BORIS KÖGEL – OWNER AND CHEF OF THE RESTAURANT „LILA SOSSE”
Boris Kögel presents the nouvelle German cuisine in a different way: In the form of “German tapas” served in jars, and he does it with success. The “Lila Soße” doesn’t only impress the locals from Dresden but has received media attention from the likes of the New York Times and Coca-Cola.
In his restaurant, which revolves around a “family eating” concept, he passionately showcases the versatility of the German cuisine.
Boris Kögel began his career in Heidelberg, after which he worked in the following Michelin-star restaurants: Oberländer Weinstube in Karlsruhe 1 star, Drei Stuben in Meersburg 1 star, Paris Cafe in Sydney, Olivio in Byron Bay Australia, Marstall München 2 stars, Lässig in Strandhörn 1 star, Au Quai in Hamburg, Ku Damm 101 in Berlin, Bread and Butter in Berlin/Barcelona und Künstlerhaus in Munich.
You are a native of the area from Hamburg. What brought you over to Dresden?
It was quite by chance. For a good while I was heading up the catering organization at Bread & Butter including a fashion fair. I worked together with a guy who built-up various juice and bratwurst stands for me. He had applied for a Christmas market booth in Dresden and asked me if I had an interest in working together with him there. I immediately said yes, as I had never been to Dresden before and that is how I ended up in Dresden.
Was it always your dream to be a chef?
No, and I don’t believe it’s so direct as that. As I finished high school I had no idea what I wanted to do. At the time I was facing a choice of learning to be a carpenter, working in construction or cooking. After completing short internships in all fields, I felt the kitchen was the right place for me and I continued on that path.
Since that decision, have you just kept straight on that path?
Yes, very straight. I completed my apprenticeship in Heidelberg at Hirschgasse, a restaurant always skirting a star, not a gourmet restaurant in terms but you could say optimal for an apprentice, whereas in gourmet restaurants the dishes are very artisanal in nature. The beef cheeks were among other things, always on the menu, a dish that I have always taken with my and that I also have on the menu. After that time I went on to work in various Michelin-star restaurants.
When did you get the idea to open your own restaurant?
The idea was there from the beginning, I don’t think there is a chef or apprentice that doesn’t think about opening their own restaurant. I come from a very entrepreneurial family so I always had the drive to open my own place. When I was 20 I was looking at restaurant locations where I could set up shop, however at that time the situation and resources required made it unfeasible.
An acquaintance of mine, who I also worked at the Christmas market with, his father was the owner of “El Perro Borracho”, which existed here before the “Lila Soße”. He had proposed the restaurant for a long while to me but I was busy in cities like Berlin, Munich and Barcelona and Dresden was just not interesting for me, which is why I refused at the start.
After that I started a new project as managing director of a large restaurant in Munich. After half a year I put in my resignation because Munich was not the right city for me, and I found my way to Mannheim, working catering for Holger Stomberg at Commerzbank. It was during this time that my acquaintances called me to ask if I had changed my mind. I quickly agreed and eight weeks later I opened the restaurant.
The restaurant is located in the Kunst Passage, specifically the Fabelwesen Hof and the name “Lila Soße” is said to stand for creativity, imagination and individuality. What were the origins of the name?
The concept of using jars for “Tapas” had always been a project in my mind. I love it when people can eat and try so many different things, so the concept of “family eating” really speaks to me.
Actually, I always wanted a restaurant called Grüne Soße (Green Sauce). That is a traditional Hessen dish made from different herbs, but nobody knows this dish in Sachsen and that makes it a bit difficult. Also, “Green Sauce” isn’t really that catchy. At the end of the day there is no purple sauce either, but it’s a catchy name. I told around 20 people my idea about naming the restaurant “Lila Soße”, after about 2 weeks I called back and everyone could remember the name. Half advised against using it but they all remembered it, so it was pretty clear to me that the “Lila Soßen” was the name to use.
So, purple sauce can’t be found on the menu?
No, there is no purple sauce on the menu.
Have you tried to create a purple sauce?
You’ve been open for 9 years. Have you noticed anything special during the development?
Well, in general it’s very hard to open a restaurant, and when you set up something new in town people will be a bit critical at the start. However, what was always there was the press, be it the New York Times or even earlier the MDR Figaro and many others.
For a long while now, the concept of “family eating” has been getting stronger. In China for instance, it’s the norm. There you have a large round disk that spins, which has all the different dishes that you can choose from. Everyone gets their own little plate and just chooses what they would like to eat. That is a dream for me, but to implement that here and have it work is pretty hard.
How often do you change your menu and what do you look for when choosing your product?
Generally, it is important to know where it comes from and who is producing it. However, I think that’s a given because if you don’t know those things then you can’t be at your best and offer good product.
At the moment I am working together with a farmer and the meat they produce. Of course I make sure I offer strawberries in summer and not in winter, but the most important thing is that it fits to the nouvelle German cuisine. I would never offer lobster or tuna on my menu.
