and more responsibility, which was motivating. It was a fantastic time in a great hotel, as part of a strong team with great managers. Special thanks to Ulrich Heimann (“Le Ciel”), and Thomas Walter (“Johann Grill”), for their support and guidance.
The most intense period of my career was under Helmut Thieltges in “Waldhotel Sonnora”, 7 years we were cooking side by side, day in day out. The quality was always top priority, and was closely examined and discussed for every halibut, red brass, and scallop we held in our hands. Only the ultimate quality was good enough, and this is still our credo today. I have always identified 100% with Helmut Thieltges' way of cooking, his high standard of quality, and his work ethic.
Q. How would you describe your style of cooking?
A. My goal is to present the most exquisite products in a natural way, through solid, traditional craftsmanship. All the ingredients, spices and flavours should be genuine, and clear, in harmony with each other. Our main focus is always the culinary pleasure of our guests.
Q. Is there a secret for a successful restaurant?
A. I am in charge of the restaurant for a very short time only, so I feel I shouldn't give advice but I will share my opinion. I think that success can come in various ways and cannot be “manufactured”. However, Helmut Thieltges showed how to lay the foundation for success – through extreme dedication, ambition, perseverance, hard work, talent, courage, listening, and anticipating what guests appreciate. And in my opinion this applies to any culinary style, and type of restaurant.
Q. Do you have a "signature dish" or favourite dish you enjoy cooking?
A. Our menu is highly seasonal, and I have many favourite ingredients and dishes. I love a squeaky bunch of fresh white asparagus in March, and also black Périgord truffle in winter. The team is constantly challenging the status quo, thinking about how we can enhance the culinary experience for our guests; and as a result we - often spontaneously- test ideas and decide to modify and redesign our dishes.
Q. Which restaurant do you most enjoy eating at on your night off?
A. When we have time to dine out, my partner Magdalena Brandstaetter and I love to go to Rüssel ́s Landhaus St. Urban in Naurath. We enjoy the cuisine (fantastic game dishes) as much as the lovely atmosphere; the terrace is just perfect for a nice summer evening. Another tip is Heim's Restaurant in Reil. We love the friendly atmosphere of this family-led restaurant, their great dishes (try their veal Schnitzel), as well as their service that runs from noon to 9pm, a rare find nowadays.
Q. What is your most interesting or fun experience from your time in restaurants?
A. A guest asked us if it was possible to add a la carte courses to the big menu... in the end he had 17 courses, and finished each plate to the last drop of the sauce. As a chef, I found this encouraging and it is rewarding to see such an interest, … even if the last dessert was served around 1.45am,
Q. What would be your "last request" dish?
A. I would choose calf's sweetbread with plenty of black truffle, in thick cuts, and perfectly aged, with the full scent of soil, and turpentine. This dish I would combine with a 2009 Savagnin “Seis“ of Domaine Tissot, … and with a cigar - Montecristo Number 2.
Q. Is there another chef that you most admire?
A. While I do admire many chefs, I don't want to give specific names, I hope you understand. For example, I highly respect the precision of acclaimed Japanese sushi masters, for their art of preparing their dishes, their incredible dedication, their mind-blowing technique, and their focus. Also, I know and admire a number of chefs in Germany for their almost supernatural precision, their focus on smallest details, and for their entrepreneurship, which sometimes gets neglected.
Q. Any advice you would give to someone wanting to become a chef?
A. Be sure to pay close attention, listen carefully, and memorize what you've learned. Accept what comes your way, but also dare to challenge the status quo. Be helpful, be respectful to everyone. Find ways to recharge your batteries in your spare time. When choosing a job, look for the restaurant that is right for you, where you get the opportunity to grow. Ducasse famously said that becoming a chef is by 90% through hard work and by 10% through talent, … I would add 5% luck in the equation, together with staying calm and grounded, and accepting uncertainty; while we can and should give our best, there are factors we cannot control.
Q. Any final thoughts you'd like to share e.g. new developments at the restaurant
A. We do have big plans for the future, but it's too early to announce.....stay tuned. Of course, I would like say Thank you to Ulrike Thieltges and my partner Magdalena for supporting me…