Because it’s all I ever learnt (laughs). I enjoyed cooking from a very young age. My mum’s from the Bregenzerwald and teaches cooking, my dad’s Spanish – which might explain my basic belief that eating should be more than just putting food in your mouth. In my role as a chef I can influence people: sharing food promotes socialising and closeness. For me, this is a wonderful calling!
Anything that takes lots of time, such as veal cheeks or sauces. I love it when I can watch a dish taking shape.
And I have learnt to really appreciate processing every part of an animal. Let’s say a local farmer offers lamb for Easter. We will take the entire animal and make good use of virtually all its parts: the premium cuts for pink roasts, leg of lamb for slow roasts, belly for braising, some cheaper cuts for lamb mince and the rest to make gravy and jus. We also process offal and why ever not? One of our suppliers from Schwarzenberg said that most hotels will only accept premium cuts – we thought that just wasn’t right.
In all of my career the Krone is the first place to process all of an animal. It is important to maintain good relationships with our local farmers and meat producers. If we don’t work together, good quality affordable supply from the region will dry up. Surely, 100% value creation for our region sounds like a decent plan!
My peeling knife, my mortar and of course my hands. The mortar is perfect for grinding spices, herbs and seeds for my dressings and meat marinades. My peeling knife has many uses. Preparing vegetables can feel like a meditation but I also need it to peel ginger, garlic and the like. My hands I need for simply everything, they are sensitive testing and measuring instruments, they help me shape the perfect ravioli and much more. I have to add, though, that you’ll find me with a knife in my hands most of the time…
It simply gives me joy to send out a tasty dish to our diners: meat cooked to perfection, side dishes complementing and completing a plate of good food without any fussy spices. Today, for example, we had pike-perch filet from Lake Constance with creamy mashed potatoes and spinach topped with pine nuts, a dish where all components come together as a perfect whole. I’m particularly thrilled when timing, texture and taste all unite on one plate. Luckily we achieve this quite frequently…
I also love putting everything together for a slow stew…where you lift the lid after three hours and that savoury smell hits your nose, proof that the preparation was done thoroughly, the ingredients were chosen well, the juices perfectly reduced, enriching the dish.
I’m very happy to stick to the seven principles of the Krone kitchen. I’ll also never forget a recent experience: during the 2015 shoulder I did a placement at the Tantris in Munich which has 2 Michelin stars. One day I went out for a meal at Klaus Erfort in Saarbrücken (3 Michelin stars no less) with Beate (restaurant manager at the Krone) and Sigrid (sous-chef at the Tantris). We had a 15 course meal, absolutely wonderful but what impressed me most was a very simple in between dish: boiled carrots with warm goats’ cheese, truffle shavings and jus. It was a revelation and made me realise that it’s essential to combine ingredients well rather than do too much with them. I’ve never forgotten this and I try to live by it: few ingredients with their authenticity kept intact.
As children, Helene Nussbaumer-Natter and her sister grew up happily sampling one new culinary delight after another – mostly created and handed down by their mother, Wilma Natter, and their grandmother Apollonia (“Plone”) Natter, inspired cooks both.
The key point in food preparation is to let the natural flavour unfold – but of course as a child one did not appreciate that. Throughout our history, our way has been:
Eating consciously, seeing food and drink as a joyful necessity, preparing and serving meals as a way of communicating with each other, menu dishes as commentary on place, occasion, mood. That’s the Krone restaurant’s way.
It appeals to me as a particularly enjoyable and intriguing part of our daily diet. Also, it’s a natural product, but with a big human contribution in making it – and there are very different approaches both to making it and to drinking it. I have great respect for wine growers, as the work they do is extraordinarily complex.
I think it’s a matter for regret if all wines from a given vineyard taste alike. If the wines have a lot of individuality depending on vintage and terroir, that’s much more interesting, and you are then more alert when you are sampling them. I tend to go for the smaller producers, and I prefer wines grown on organic and biodynamic principles.
Well, one was with Frank John of the Hirschhorn estate near Heidelberg. He’s a biodynamic wine grower. I had got in touch to place a wine order. Back by return of post came – not a confirmation of my order, but a room reservation. Frank John wanted to establish personally whether the Krone was a suitable place to be serving his wines. So it was an inspection. He came down from Heidelberg, had dinner, stayed overnight – and approved us as a client.
We aim to reflect the European wine scene, but with considerable emphasis on Austria. We always taste wines here in the Krone before ordering, because otherwise you can’t be sure it’s right for us. It’s a common experience to go abroad, find some particular wine delicious, buy half-a-dozen bottles to take home – and then wonder what you had thought was so great about it. So we run our trial tastings where we hope to be recommending them to our guests: right here, in our public rooms, and with the entire team participating.
We have very long-standing relationships with the wine wholesalers who supply us. So they all know us well, and give us good advice. What can be particularly helpful, obviously, is to chat with the actual growers, and we arrange that by going to wine fairs or visiting the vineyards.
I take pains to ensure the wines we invite our guests to try are all honestly produced. Occasionally this or that wine will not “come” right away; but what we have learnt from all our wine-tastings is that individually and carefully produced wines – which means, for instance, biodynamically grown, hand-picked, naturally fermented and with a long aging process – are simply much more interesting and characterful than mass-produced wine (which is easy to knock back like fruit juice, but lacks depth).
Adam’s ale! – If I’ve been out walking I’ll opt for a home-made cordial with Hittisau water, or just plain water.
A Martin Gojer Campill from South Tyrol. It’s a dry red, unlike the other ones I’ve tried there, simple and straightforward, but it has depth.
A light, fragrant wine, for instance a white blend from Johann Gisperg called “Klara’s Weingarten” – but then I will also enjoy a manzanilla from la Gitana.
A glass of pinot noir, might be Austria, Switzerland, Germany, France, as the whim takes me; or maybe a vintage port or a Lake Constance Subirar from Peter Meusburger. After dinner and by the fireside – that requires something rather good.
One of the rarities from our cellar – a Meursault from Coche Dury, a Clos Rougeard from Foucault, an Hermitage from Jean-Louis Chave. Or a top Blaufränkisch, perhaps Roland Velich’s “Alte Reben”, or a Salzberg from Gernot Heinrich, or just anything that takes my fancy, we have a number of decidedly interesting wines down there in the cellar.
It’s a good feeling, to have some really special wines to offer. It’s important that we ourselves know what they taste like …
But any good wine is one of life’s joys, and that could perfectly well be a very simple, clean, honest Grüner Veltliner.