Heinz Winkler – Award-winning Chef
Heinz Winkler, previously one of the youngest 3-Star Chefs in the world, award-winning, including the Ferderal Cross of Merit, at 21 years of age Germany’s most frequently 3-Star awarded Chef, will be honored on June 8, 2018 in Nymphenburg Castle by the Bavarian Minister of Economic Affairs. The Theme: The preservation of values and passing them on to further generations.
You are being honored, because you’ve done so much for the next generation. How specifically?
I trained Christian Jürgens, Cornelia Poletto, Heinz Beck, Peter Knogl including countless others and they have all done great things. Whether they have a Star or not, whoever has been trained under me will never stand in front of an empty stove.
You’re known as a strict Chef.
What does everyone have against discipline? A strict regimen also means bringing the best out of your workers. Anyway, I’ve become a bit calmer with age.
You never thought about a television career?
A long time ago I was once at Kerner, at the beginning of the circus that is made around Chefs today. After that, I started getting totally different guests coming to me at the Residenz Aschau, they wanted to meet a Show Star, the enjoyment of food wasn’t even a priority.
New guests aren’t always bad…
Well, nowadays you have mini-series around Chefs just because they sear two sides of a trout. So goes the Chef, so goes the guests. It’s not league. I once had a cook apply who eventually wanted to be a TV Chef. These are weird times.
Maybe classic cuisine isn’t in style?
Nonsense! We’ve survived a lot of fads in the kitchen. Haute cuisine followed Nouvelle cuisine, organic, molecular, fusion. Bottom line: Classic will never die. It’s like with music. It’s important for a Star Chef to find their own style and not run behind whatever trends. It’s important they put their name to original, independent creations.
You have developed a Kitchen style: The Cuisine Vital.
As Bocuse swore off the end of Nouvelle Cuisine in 1988, and everyone tripped over themselves to rush back to heavy regional cuisine, it was clear to me: Never go backwards! With my Cuisine Vital I focused right at the start with fresh herbs, edible flowers and no heavy sauces. Eating also consumes energy. The guest should stand up from the table feeling good and not flop right into a bed.
What about Organic?
Apart from the fact that many of our products are organic in the Residenz Aschau, the idea of organic farming basically means the careful handling of resources, rely on the regional, and the talent of “Making a lot of magic from a few things”. Whoever can master that is not only in good standing culinary-wise, but economically as well.
That’s why so many people want to be TV Chefs…
(Laughs) Yea, probably, because to financially run a restaurant or even a kitchen is far more than being “just good at cooking”.
You must know, that you haven’t just cooked a 3-star level for 10 years at Tanris, but have also worked very profitably for the owner Fritz Eichbauer.
Right. Cook away, don’t worry about if we turn a profit he said to me then. I replied: If you plan to blow three hundred thousand Deutschmarks a year, and we all work here without turning a profit, wouldn’t it be better to just use the money on a nice long vacation? After that he revised my contract and gave me charge not only for cooking but also purchasing and calculation.
After Tanris, in 1991 you bought the fixer-upper Residenz in Aschau – not exactly a small investment.
A double-digit million loan, but the bank was well aware of my business acumen.
Nowadays Star kitchens are under the protection of a hotel.
That is correct. It’s easier to make up for financial losses and it’s a boon to the hotels reputation. Good cooks who want to live their life creatively and do not want to assume any financial responsibility for their work are advised to use their careers in the hospitality industry.
Your Residenz is also a Hotel…
(Laughs) Yes, but I still have an eye on all the costs pertaining to all areas.
What are the main requirements for becoming a good cook?
Well, there is the craft. The preparation of classic dishes that comes with that. Sauces, Jus, that needs to be there. Breaking down meats and fish is a foundation. Building on that, they need to create their own flavor, “Food-pairing” means that today. Flavors that match and give the palate a new taste. Try, taste, discard, try again. Cooking is an on-going process that is never finished.
From the fruits of your labor, you could have long retired.
Yes. Cooking is passion. As with an artist, painter, writer or musician. You don’t just stop.
The Michelin Guide Stars – For years, you’ve held the high 2-star level, but had at 21 years the 3 coveted stars, even at 31 you would have been the youngest Chef that had 3 stars. Does that bother you if you “only” have 2 stars?
If you have achieved everything in life, then you would also like to stop working. I see myself on a 3-star level, but at the moment the moment the Michelin Guide testers are measuring with different scales, which doesn’t necessarily detract from the award.
The type of stress that comes with the stars, you can just look at all the Chefs trying to get away from the catagorization, because in the long run you can’t take it mentally or physically. Or you can only hold onto it for only a short time. The highest level requires the highest effort. A daily marathon.
Where do you go to eat, when you eat out?
To the best! With only the best inspirations, nothing average. Also the Alm in Südtirol with the best bacon, or the little fish shack on the beach with the best grilled calamari or even a colleague with stars and their own style.
Thank you for the interview, Heinz!