Chef's Portrait - Stefan Heilemann
Has been Chef de Cuisine at the Widder Restaurant since summer 2020. His two Michelin stars have just been confirmed. In addition, he is Gault & Millau Chef of the Year 2021.
Let’s start by addressing a stereotype. Are chefs really all night owls who only surface at around midday?
The stereotype is spot on for me. I’m just no good before ten in the morning. It takes me a bit of time to get going the next day after a full-on evening service. That’s the only way I can stay at the top of my game when I really need to deliver.
Do you think top athletes and top chefs are similar in any way?
Athletes and chefs have to have the same level of focus and need to be able to work consistently towards a goal for a very long time. A whole lot of training is absolutely essential in both fields. Sure, you might have to work the odd 16-hour day, but that is the exception rather than the rule now. A decent work-life balance is key to keeping people going.
Which sports do you like best?
Shopping is where I really excel. I’m really rather talented at buying the best sports equipment around and never using it.
Let’s get back to the kitchen… How would you describe each other’s cooking styles?
Patrick’s dishes are cosmopolitan and playful with a focus on the produce. He has a real flair for creating a masterpiece on the plate.
And a few luxurious items on the menu?
Those are truly exquisite ingredients. And if we don’t use them, who will? Of course, sustainability is still an important factor. With Balfégo tuna, for example, I even use the heart, which makes a great seasoning when cured and flaked.
Stefan, what was your experience like?
When we were first awarded two stars, there was no lavish ceremony. I waited for the results to be announced in a side room at Brasserie Lipp in Zurich along with all the other chefs who had been invited. As the last to leave the room, I finally saw the name of the restaurant and two stars projected on the wall. It was an unforgettable moment.
But no tears?
Perhaps there would have been tears had the setting been different. The ceremony at the Lucerne Culture and Congress Centre in 2019 was on a par with the Oscar award ceremony.
If you could make one wish on behalf of the hospitality sector, what would it be?
I have to agree with that. Service is a huge part of the overall restaurant experience. It’s a way of introducing customers to our culinary creations, creating a cosy atmosphere and encouraging less adventurous diners to leave their comfort zone and try something new.
Words Alex Kuehn
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