Interviewed May 2014
Q How long have you been cooking professionally?
A. I have been cooking professionally since 1970, so now for 44 years. This year in April I had my 38th anniversary in the Hotel Traube Tonbach of which I have for 34 years been ead chef at restaurant Schwarzwaldstube.
Q. Where did you train to cook?
A. After finishing school, I went to culinary school from 1970 to 1973 at the “Mönchs Waldhotel” in Dobel (Northern Black Forest). My career choice was heavily influenced by my grandparents. They were part-time farmers and spending time with them as a child awoke my interest in farming and fresh products.
Q. How would you describe your style of cooking?
A. We are doing a light, contemporary cuisine style with French influences and a strong impact of regional products from our area – of course depending on the season. Most of all, I concentrate on the highest quality of the products as this is the base for an excellent kitchen and the only thing one cannot fix by simply just cooking well.
Q. Is there a secret for a successful restaurant?
A. Someone who is afraid of his guests should never open a restaurant. Everything starts with the reception of the guests and it ends with their goodbye. All the little things between making the difference between leading a restaurant and leading a successful restaurant. If everything is in accordance, it can be an unforgettable stay for the guest and a success for the restaurant.
Of course, it does not work without a team, which is strong and committed. One that works together perfectly, humanely and professionally – but also is passionate about serving the best possible dishes to their guests. Our secret is a lot of constant work combined with even more passion and the urge to succeed every single day. And we love what we do.
Q. Do you have a "signature dish" or favourite dish you enjoy cooking?
A.Yes, game is one of my favourite ingredients, so it is a game dish with meat from our region, the Northern Black Forest. Here, especially roe and red deer is of excellent quality. Its distinctive taste, the mild but slightly “earthy” aroma as well as the tenderness of the meat makes which makes it special. For example: “Duo of local red deer with cardamom sauce and mushrooms”.
Q. Do you have a favourite ingredient?
A. No, not really as do not want to be prejudiced. All products start the race on an equal footing. With this view I can realize a more creative kitchen. However I really like to work with German asparagus from the region of Baden.
Q. Which restaurant do you most enjoy eating at on your night off?
A. Everything in its own time. I am very pleased to eat at a good Italian restaurant or a country side restaurant. But of course I also enjoy being at a Michelin starred restaurant.
Q. What is your most interesting or fun experience from your time in restaurants?
A. My most interesting experience I made in a restaurant was in HongKong, visiting a Geisha restaurant. It was such a particular and special ambiance. I really appreciated the rituals.
We were at a Spice Food Market, where you had to choose the products first, then you had to give them to a counter where you could observe the whole preparation and at last of course taste what the kitchen created with the products you choose.
Q. What would be your "last request" dish?
A. What would be my last dish? Beluga caviar, if possible from wild sturgeon. That would be perfect.
Q. Is there another chef that you most admire?
A Yes, absolutely, Paul Bocuse. I admire his lifetime achievement. He is an outstanding cook is a figurehead for the whole gastronomy sector. He was a big role model for me.
Q. Any advice you would give to someone wanting to become a chef?
A. If someone feels called to become a chef, I would recommend him to get really well informed about the workday life of a cook and the conditions of this profession. If he or she really wants to learn this profession they will have open doors. It is a job which is exciting, versatile and diversified but of course also exhausting.
Q. Any final thoughts you'd like to share e.g. new developments at the restaurant?
A. I am convinced that we have place for all kitchen styles existing in the world.
It is just important to look at our guests, they are our audience and their opinion influences which way we develop. This is one of the reason why we started with a contemporary vegetarian menu already years ago and still have it as a regular offer.