Renowned chef Thomas Bühner says love and passion are his two favourite ingredients while cooking


For over 25 years, Thomas Bühner has been at the top of the league of German chefs. Born in the year 1962 in Riesenbeck as the son of a housewife and a commercial clerk, he was first exposed to catering at his grandparent’s establishment. Here, guests were always greeted with a slice of fresh pain gris with butter and Westphalian ham and the clattering in the kitchen and the hubbub from the pub acted as a backdrop at bedtime, late in the evening. But all the same, young Thomas Bühner had no clear idea for a long time which career to choose once he left school. Whilst his twin brother turned to carpentry, an aptitude test at the job centre came up with concrete ideas: he was facing a choice of becoming a chef, a baker or a farmer. Bühner decided to become a chef and even back then, he announced to his parents: “So if I’m going to be a chef, then at least I want to be a good one” – and he has kept his word to this day.

Bühner trained at Schweizer Haus in Paderborn. This was followed by stints with Günter Scherrer at the Hilton in Düsseldorf, Landhaus Scherrer in Hamburg, Restaurant Grand Cru in Lippstadt and Restaurant Jörg Müller in Westerland in Sylt. In 1989, Bühner became Harald Wohlfahrt‘s chef de partie at the Schwarzwaldstube in Baiersbronn. This was one of the most important stages of his career, after all, he was fascinated by Wohlfahrt’s discipline and consistency – indispensable assets in his vocation – and, above all, the down-to-earthness and benevolence the patron showed his employees day in, day out. The ideal prerequisites for taking on the position of Head Chef at the restaurant La Table in Dortmund in 1991. Five years later, he was awarded his first Michelin star, followed by a second one in 1998. Gault Millau voted Bühner “Newcomer of the Year” in 2001 and ‘Chef of the Year’ just five years later.

Together with restaurant manager Thayarni Kanagaratnam, Thomas Bühner has been running the restaurant la vie in Osnabrück since April 2006. Since 2009, Thomas Bühner has been a ‘Grand Chef’ with Relais & Chateaux. In addition, la vie has been a member of ‘Les Grandes Tables du Monde’ since early 2010. The restaurant has been awarded 19 Gault Millau points and three Michelin stars, as well as top grades in all other German restaurant guides.

Which is your favourite ingredient?

My favourite ingredients are love and passion.


What is your advice to aspiring chefs?
My advice to aspiring chefs is to create a fantastic team, give due credit to the service team and most important don’t forget to have fun at work; don’t forget that you cook for your guests.


What’s your comfort food and which is your favorite restaurant to dine at?

I love cheese, can’t say which is my favorite restaurant simply because there are too many- HAKU Hongkong, Ecriture Hongkong, Alchemist Kopenhagen, are some of them.


Who is your inspiration?

I am inspired by beautifully fresh products while cooking.


Which is your signature dish/dishes?

Venison in a stock of Asian flavors, parsley root muesli and potatoes foam with curry ice cream, are my signature dishes.


What is the philosophy and ethos behind the food you cook?

My philosophy is to bring people together, at a table, make them happy with the food I present so that they spend time together while eating my delicious food.

Which is the dish you’ve created that you are most proud of and why?

Liquid Venison is a dish I am most proud of. Because normally most of the sauces change the taste of meat and we have discovered how to make a sauce that supports the taste of meat when we create this dish.


What is the one food trend you wish would go away?

I hate the concept of deliveries; people have to sit down at a table to eat in order to experience the food in all it’s glory at a restaurant.


When the lockdown is over, what is the first restaurant you’ll be heading to and what will you order?

One the lockdown is over, the first restaurant I would like to eat at and order from is . It´s driven by a former employee named Ollie Schuilling.


What are the most important considerations when crafting your menu?

The most important considerations when crafting my menus are the ingredients and to focus on highlighting every single taste of the ingredients.


What is your favourite dish to cook at home?

Beet Root Gaspacho which is healthy food ! And this dish also allows lots of combinations.


What is your favourite dish on the menu right now?

This question is like asking a mother which child she loves more than the other, I simply cannot answer it.

What is your favourite childhood dish and why?

Pancakes with apple is my favourite childhood dish.


Recipe of Octopus / Kimchi
Wild boar emulsion

Pork fond
2 kg pork bones
5 pieces carrot
2 pieces onion Roast the bones in the oven at 200°C. Wash the carrots and cut Them in half, cut the onions in six and roast everything together at 180°C. Bones and vegetables then together in a pot, fill it up with water and let it cook to the right taste.
Put aside and let infuse for a couple hours.
In the evening pass it and put it in the fridge over night.
The next day reduce it to a jus.

