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Perfect German dinners

Fine dining in Germany is no joke

It always faintly annoys me when I’m confronted with the perception of German food abroad, i.e. that it’s not the country’s forte. It simply doesn’t mirror my own German food reality. Maybe that has to do with the fact that I was born in the 1970s and therefore lucky enough to bypass grimmer times in the nation’s food history.

In general, I’ve always eaten well in Germany and am used to a wide variety of dishes that go far beyond the Bratwurst and Sauerkraut myth. (Although I like both!) German contemporary cooking is a completely different affair, lighter and betraying the influence of different types of cuisine, from Mediterranean to Asian. Similar to their British counterparts, Germans have become a nation of foodies where you can’t switch on the TV without finding some kind of cooking programme on one of the channels, and publicity-minded chefs are happy to show their faces on the screen.

Eating, food and restaurants are topics du jour. People like to talk about food, to spend money on cookery items and books, and you should see what they cook up on ‘Das perfekte Dinner” (‘The perfect dinner’), the German equivalent of ‘Come Dine with Me’. It’s more sophisticated than what the British contestants come up with, if I may say so, and the German participants take the whole thing very seriously. Maybe a bit too seriously sometimes, the Brits are far more entertaining.

But then again this is probably how you achieve excellence in the end, by really committing yourself to accomplishing the best, as exemplified in the latest German Michelin guide which puts the country at number two behind France when it comes to three-star restaurants. There are nine three-star chefs, and 32 two-star restaurants as compared to just 18 two years ago. Berlin is not only the country’s capital but also its culinary centre with 16 stars, followed by Munich with 13 and Hamburg with 11.

And there’s still this curious little corner in the Black Forest, called Baiersbronn, where seven Michelin stars are divided between three chefs. One of them, Harald Wohlfahrt, is exceptional in the sense that not only is he an extremely modest individual (Gordon Ramsay must be his idea of hell), but he has also held his three stars for 20 years now without interruption. No mean feat. Interestingly, Thomas Bühner, Klaus Erfort and Christian Bau –  three-star chefs themselves and names to remember –all trained with Wohlfarth, as have another three two-star chefs now cooking in Sylt, Lübeck and Hamburg.

Wohlfahrt’s ‘Schwarzwaldstube’ restaurant seems to have become something of a talent factory which is good for German cuisine. Maybe one day the word will spread abroad as well.

More information on Baiersbonn

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