At just 34–years–old, Christian Bau had a lot to his name: most notably he was the youngest three Michelin Star chef in Germany – the last one being earned in 2005 at the restaurant Victor’s Fine Dining by Christian Bau in Mosel's Hotel Schloss Berg.
However, this milestone alone cannot speak for his history. It was in 2007 that Christian Bau found his true and authentic culinary identity, having been placed in front of Japanese ingredients on a trip to Asia: “My core and style were discovered, and I guess I made it”, said the chef with conviction.
We met him at the restaurant Ciani in Lugano, Switzerland, for a joint dinner for S.Pellegrino Sapori Ticino prepared alongside resident chef Nicola Costantini.
What dishes did you prepare for the S.Pellegrino Sapori Ticino dinner, and why those specific dishes?
Green asparagus, Japanese beef, souvenirs from Asia: what we prepared for the gourmet event is exemplary for our kitchen style. The dishes we served are exactly the same dishes that we also offer our guests here at Schloss Berg.
Some chefs find their team fundamental: can you tell us about your beginnings?
It was fascinating how the kitchen brigade became my family, even though it was so big. But I knew from the start that I didn’t want to keep it simple.
In an interview, you said that you wanted to break away from French cuisine and that sometimes it seems to be a “burden” for many of your colleagues: why do you think this is the case?
That is not correct: French education was not a burden. To me it was a relief to get the third Michelin star in 2005 and that I was free to try new things. I wanted to cook cosmopolitan food, especially Asian.
How did you come to understand Japanese cuisine and its philosophy? Which ingredients or techniques do you most appreciate?
In 2005 we started to modify our kitchen style and used more Asian and especially Japanese elements, but we always kept in mind how to bring our regular guests along for the journey. That means we didn’t make a straight cut from classic kitchen to Asian, but included Asian ingredients and techniques step by step.
Many say that you represent the New German School: what do you use as a reference and how would you define today’s German cuisine?
In the past German chefs only copied French Cuisine. My generation (for example Sven Elverfeld, Klaus Erfort, Joachim Wissler and myself) freed itself from the dogma and everyone developed their own culinary style. This is called the New German School, and I’m a representative. At home we don’t cook regional, but down-home and only what our children love and prefer.
What awaits in the future of haute German cuisine?
The current strength of German gastronomy is diversity. Each of the 10 three star restaurants is different to the other. In this I see the future; the guests have greater freedom and variety in choosing restaurants that suit their palates. We have restaurants that cook classical, Asian and German/regional, but all at the highest level. Guests have lots of possibilities regarding great food and service and that is the future.
What are the main qualities that you take into consideration when you search for a new member of your team?
A love of the profession, humbleness, a pursuit of perfection, quality consciousness and persistence.
What does it mean for you to work so closely with your wife, Yildiz?
We have both seen this as teamwork, as a great chance, and we complement each other. My wife trusts in my kitchen abilities and I trust in her service abilities. We are both professionals and discuss matters as such. Of course we take work home with us, the restaurant has always been part of our life, but we don’t have a problem with that and arrange family and business pretty well.