Young German Chefs (I): Kevin Fehling

What’s the next generation of German chefs doing? To be sure, the development on the top, in the three star segment, has been breath-taking in the last couple of years – chefs like Juan Amador, Christian Bau, Thomas Bühner, Klaus Erfort, Nils Henkel and Joachim Wissler have improved significantly and developed very distinctive own handwritings, all at a consistently high level. This poses the question whether they are the only culinary pacemakers in Germany? In other countries, there are many young chefs that left their mark in the culinary world by creating a unique approach or selling a comprehensive and coherent dining experience. Among others, René Redzepi (obviously needs to be mentioned here but he is already somehow established), Kobe Desmaraults of In de Wulf, the whole bistronomia movement or more recently the ‘le fooding’ group in France have demonstrated that you don’t need three or even any Michelin stars to become a destination dining restaurant.

And how’s the situation like in Germany? Between 25-35 there are a couple of upcoming and very promising chefs – but, most of them are known only in Germany and have not yet achieved bigger awareness. Let us start a new series on the most promising young chefs and apply the case study method to investigate.

Continue reading

Essigbrätlein: A German Contribution to the New Naturals?

Nuernberg is widely known for its Christmas market, one of the largest across Germany, for its picturesque city centre, and for Nürnberger Bratwürst’l. These small yummy sausages are quite typical for the Franconians and their love for a rustic and simple fare. But, there is a different restaurant to be discovered, a culinary gem: the Restaurant Essigbrätlein (no link as there is no website;-)). Without its big ancient name tag it would be difficult to find inmidst the historic centre with all its small houses.


Looking like an ordinary Gasthaus (tavern) from the outside, the bell at the door could be interpreted as a way to limit the number of curious walk-in customers. Inside, the Gasthaus character carries on with dark wooden panels and typical crown glass windows. At a second glance one notices more than ordinary table cloths, underplates and different glasses on the tables.

Continue reading

The CPH Crawl (IV): noma

As we thought to be back in our comfort zone after a bit of rock’n roll at The Paul, René surprised us completely. As we had all eaten there in the three days before (in shifts as we couldn’t organize another joint diner) there was not really much of the current menu or any classic dishes that he could serve us. So he went in a different direction…

Sitting in the bar/lounge area as the restaurant was fully booked he first had a snack of sea buckthorn which René frequently uses in his dishes. This one was jelly like yet fresh and a good start.

Sea Buckthorn

Wine was served blind – although I had the 2008 Arwen when I dined at nome the day before I guessed wrong. This is a wine named after René’s daughter grown on the Danish island Lilleø and elaborated in Germany – a fine blend of Solaris, Riesling, Silvaner and Sauvignon Blanc which was crisp, fruity and very vivid on the palate…

The we got cod milt, cucumber, dill jus and herbs. Milt (containing the fish sperm) or shirako is quite a delicacy in Japan which René visited recently. It is quite a challenge not to be put off by the sheer announcement of the dish but I bravely tried it (Steve didn’t: “I don’t eat sperm”). The milt was slowly poached, creamy and a bit like custard – its main contribution to the dish was clearly texture whereas it did add a slight veal-ish taste much less fishy than expected. All together the dish worked surprisingly well and I must admit I kinda liked it. And, the harmony of flavours and the freshness/rawness is really typical of René’s cooking…

Will I order it if on the menu? Maybe not in the first place…

Cod's Milt

The second dish was cod liver which turned out to be quite fishy. The jogurt-like cream and the berries balanced the dish a bit but this was somehow harder to eat than the cod milt.

Cod Liver (I)

Cod Liver (II)

So, how was this stop? Refreshing in terms of dramaturgy because both dishes where light and herbal. Typical because both dishes were really noma-esk. Brilliant as it showed that the mind plays an important role when it comes to actually taste a dish. Your expectations send some warning signs and it is hard to overcome your revulsion to try the milt – in the end it turns out to less problematic than the liver where your mind gives an ok straight ahead (well, if you like liver…). Interesting because even crazy foodies have limits when it comes to certain products. Memorable as I will still tell my grandchildren (when they are older;-) about this very night…

Thanks René and the whole team for this special dinner!

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…

Continue reading