WITH “NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR“, CHRISTIAN ECKHARDT, EXCITEMENT IS ON EVERY PLATE
Top Chef Christian Eckhardt from restaurant PURS in Andernach has just been named “Newcomer of the Year” in Germany by Gault & Millau. In this interview he speaks about culinary purity, exciting outlooks and traditional craft.
What do you believe led to this amazing award? What do you think swayed the jury?
Our priority is cooking for the guests and we are overjoyed with this wonderful award. Just amazing. It’s a fantastic achievement for the whole team. I’ve been working at PURS for one and a half years, and we give our best day after day, cooking the best we can. It’s just wonderful that not only the guests appreciate it, but also Gault Millau.
A reason given was a combination of optics and craftsmanship: Why can one be without the other?
We place taste on the top pedestal and because of that, we use products that are seasonal and of the highest quality. We want the dishes to be exciting in texture and taste. This is where the combination of tastes and ingredients come into play, and how they come together beautifully on the plate.
Do the eyes eat more than ever before, especially in today’s era of visually influenced media?
Oh, definitely. Especially in designing the plate we see more and more emphasis being put on it, but people should not lose sight of what they are actually serving. In the end it’s all about the taste. If that doesn’t come through, then the dish is a failure. Every component on the plate needs to fit 100 percent together. No chervil leaves because they look good, but rather that they fit into the scope of the dish.
Many chefs say: We are losing the handcraft more and more, do you feel the same?
I would say that the style has become more puriustic. More is left out. We don’t operate like that. We strive to give each and every plate its own artistic signature: with something wrapped or other things layered, so every plate has a level of mystery and excitement always keeping the product in the foreground. Our pidgeon breast is not just slapped naked on the plate, rather it is served with an exquisite sauce and hand-worked vegetables that compliment it the best.
Large depths of flavor and a playfulness of the senses are leading the field today. How do these flavor compositions come about?
We play with various textures and try to not to make just purees from vegetables, but rather through innovative techniques such as frying, dehydration, cooking and puffing-up so people can have the whole range of flavors available from the same ingredient. You also bring in different cooking techniques while doing this. All the senses of taste should be addressed, so you get something soft, something crunchy, a silky component, a puree, a salty note, a hint of sour, a light sweetness and a shadow of fermentation so you acquire all the depth needed.
Where are your roots when it comes to cooking?
I learned classic French cooking in Hotel Bareiss. I learned how to do things right over there such as sauces, and not with powders but with bones, vegetables, water and red wine. That was important, and I learned the clasical basics there.
How do you incorporate that in the PURS kitchen?
With every sauce. And that is very important, otherwise you just wreck a dish. Good sauces can support a dish in the most important ways and bring together all the players on a dish. They are a unique experience and are not just something that takes ten minutes. A Jus needs three days for us, to get to how we want it.
What will you never forget from your first year as a chef?
My instructors left a great impression: technically and in regards to team leadership. I could not have learned very well from negative, or aggressive teachers. My instructors were always close to the team, in harmony, professional and personable.
Which ingredients from the region do you use? What dishes are you using them in?
Mostly seasonal ingredients and produce to cook with. We don’t use strawberries in the winter. In the fall we like to work with squash and truffles. We get our products from the region, for example free-range eggs from Andernach, goat cheese from the Vulkaneifel, honey from Imker and an assortment of vegetables like carrots, celery and leek from the immediate region. It’s important that a carrot tastes like a carrot because they end up in every sauce and reduction we have…
How much do trends or culinary trips influence you?
We go out to eat a lot my wife and I, and mostly easy stuff. Most ideas come when you just want to switch off and enjoy some time. I was inspired by a papaya salad in an asian restaurant and could imagine using it with our techniques and style. You can see a lot of trends on instagram, but we always try to stay true and behind what we are. If Kombuchas and fermentation are in that is just great, but if we don’t stand behind it, we won’t be doing it.
Thanks a lot for the peek into your kitchen Christian!
For the restaurant PURS Star Chef Christian Eckhardt creates complex dishes that are always in perfect harmony, find out more at: https://purs.com/restaurant/
At the PURS Hotel guests can look forward to rooms and suites designed by Axel Vervoordt, works of art and maximum comfort. Find out more at: https://purs.com/hotel/