On February 10th, in Frankfurt, the S.Pellegrino Kulinarische Auslese 2014 guide will highlight the best chefs and restaurants across Germany and Austria. During the gala event an Acqua Panna special prize will be given to the best female chefs of the two countries: in Germany the competition is between Iris Bettinger and Maria Groß, Ulli Hollerer-Reichl and Rosemarie Trabelsi in Austria.
Waiting for the final winners to be announced Fine Dining Lovers sat down with the four chefs to get to know them and their cuisine a little better: after Maria Groß and Ulli Hollerer-Reichl, today the focus is on Iris Bettinger.
Born in 1975 in Rheinfelden, she traned as a chef in France, Hamburg and Munich before taking over the paternal restaurant Reuter in Rheda-Wiedenbrück. Since 2008 she has been leading the restaurant with long-time boyfriend Marco Rückl.
You have been nominated for the Best Female chef in Germany for 2014. How do you feel?
Since the nomination took place in December, I completely ignored the notes the receptionist left for me. When there was a second phone call, I wondered why the caller was so persistent. Then I understood what it was all about and, I have to confess, at first I was surprised – why me? But a few hours later I was just happy.
What’s the taste of happiness, for you?
Happiness tastes plain and affecting. It is often made with simple ingredients. A well prepared fish with nut-butter and onion-puree. Yummy!
Can you describe your kitchen philosophy and approach towards cooking?
The philosophy is easily explained: we cook with passion and respect for the products. Sometimes my mom, the nice little team, and I create dishes during a chat in the evening.
What dish are you most proud of and why?
I cannot really name a dish. However, the best dishes are often the little entrees, which seem rather simple. They are the real “stars” of a menu. Oxtail-essence “scented in an oriental style”, with goat-cream cheese and couscous.
Why do you think German cuisine is performing so strongly at the moment?
The comeback of “German cuisine” in the form of being lighter, funnier and also in parts parody, has lead to a new self-esteem. Guests are reminded of their childhood. They order exactly the dishes they used to know– and are surprised, because you can prepare for example turnip or green cabbage flavorfully and optically in a very different way than they expect. When talking to the guest, it results, that in most cases this dish leaves more of an impression than a “global dish”. For the chef this is another reason to be more self-confident when it comes to the “new German cuisine”.
With the cover of Time magazine featuring Redzepi, Chang and Atala as the Dudes of food there’s been a lot of debate about the unbalanced portrayal of female chefs in the food industry – what are your opinions regarding this?
I am of the opinion that most of my female colleagues, just like me, do not really seek publicity – and they are fully aware of it. That is why it is the “Dudes of food” who are in the center of attention. I don’t mind.
Has being a female had any influence on your chef career?
Yes and no. Speaking of my family, it has always been the women being the heads of the kitchen and the men leading the service. Only when I went to my first job interview in the Black Forest, I was verbally confronted with “all the inconveniences for women working in this field”. But I did not let this disturb me. In later years it was positive in some cases to have grown a thick skin in the past – thus the one or other typical sayings bounced off me. Today, as a female chef de cuisine, I have to say that I am curried favor – so the endurance has paid off.
What food trends are you expecting to emerge in the country in 2014?
Identifying with the products of local regions in particular and Germany in general, just like a conscious purchase of global products. Keyword: sustainability, species conservation…
What’s your culinary dream?
I want to continue having so much fun cooking. I really admire my Mom for working for over 30 years with the same passion. We are the female- dual leadership in our kitchen. She is my idol. I do not see myself as a chef who wears cook jacket, but only checks the plates and has a light chat at the end of the day with the guest in a sparkling clean jacket. I want to cook actively. With everything, that comes with it.