Christian Jürgens – Update (July 2009)

“What is a three star experience like?”, some foodie and non-foodie friends use to ask me. What is the difference between a one, a two and a three star restaurant? In Michelin terms the answer is straightforward:

The Stars (hm, Macarons)

The Stars (äh, Macarons)

In essence the Michelin ratings pave the way of planning trips. Sitting in the very restaurant, however, is a different matter – how to really say a meal or dining experience would be worth three stars? First, let me stress this is a very personal matter – I am not a professional tester (good for me as I can choose rather freely what to eat) but I think I have eaten enough to be able to tell the differences… Second, I have personal likes and dislikes but in any review I try to point out where this might ve relevant. So, it shouldn’t affect the statement made and I prefer to give solid reasoning when praise or criticism is appropriate.

Personally, without going into much detail and without elaborating on a sophisticated 100/100 scale (which I do not use anyway) the overall satisfaction is a function of the product quality, cooking precision, composition of dishes (pairing of flavours, sensible use of textures, dimensioning), creativity (unique/novel pairing of flavours, new techniques, unique handwriting), menu composition, consistent quality, service, ambiance. What I ‘borrow’ is the grading system (very good – one star, excellent – two stars, outstanding/exceptional – three stars).

At a three star restaurant I just take product quality and cooking precision for granted – there is no excuse for faults here. If one just takes the best products available, cooks them impeccably and composes dishes in a stringent way, that can be very well three stars as numerous examples (like L’Ambrosie, Ducasse, Auberge de L’Ill or Thieltges here in Germany) show. Some might find this boring but it is just an immense pleasure to eat something which cannot be made better. Kind of risky because this approach dramatically fails if there are only minor deficiencies. Readers of my blog might have noticed that I prefer a cuisine that surprises my in a distinct way and shows some uniqueness, be it a unique style in pairing flavours (like Amador or Bau) or a unique approach to cooking (like Redzepi or Achatz).

Christian Jürgens

Christian Jürgens

Where was I? Why am I telling you this an intro to another visit of Christian Jürgens at the Überfahrt? Because, in Germany, the highest laurels seem to be in sight for him and Thomas Bühner. (Personally I would like to count in Michael Hoffmann of Margaux but he needs to get the second star first…) Maybe these thoughts can help in evaluating my recent experiences and make it transparent why I think there could be a promotion or not…

After my last visit at the Überfahrt about a year had passed – it was Jürgens’ first year at the Überfahrt and his early steps at his new domain were rather impressive. So, time for a short update – before the new guides come out…

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Restaurant Überfahrt – A Fresh Breeze at the Tegernsee (August 2008)

So, time to return to my blogs primary objective – to write about my culinary adventures in Germany and some of its best chefs… The interested reader might have noticed that I have put in a new page Fine Dining in Germany to give you some background and perspective with respect to recent developments here.

Christian Jürgens (© Althoff Group)

In the last couple of months we have experienced chefs moving like in dominoes. First, it was announced that Christian Jürgens would open a Gourmet restaurant in the Seehotel Überfahrt recently bought by Althoff. Thomas Kellermann became his successor at Burg Wernberg, Henrik Otto Kellermann’s successor at Vitrium Berlin and finally Hans Horberth formerly at Villa Merton in Frankfurt replaced Otto in the “La Vision” in Cologne…

The Althoff Hotel Collection is a phenomenon as they own and operate an unique selection of hotels mostly in Germany in which restaurants play an important if not the critical role. The primary examples are Grandhotel Schloß Bensberg with its restaurant Vendôme and Schloßhotel Lerbach hosting the restaurant Dieter Müller both in Bergisch Gladbach near Cologne and both holding three Michelin stars. Joachim Wissler (Vendôme) and Dieter Müller had signed to Althoff after they had already earned some merit and then had the opportunity to fully develop their potential as Althoff offered the necessary financial backing (mainly by cross-subsidizing from the hotels). So, is there a better chance for a young aspiring chef like Christian Jürgens than an offer from this “stable” to open a new gourmet restaurant in a breath-taking location?

The Tegernsee – View from the Shore at the Hotel…

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