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Peter Knogl on the art of combining the simple to create the exquisite

Peter Knogl on the art of combining the simple to create the exquisite

We spoke to the three Michelin starred chef about his fusion of haute cuisine and cooking philosophy, at the S.Pellegrino Sapori Ticino dinner in Ascona.

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“The challenge of mixing and at the same time preserving the ultimate taste of each individual ingredient turns cooking into the art of combining the simple to create the exquisite”.

These words sum up the philosophy of chef Peter Knogl: the art of combining simple ingredients to create something delicious is the mission pursued by his multi-award winning restaurant, the Cheval Blanc in Basel, Switzerland. We met him at the Castello del Sole in Ascona, when attending a dinner he co-orchestrated with house chef Othmar Schlegel, during the S.Pellegrino Sapori Ticino event.

What did you cook and why?
Lobster with bergamot without a doubt. I brought it there because it’s very fresh and it reminds me of Canton Ticino in spring, with its lakes and flowers.

How did you first become interested in cooking?
I was on a farm and my most vivid recollection is that of observing and caring for cows. In this way, I developed a fascination for animals and learned how to handle them.

You started out magnificently as a commis de cuisine with Heinz Winkler at the Tantris, a three Michelin starred restaurant: what were the most significant things you learned?
The most important lesson I learned from that experience is to be constantly on your toes and prepared for everything. In this way you will be always ready to react if something unexpected happens. Another essential thing I learned is not to make compromises. The less you compromise, the better you can work and express yourself.

What has changed since last year, when you were awarded your third Michelin star?
On my side nothing has changed, except for the fact that I work more and sleep less.

With Ma cuisine passionnée you have won the Golden Leaf and the Swiss Cookbook Oscar awards in 2012. What are the secrets behind a great cookery book?
A cookbook has to be simple and useful because its readers are ordinary people with a keen interest in cooking. The book has to communicate the passion associated with cooking and must be written in a simple language that everyone can understand.

What are the essential elements of any dish?
The essential element of a dish is taste. Nothing can compare with the sheer joy of taste when it comes to eating. My greatest enjoyment: to select high quality products and then prepare them. My greatest pleasure: to indulge my guests with a cuisine full of shape and colour, full of taste and sun. Generally speaking, the essential ingredient is the sauce. With a sauce you can manipulate any dish and control the flavours more effectively. To my mind, this is really essential.

Your cuisine is said to be a fusion of Mediterranean, Asian and French haute cuisine: do you agree with this definition?
Yes, it’s a real medley of these cuisines. My presentation is traditional but you can find the flavours and tastes of various kinds of cuisine in my dishes. In this way you can experience a new and original integration of flavours.

You have stated that “My greatest satisfaction is to impart wellbeing through my cooking”: what do you mean exactly?
There is no need for cuisine to be difficult. The people eating at my restaurant have to relax, enjoy the time spent there and go home happy. You have to create a stress-free and pleasant atmosphere for your guests at all times. All the sensations in the kitchen are reflected in the food, so you have to be serene in the kitchen too.

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