Having recently taken the reigns at the Die Quadrigarestaurant, located in Berlin’s refined boutique hotel, Brandenburger Hof, the 30-year old chef Philipp Jay Meisel still has an aura of mystery about him. He began attracting the city’s attention in 2001 when he worked under the Michelin-starred chef Matthias Buchholz at First Floor. In the following years, he trained and worked in some of the world’s finest restaurants under some of the best chefs: Le Gavroche in London with Michel Roux Jr, and at Val d'Or with the celebrity chef Johann Lafer.
His stint in Asia at Novus in Singapore introduced him to the world of spices and a minimalist esthetic, which is expressed in his signature Malaysian curries. Upon his return to Germany, he worked at Tantris with Hans Haas – one of Munich’s best restaurants, and renowned worldwide. To complete his formation, he traveled to California’s legendary French Laundry, and worked alongside chef Thomas Keller.
Restless and explosive, Meisel is now considered one of the rising stars of the culinary world with intriguing dishes like lobster with beets and caviar that make first-time diners into lifelong fans.
When did you decide to undertake this career?
It all started when I was 12 years old and had a cousin that was a pastry chef. My father was a cook too, but it was seeing my cousin at work that piqued my interest. Working with desserts means being precise, attentive, and always very careful with technique.
Who were your teachers? How was your experience with Keller?
I think my real teachers were the ones that I knew as a child, but among the famous chefs I’ve worked with there have been two outstanding maestros. The first is Thomas Keller: for me the French Laundry represents the best of California cuisine. He taught me the importance of freshness, the perfectionism in handling a knife, the importance of the freshest produce. I’ll never forget the scent of pineapple in his kitchen, I’ve never smelled anything like it anywhere else. The second real education I got was at Tantris, one of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Haas’s signature dish of dove with marinated cabbage and black salsify is a benchmark for me, one that represents an entire cooking course.
What will you bring to the Brandenburger Hof?Three adjectives that define your cuisine?
I’ll bring myself and the things I’ve learned. I’m not necessarily hunting for stars or awards, I just want to do my best. The dishes I’ve brought with me to Brandenburger Hof can satisfy the best-trained palates. My cuisine is contemporary but rustic. I really care about this “rustic” feeling, as it ties in with the region and tradition, but it also includes my passion for freshness and lightness.
What does Berlin's culinary scene need to acquire more prestige?
With 16 Michelin stars, Berlin is the German capital of cuisine. The culinary revolution here is the merit of a new generation of young chef who are working very well and who are well inserted into the European and global scene. The new Berlin cuisine is slowly making a name for itself and I predict it will soon undergo a great boom.
What do you think about the newfound trend for all things organic?
I embrace it, but am not fanatic about it at all. When a product is fresh and good, it’s authentically healthy. I enjoy using “locally sourced” ingredients, but it doesn’t need to be a strict law.
Could you please explain two of the dishes you will bring to Locarno?
I’ve chosen dishes that I’ve just brought to the menu at Dee Quadriga, my very latest creations. One is lobster, avocado, black garlic and verbena: the rigor and sweetness of the crustacean combines well with the richness of the avocado and the aroma of verbena. The second dish that is so central to my cooking is pork pancetta with garlic, apple and horseradish: here, there’s the pork that Berliner’s love so much, slow-cooked with much of the fat removed. This is a dish that exemplifies my version of “rustic” cuisine.