Interview: Sören Anders on becoming a Michelin Star chef
Sören Anders was only 24 years old when he became Germany’s youngest Michelin Star chef in 2010, then at the Oberländer Weinstube in Karlsruhe. YG speaks with the fast-rising culinary star about his cooking philosophy, the evolving of New German Cuisine and what it takes for a young chef to earn Michelin Star status.
YG: How did you train to become a chef?
Sören Anders: I learned in a very small family business with one star. Then I went onto train under Thomas Bühner who had two stars and now has three, and after that to Waldhotel Sonnora and chef Helmut Thieltges with three stars. I also went onto study at the Heidelberg Hotel Management School. I came to the Oberländer Weinstube in Karlsruhe in February 2010 and by November of that year I had received the Michelin Star. Since the beginning of May, I’ve embarked on the path to starting my own restaurant.
YG: Despite the challenges, why did you choose to become a chef?
SA: I wanted to share all my years of experience, to pass them on. And I always wanted to be self-employed eventually and present my cooking style on its own. In terms of being a chef, I’ve always enjoyed being around food.
YG: So, what do you like most about this profession?
SA: Satisfied, happy guests. When I can make the guests happy with my food.
YG: And what do you least like about it?
SA: When the kitchen is too hot! I don’t like that there’s no air conditioning in the kitchen. We have a very stressful profession and I don’t like when it’s made unnecessarily stressful. Things should be done very well and calmly. But really I love this profession. The few drawbacks really aren’t that bad.
YG: How would you describe your culinary philosophy?
Enlarge image I have a very classical style, French and German, and cook at a classical level, says Chef Anders (© dpa) SA: I have a very classical style, French and German, and cook at a classical level. But at the artisanal level, I interpret this in my own way which is new and different. I reinterpret the cuisine and create new forms and structures. I like to play with spices in a well-balanced way with one, two or three components on the plate which participate in an interplay of different structures and aromas. I present things in a new way, but am still cooking at a very classical level. I don’t do molecular cooking. Of course I allow myself to be influenced by new elements, but I don’t become dominated by them. Rather the ingredients themselves are the star and stand in the foreground. The product dominates the plate and not its expression.
YG: How do you understand New German Cuisine as the term is used in the media?
SA: I think that a New German Cuisine is developing now, but I also believe that this new cuisine is actually a return to regional German products – so more regional products and also a return to braised and stewed dishes. We are doing this in the kitchen as are the young vintners in their wine production. There’s also a return to organically produced foods. Another time period is being rediscovered actually.
YG: And you, is there a particular dish which you especially enjoy eating?
SA: Well, my favorite thing to eat are my mother’s crepes. And if it’s me doing the cooking, I like lobster with cauliflower and tomato-cinnamon flower. It’s exciting and hits the tongue with a diversity of flavors. You could also use scallops – that would be delicious too – but what’s important is the tomato-cinnamon flower.
YG: What kind of cuisine do you envision for your new restaurant?
SA: Well, it will be a reinterpretation of classical cuisine with regional products. There might also be a concept plan – eat like you’re at your mother’s, for example – with a large soup tureen on the table from which an entire family can eat with other dishes and even classic Rote Grütze (a sweet fruit dish of red summer berries) served with vanilla ice cream. So everything’s really classic, but cooked in a superb way with the highest quality ingredients, especially in terms of meat. The cuisine will be very dependent on the quality of the products. And then there’ll also be a very small restaurant of the highest quality where everything will be cooked to perfection and served at the top level.
YG: So to be a Star chef one needs to be a perfectionist?
SA: Exactly. But you can’t let the perfectionism take over because you’ve also to understand that not everything’s always possible right away. Things take time, typically.
YG: In the Oberländer Weinstube the average age of your kitchen brigade was 21 years old. Do you plan to have a similarly young brigade in your new restaurant?
SA: Absolutely. I want to continue to involve a very young team. It’s always been my goal to motivate a young group of people and bring them further along. There’s a difference between motivating someone and commanding them. When you’re young yourself you know their language, the music they listen to and just how to better encourage them.
YG: Then how would you, as a Star chef, advise young people who want to have a career in this field?
SA: Fun is the first thing, then discipline, followed by ambition. First of all, you have to enjoy the field of gastronomy whether you’re working in a hotel kitchen or a restaurant kitchen. You’ve to bring fun with you to the kitchen and at the stove! It’s essential to proceed with discipline and ambition follows as the driver. You’ve to work in a very disciplined way with your goals in mind, but fun has to be the motivator of everything. You have to want to do this.
YG: Were you surprised when you received the Michelin Star?
SA: I wasn’t surprised at all. I had a goal before me driven by my ambition. The discipline and fun were also there, so I was really happy to receive the Star, but I wasn’t surprised.
Interview conducted and translated from German by Angela Boskovitch.