Celebrity chef Karlheinz Hauser is just as well known for his TV work in Germany as he is for his highly acclaimed Seven Seas restaurant. Not only has he been the star of ARD Buffet and Kitchen Battles, but he has also won two Michelin stars and 17 Gault-Millau points at his Hamburg eatery. Ever keen to broaden his horizons, this year the Baden-born chef launches a bold new restaurant with a Japanese-Hawaiian twist.
As a rookie, Hauser’s mentor was the legendary Eckardt Witzigmann. But at last year’s S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition, it was Hauser’s turn to take on the role of mentor, to the Germany and Austria region finalist Matthias Walter. Hauser returns in the same capacity this year, armed with even more knowledge and experience to help get the winner of the regional S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition, the German chef Falko Weiß, over the line.
Fine Dining Lovers caught up with the busy chef, and chatted with him about German food and his exciting new restaurant project.
What is your food philosophy?
The product is always the star in the kitchen.
In your opinion, what is the standout culinary characteristic of German/Austrian cuisine?
It’s all about local and native, regional cuisine from all culinary zones, presented authentically.
What were your personal memories of last year’s competition, and what did you learn about mentoring your young chef last year that will be useful in this year’s contest?
It is very helpful to have international experiences, keeping in mind that it’s important for every country to understand your dish. In addition, there is the perfect implementation of the idea and the presentation, from the selection of the plate to the idea behind the product.
What excites you most about contemporary food?
There are always new dishes and new exciting products. There are new cooking techniques and methods. The variety never ends.
What is the future of German gastronomy?
Regional diversity will continue to achieve success in the future.
Tell us about some of your on-going projects, as well as any plans you have for the future.
We are really looking forward to the opening of the first ‘Poké You’ restaurant concept at the new Mercedes Me store in downtown Hamburg. We will be presenting the latest food concept with Hawaiian roots. It’s greatly varied, with a huge selection of vegetables, delicious sauces, fresh fish, poultry or tofu as a protein, presented with fragrant rice. In addition to that, there will always be new and exciting projects, especially around our star kitchen and our catering sector.
Can you remember the moment you decided to become a chef – what inspired you and what obstacles did you overcome to achieve your dream?
As a matter of fact, the desire to become a chef grew when I was just 6 years old, when I started my first cooking experiments.
What was your biggest triumph as a young chef, and is there anything you would consider your biggest failure?
My biggest triumph was the first dish I cooked for the great Eckardt Witzigmann. Everyone thought I would fail, but he was impressed.
As a mentor, what do you expect from your young chef, and what do you think you can offer him/her?
I expect them to have a certain passion for what they are doing and the will to improve constantly. Curiosity and openness are very important for the learning process, which I presuppose.
What would victory in the S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition mean for a young chef?
It’s a great experience to be ahead of the competition. Certainly they should not rest on this victory, but start now and pursue the goal to be better and continue to learn.