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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, starting with Maria Groß. Born in 1979 in Sömmerda, a German town near Erfurt in Thuringia, she studied Philosophy at university before discovering her passion for cuisine, training from 2006 in Germany and Switzerland. She's currently Chef de Cuisine at the Kaisersaal banquet hall in Erfurt where she runs the Clara restaurant, awarded its first Michelin star in 2013.
You have been nominated fort the Best Female chef in Germany for 2014. How do you feel?
I’m so proud. It’s such an honour to be nominated. It feels a bit like the Oscars, ha-ha, I’m very happy!
Can you describe your kitchen philosophy and approach towards cooking?
Cooking is a creative necessity in my life. It’s not about winning. But living life passionately!
What dish are you most proud of and why?
It would be presumptuous to say that I only invented this or that dish. Almost everything was created once... It is my job to give the already existing my own interpretation. Adding my inspiration to the dishes, so to say. No one lives isolated from the ideas of others. Encountering other people makes your fantasy grow.
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?
It is a fact that we women are catching up. Not least because the man of today is more similar to the woman of today than ever. Apart from the biology, which will always matter, I see big chances for us women. The victim role is not female anymore. However, we have to learn to follow the example of the patriarchal attitude: self-marketing, persistence, aggressivity. Without these basic requirements you will not survive in this testosterone-impregnated industry... The reporting about female chefs is not really present in the media, because there are still too few women present in the kitchen. To me, this is a structural fact: Chef = Dad works. Chef = Mom is only possible by taking a break in your career. Being a Dad plus working is accepted by society. Being a part time Mom is not.
Has being a female had any influence on your chef career?
I hope my career does not depend on being a woman. I guess the industry has hardened me a bit, but it also made me more consistent. After all, we are human beings with a free mind.
What food trends are you expecting to emerge in the country in 2014?
Trends? Expectations? I rather hope (like every year) for a little more awareness of what, where from, how much and for which price we should buy our food.
What’s your culinary dream?
Owning a small boutique-restaurant in the mountains, which is only open in summer. You can only walk there and the stroll makes you reflect and calm down. This way you arrive humble and your senses are more open for what you see on your plate and in your glass. In winter, I would just leave the restaurant closed and sit in my snow-covered cottage and write books... About what? – I don’t know yet... The journey is the destination.