Michael Kempf is the resident chef of Facil, a modern 2 Michelin starred restaurant located on the premises of the Mandala Hotel in Berlin.
In his design restaurant, defined by an informal mood that pays no heed to dress code but ensures an intimate atmosphere, Kempf presents a refined menu combining oriental inspirations and prestigious ingredients: the menu comprises ceviche, tartare and wagyu of a thousand and one aromas.
The chef is in fact well known for his alchemic use of both traditional and exotic aromas and spices.
Michael Kempf was one of the protagonists at the S.Pellegrino Sapori Ticino 2018 event. We met him at a special dinner held on 20 May 2018, when he cooked at the Hotel Villa Principe Leopoldo, alongside resident chef Dario Ranza.
This is what he told Fine Dining Lovers.
How would you describe the Facil experience to anyone who has not yet been there?
What I wish to communicate with my work at the Facil is not restricted to cuisine, it is an all-around experience that aims at making the customer feel at ease, starting from the service, which is discreet and punctual, as to be almost invisible: I want customers to concentrate on the food with no need to turn their heads to ask for what they need; the staff must preempt their needs before they are even expressed. And then comes everything else: the design furnishings, a discreet and silent atmosphere with no music… in brief, a complete package of design, relaxation and good food in which elegance is teamed up with informality.
Berlin is generally associated with culture and a lively nightlife. How would you define the contemporary food scene in your city?
The Berlin restaurant business has grown a lot in the last two years. Its cuisine has been contaminated by food cultures from distant places which, with flavours and aromas previously unknown on the local scene, have done a lot to enhance it. Today, there are tourists who come to Berlin just to try this or that restaurant, a phenomenon that was totally unheard of until a few years ago.
You yourself frequently use spices, herbs and flavourings in your dishes. What lies behind this choice?
To start with, I always choose excellent ingredients and use spices and herbs, mainly based on my own tastes, to valorise them to the full. Let’s take scampi: they are perfect just as they are but, thanks to the use of this or that spice, they become sweeter and more intense. Spices and herbs, as in alchemy, can modify our perception of everything: flavour, aroma and even the texture of other ingredients.
Are there any ingredients or flavours you prefer to others?
I love the taste of lemon and citrus fruits in general. Fruits such as pomelo, grapefruit and orange can give a dish a remarkable freshness and an immediate sensation of energy to those who taste it.
Tell us about your experience at S.PellegrinoSapori Ticino. How did you select the dishes you prepared for guests?
As well as being a splendid location, it was certainly a worthwhile experience. Working with another team is always an enriching operation. For the evening in Lugano, I had no difficulty choosing what to prepare: I wanted to introduce guests to an authentic “Facil experience”, to the flavours and aromas they could experience in my Berlin restaurant.
For one evening, you worked elbow to elbow with another team. How much importance do you attach to the brigade? What are the essential characteristics a person must possess if they wish to join your staff?
The relationship with the brigade is a fundamental aspect for anyone working in a kitchen. To work with me, there is no one quality which, in itself, is more important than any other: it is rather a mix of several elements. It is important for a chef to know how to cook well, but this is not sufficient if he is unable to work in a team. The one thing that probably counts most, in my opinion, is that no one should create a bad feeling within the brigade: we work together for many hours every day and so it is essential to be a nice person, rather than just a good chef.
What do you think is the biggest issue facing the future of haute cuisine in general?
I think we need to work constantly towards achieving one sole objective: flavour. Those who eat out at haute cuisine restaurants are seeking authentic new flavours worth remembering. This is why we have to focus on the ingredients themselves, on their quality, on small-scale local productions. This timeless objective will always hold good.