Do you have a specific favorite on the menu?
I really enjoy my Bratwurst, it’s in the direction of a currywurst with a mango-chili sauce.
In the Coca-Cola series “The Original Way”, you take part in an episode about potato salad. You talk about how you like to work with sides. Is potato salad one of your favorite side dishes?
There are so many things that I love to eat. I can definitely say I love the potato, but I also love celery puree and spätzle. If I look around for something to say is my favorite food, I just can’t do it.
In your potato salad you use celery instead of root celery, bacon and mustard. Do you think that the German cuisine is easy to adjust or tweak?
Yea, pretty much. Most of the dishes worked with in the German kitchen, be it eisbein (pork knuckle) or Sauerbraten, are quite fatty so to make the cuisine lighter is not a difficult task. If you look at the overall picture, and take out a lot of the meat you have a much lighter cuisine. We really should embrace a bit of the zeitgeist, so less meat more vegetables, low carb and with that you see can see some good changes in the German cuisine. The Italian potato salad is also in the direction of potatoes, carrots, celery stalks and onion and so it also has influences from that. This gives you more of a freshness as the potato salad here in Germany doesn’t have much bite. It’s almost like a mash over here so these pieces of celery stalk give another dimension of texture to the whole thing.
Which German dish on your menu have you refined in your own way?
We look to put our spin on dishes with lots of different ingredients, for example lime, Tonka beans with panna cotta and blueberries. For the tiramisu, instead of mascarpone we use sour cream, also a typical german product. In summer we have Strawberry tiramisu, but at the moment apple-chestnut. In Spring it’s with rhubarb. There are so many possibilities.
In January you were in China because you were chosen to open a second location for the “Ocean Flower Project”. Which large culinary differences did you notice during your trip there?
The biggest difference is that there is much more staff there. (Laughs)
It’s really crazy how many people work in a place in comparison to the amount of guests. Over here a server has around 6 to 7 tables and over there it’s one waiter per table. The shortage of personnel is one of the biggest problems in gastronomy today and one which I see getting worse in the next ten years. That is one of the biggest differences. The food culture in China plays a crucial role. Whereas in Germany at a business lunch everyone orders for themselves in China the host orders a big round for everyone. The food comes on a large rotating disk and everyone can pick and choose what they want. Even if your a complete foreigner, they share the food in this way and it creates a meaningful closeness.
Do you have an idea why your restaurant was selected and not a “typical German restaurant?” Could the similar concept of “family eating “ have something to do with that?
I don’t think so. For that project a star restaurant of German cuisine and a Paulaner brewery were selected. For the third, they wanted a restaurant which was focused on the new German style and decided on my restaurant. Of course the concept has a bit in common with chinese food culture outside of the fact that I don’t have large lazy susan’s (Large spinning disks) on the table. So, I don’t think that was the reason.
So what’s going on with the project at the moment?
Unfortunately it doesn’t work for me. I have to kids and for that project I would have to sign on for a lengthy amount of time. So the decision was pretty quick. The wish of the Chinese is was to have someone be there, not all the time but in the beginning the presence was very important.
If it’s not a secret, could you give us some hints to your future plans or projects?
There’s always lots of things, but most fall through due to lack of staff. On average someone calls once a week to ask if there is interest to do this or that. Most of the time the things are really cool but then you need people who can really do it, and that is tough.
A harmonious team is a key to success. What is the most important to you in your team?
Fundamentally, a sense of togetherness is the most important, you have to be able to live and work together. Most people underestimate how much time they spend at work. Often you spend more time with your colleagues at work than you do with your partner at home, and when there are problems such as personality differences that cause friction, that is difficult. You definitely need to just look for a good harmony in the team. We aren’t a star restaurant and aren’t looking to be one. That means no huge tablecloth service or meat carvings at the table. The professional table-service qualifications are not especially high. The kitchen is a different story, there we have only highly-trained chefs. However, just being trained takes second place to other important factors.
Do you have an idea about why and how the “Lila Soße” has been so successful in Dresden?
I have absolutely no idea myself, to be honest. The “Lila Soße” has received a lot of good feedback from the press over the years. That is the first thing, the second is that we just make awesome stuff. We cook good, have great wine and are a friendly bunch. The atmosphere is fantastic, so many things blend together to make a magical experience. You don’t have some fear of the unknown when you are with us, where you look at the menu and don’t know what certain things are and are afraid to ask questions to the waiter as in some star restaurants. We are also located in the Neustadt, a young and trendy quarter, and this is exactly where the “Lila Soße” feels at home.
Thanks so much, Boris Kögel!
Are you an ambitious chef with career aspirations? Would you like to work with Boris Kögel’s team in the “Lila Soße”? We are currently looking for motivated personnel who would like to get involved. If you would like to apply directly, then just click on this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
We look forward to hearing from you.
You have experienced a lot in this article, and there is so much more to see and taste with us. Come on over and introduce yourself, we will be happy to meet you. https://lilasosse.de/