On January 29 and 30, the final round of the biggest and most important international cooking competition “Bocuse d’Or” will take place in Lyon and in February the new star ratings for restaurants in the Guide MICHELIN Germany 2019 will be announced. This is an occasion for us to talk to one of the best Michelin-starred chefs in Germany, Marco Müller, about food as a cultural asset that creates identity and the appreciation of gourmet cuisine in Germany.
On his menu, the slogan “The Rescue of German Food Culture” leaps off the page, along with scrumptious-sounding dishes. Written down for the first time from a passionate impulse, the adage has long since proved true as the philosophy of the Michelin-starred restaurant “Rutz” and the “Weinbar Rutz” in Berlin. Regional products of exquisite quality find their way into an exceptional, refined cuisine.
How do matters stand with German food culture? Does it need saving?
Definitely. It did and it still does. In Mediterranean countries there was and still is a much more sophisticated eating culture. The Italians brought their food culture to France. The French have perfected what they learned from the Italians. Due to the shorter summers in Germany, it used to be more important for us to preserve foodstuffs and only then to see which dishes could be made from them.
But I think German cuisine is on the move. We have the opportunity to talk a little more confidently about German food culture and to re-invent it. To see where our roots lie, which vegetables and which products we have always had in the region. It is a matter of rediscovering and redefining this – the connection between tradition, the region and a new identity.
Is that the reason why you have devoted yourself to German cuisine?
I grew up like this. At home we cooked with local products and I loved that. We had everything in the garden and Grandpa cut up the kohlrabi and we ate it right away. Later I became a chef and saw that opinions about the value of local products diverged. People like to say, “A prophet has no honour in his own country.” For us Germans, the local products always seemed somehow inferior, perhaps because they were not prepared perfectly.
We always found other cuisines more interesting. The question is, where is our own identity? Because the French and the Asians already exist. How can one overcome the prejudices that there are only inferior or mediocre products in Germany? If, when I started cooking, I had said that trout would be served at a Michelin-starred restaurant, people would have laughed at me.