Razorclam soy sauce
500 gr razor clam
500 gr water
250 gr kikkoman soy
50 gr sugar
1 piece rembrandt apple
1 clove garlic
1 piece pear
1 piece onion
1 sheet kombu Wash the razorclam and blanch it quickly in salted water.
Then put it in ice water, take the meat out put it in the dryer over night. (you need 21gr of dried razorclam). Peel the apple, garlic, pear and onion and cut everything fine.
Put everything in tin foil and roast in the oven at 180°C.
Wash the kombu to remove the salt.
Put the sugar in a pot and let it caramelise golden brown and pour in the water and soy sauce.
Now put in the vegetables and kombu in and let it simmer for 10 minutes, after that take the kombu out and let it boil until everything in cooked.
Pass everything trough a cloth and measure 180gr of the liquid.
Boil up the 180gr of liquid one time and add the 21gr of dried razorclam, let it infuse for 20 minutes and take out the razorclam.

Pork bread sauce
125 gr pork sauce
50 gr razoclam soy sauce
30 gr sake reduced from 120gr
25 gr mirin reduced from 50gr
30 gr lardo
40 gr algal oil
10 gr merlot vinegar
180 gr bread without crust Put the pork sauce and the lardo in thermomix and mix by 60°C until the lardo is dissolved.
Now put in the sake, mirin, vinegar and soy sauce.
Mix in the algal oil slowly like a mayonnaise and put in the bread for texture.
Mix everything until a smooth consistency and still warm pass through a superbag.

Algi oil
2 l Olive oil abecina
1 foot garlic
1 kg wakame algi Wash and dry the wakame.
Cut the garlic in half and roast golden brown.
Put everything together with the oil and heat up to 65°C. Let it infuse for 1 day then pass it through a sieve.

Marinated pork belly
1 piece pork belly
50 gr chilli paste
25 gr piment de espelette
25 gr soy sauce
35 gr brown sugar
30 gr crushed garlic
40 gr crushed galangal
1½ lemongrass Roast the pork belly in a pan skin side down until the skin is crispy. Mix the chilli paste, piment, soy sauce, and brown sugar to a paste and cover the pork belly.
Now put the pork belly in a vacuum bag with the garlic, galangal and lemongrass not under or on top of the meat and vacuum. Put it in the water bath by 65°C for 24 hours.
After 24 hours take it out and let it cool down with something heavy of top so it gets flattened.
Cut the pork belly in to pieces of 0.7×0.7cm(3 pieces a person).

Salt Remove the head off the octopus and cut off the arms so you just have all the arms separated.
Add just a little bit of flour to the octopus and massage firmly for 20-30 minutes.
Then add some salt and leave it for 15 minutes.
Now vacuum with some algal oil and put in the water bath for 30-120 minutes at 52°C.
Let it cool off in the oil and portion 3 pieces a person (1 big, 1 middle, 1 small).

Kimchi creme
150 gr kimchi creme
25 gr olive oil
2 gr xanthan Mix everything together and pass through a fine sieve.

Appel chili vinegar
20 gr fermented
1 l rembrandt apple
Apple juice
26 gr salt
60 gr sugar
1 piece chipotle chili
2 piece hot charcoal


Wash 1kg of chervilroot and cook only in water until it’s cooked. When still warm remove the skin and mix with 4% of salt, vacuum and let it ferment for 1 week at room temperature.
Before starting make sure you have a glass jar disinfected and the charcoal hot.
Wash 2kg of apple, remove the core and put it in the juicer.
Sieve the juice though a fine sieve and measure 1 litre.
Now mix the salt, sugar and chervilroot together with a little bit of the apple juice until dissolved.
Pour the mixture in the glass and carefully add the apple juice.
Now add the chipotle and 2 pieces of hot charcoal.
Cover with a piece of cloth and a rubber band, and let it ferment for around 10 days.

1 piece Chinese cabbage
1 l water
34 gr salt
75 gr rice
75 gr water
225 gr koolrabi
225 gr onion
300 gr apple
350 gr pear
30 gr garlic
20 gr chive
10 gr sesame
10 gr sesame oil
Piment de espelette Dissolve 34gr of salt in 1l of water, cut the Chinese cabbage in half and put in a container together with the water for 1 week.
Peel and cut the apple, pear, onion and garlic.
Put everything in tin foil and roast it in the oven at 200°C until golden brown, then put it in a container and cool down.
Cook the rise and roast the sesame and let it cool down in separate containers.
When everything is cold cut the koolrabi in fine cubes and add a pinch of salt then let it rest for 15 minutes.
Now put the half of the koolrabi in the thermomix and the other half in a bowl.
Add the rise, apple, pear, onion, sesame, garlic and sesame oil to the thermomix and mix to a smooth consistency.
Empty the thermomix in the bowl and add piment as per your desire. Cut the chive and also add to the bowl.
Now take out the Chinese cabbage and put it on paper to remove excess water.
Now take a container and cover the bottom with the puree, then put the kimchi puree in between every leaf of the Chinese cabbage put it in the container and top it off with the last puree. Cover the container and put in the fridge for 1 week.
After the week put the kimchi in the thermomix and mix everything until smooth.
Sieve the puree through a superbag and vacuum.


Garnish for octopus
6 leaves of Brussels spout
3 leaves of pastiz topz
3 apple balls cut in half The Brussels sprouts shortly blanched.
The apple balls vacuumed together with the apple chilli vinegar.

Jyoti Balani