Theodor Falser – Chef de Cuisine at Michelin-starred restaurant Johannesstube, South Tyrol
Theodor Falser went on a long culinary journey. He has been a Chef in Ecuador, Bemuds, Oman, China and Malaysia. Since June 2014 Theodor is Chef de Cuisine at Johannesstube – a gourmet restaurant in the Hotel Engel Welschnofen in South Tyrol. Chef Thedor has a big enthusiasm for wild herbs and regional products.
We chat to him and find out what his credo Taste Nature really means. Have fun on this fascinating taste journey through the Dolomites!
Theodor Falser – A Chef’s Portrait
Today you are a Michelin-starred chef in the restaurant Johannesstube in the Hotel Engel Welschnofen in South Tyrol and co-owner of Stars Italian Gourmet Burgers, with many international experiences before. Where does your passion for cooking come from?
My cooking passion definitely comes from my family. We are wine farmers in the 6th generation. 30 years ago, we lived from all what we grew in the garden and had also livestock.
We were totally self-sufficient farmers. Like that you know exactly what’s best food for you.
How did your chef career begin? What made you become a chef?
At the age of 15, I started the classical apprenticeship in the kitchen because I wanted to know more about food, food style, global food and the different ways of cooking.
Which cooking school did you visit? And what was your greatest personal learning out of this time?
I was attending the C.I.A Culinary Institute of America and the Cornell University, that gave me a wider aspect of the management overview in the kitchen.
At the beginning of your career, you moved to Dubai, where you worked for Hyatt. What was the hardest part for you as a young chef to settle in Dubai?
The most difficult thing at that time where the different produces. In those days everything was imported, and the produces were not always the best what you can find but now everything has changed in Dubai and they have “Top” produces which are grown locally.
After your time as chef in Dubai, you worked as a chef in Ecuador, Bemuds, Oman, China, Malaysia. Having so many different international stations and experiences as a chef – how did it influence your style of cooking? How would you describe your culinary line today?
My cuisine is a global technic cuisine with 100% locally grown ingredients. I feel very blessed for all my experiences, which I now transfer right into my style.
Back from the big wide world to South Tyrol, today you work as a star chef in the restaurant Johannesstube/Wellness Hotel Engel. Because of your international experience – do you appreciate the local cuisine, the traditions somehow more or different?
For me the only way is Taste Nature, 100% locally grown, for that I am so proud of.
South Tyrol in northern Italy belonged historically to Austria, which makes the cuisine there very interesting. How would you best describe South Tyrolean cuisine? What is your current culinary setting and interpretation of South Tyrolean cuisine?
We are on the crossroad between the North and South. We have a fantastic mix between Italian and Austrian food and as well as a lifestyle.
That makes our cuisine so unique.
“Urban-Taste-Nature” is your credo. Which of your current menus describes it best?
Please, TASTE NATURE …. 100% local, 100% seasonal, 100% vegetable grown above 1500 meter sea-level, meats from selected farms and one butcher for the slaughtering, the fish only from one fisherman who is selecting only the best products for me. Knowing all my partners by name & face is the most important for me.
Organic food – the big trend today, because everyone wants to know where food comes from and where the ingredients come from. Other restaurants offer their guests information about their producers/suppliers. How can this approach be transferred to many more restaurants?
By listening to our farmers and listening our nature. They will tell us all we need to know. When something is not available or out of season, we just need to say: “NO, sorry next year again.”
For me there is no other option, all the produce I get only my farmer without exception.
You support local farmers and meat vendors. How closely are you in contact with them?
Michael my veggie farmer, I see him 3 times per week. All the others like my butcher or fish farmer, I meet and/or visit them on a regular base. Like this we can plan together much better for future needs and requirements.
Your philosophy is the use of 100 percent local products. What do you offer in the winter months, when the nature of the Dolomites has limited output?
I ferment/marinate and salt over 42 different kinds of vegetables/produce for the winter months. The rest I put into soil in the cellar for the winter.
Through your travels, you have adopted and integrated various traditional cooking techniques. What are some of your unique cooking techniques?
Cooking with no electricity – on the open fire.
There will be a new project TASTE NATURE – FOREST EDITION which will be in JUNE 2019. This is going to be one of a kind, amazing experience for our guests…cooking in the woods without electricity.
You are famous for your search for forgotten spices and lesser-known vegetables. Can you give us some examples?
Sure. For example, I like to us Oat root, Chinese artichoke, basell potato, sugar roots, sour roots.
You always wish youngsters to go out into nature and study agriculture to change the food culture. How do you practice this approach yourself?
You don’t need to study. Just love what you are doing. Be passionate. The rest will come automatically.
With all your international and great local know-how – is fusion cooking something you practice?
At the end of the day, we all make fusion-cooking – just as Spaghetti Pomodoro is the best example of fusion cooking.
You are also co-owner of STARS Italian Gourmet Burgers. What is the concept behind it?
The best Italian burgers in the world. We create burgers for the Italian Palate with all-natural ingredients. The best beef from the butcher, delivered every day. Bread according to my recipe, and all served with beers and wine from small manufactures/vineyards. As well as homemade beverages like lemonades and ice teas.
Be honest, do you sometimes have “wanderlust”? Is there a place in the world where you would like to work as a chef someday?
In Ecuador. To have again this wonderful experience to cook with all the fantastic produce this country has.
Although the world is so open to cooks and there are so many opportunities, fewer young people are interested in becoming cooks. Do you have any ideas how this situation can change?
I do not believe that, I never saw so many possibilities for chefs than ever before. We only need to have a strong culinary heritage and a strong base, I believe a chef can have a fantastic carrier, we just need to listen more to our guests and let the “ego” on the side.
Thank you very much, Chef Theodor!
Theodor Falser loves to create dishes that not only taste delicious but also made of 100% locally grown ingredients.
What role does local produce play in your kitchen? Share your style of cooking on Cook Concern!