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Interview with chef Holger Stromberg

“My favourite dish is quality”

While other children were playing outside with a ball, he was busy playing with a meat mincer in the ktichen: master chef Holger Stromberg is a consummate restaurateur who won his first Michelin star at the age of 23. The entrepreneur has opened restaurants and event locations from Munich to Waltrop since then. He is sought after as a nutritional consultant and top caterer throughout Europe, and he also cooks for the German national football team. He lays down his professional standards in this interview.

What does cooking mean to you?

There is a saying that probably describes it best: “kitchen passion”. I am constantly on the lookout for new ideas and adventures. I create themes which can be tied in with pleasure and lifestyle. Of course I take a lot of risks in terms of flavour combinations, but for the basis of my dishes I never lose a connection to honest cooking. My aim is always to satisfy desires. At the same time, I place great importance on sustainability. Regardless of where and who I’m cooking for, I always place the highest value on the most natural foods.

Do you have one guiding principle when it comes to cooking and eating?

My philosophy is: quality is the top priority. This is why I’m always on the lookout for the best products for my dishes. I respect their integrity in preparation and compose them with culinary intelligence into dishes which bear my own signature.

What do you look for when buying food?

Anyone who goes to the supermarket should be discerning in their choice, and enquire about the products on offer. So it’s quite right to sniff food, to get hold of it, or sometimes even to taste it. We should be much more aware when we’re shopping, and ask more questions. I can only pursue product depth and quality if I communicate a lot with everyone involved: suppliers, chefs, sellers and so on. Sometimes that might mean asking awkward questions. This is how I drive the process forward, because wholesalers then have to ask their suppliers the same questions. If I notice that someone can’t give me the information I want on my fish, meat or vegetables, I draw my own conclusions.

Regional or international cuisine, what do you stand for as a chef?

Really I’m not in favour of “either/ or...”. As a chef I’m naturally enthused by the great variety of food on offer today, and when I’m abroad on business, I love working with what’s available locally. My motto is authenticity,

What part does regional cuisine play?

I am a great advocate of regional food, particularly as I then know the origin of my products. Nowadays there are an increasing number of farmers or producer cooperatives, butchers, bakers etc. who offer products they have grown or reared themselves responsibly and sustainably with a great deal of commitment. It’s obviously not the simplest way of shopping, but it pays off in so many ways.

Do you take seasonal factors into account when you’re buying?

Absolutely. Regional and seasonal fruit and vegetables are essential items on my menus.

You work in many different business areas. What is the link between them?

Well I’ve actually accumulated quite a lot by now.... Whether it’s restaurants or a cookery school, gastronomy, burgers and catering, the German football team, product development and school catering, advising on nutrition and consultancy work.... nothing ever stands still for me.

As chef to the German national football team, what do you have to think about?

When I’m cooking for the national team, the dishes of course have to meet the needs of the team. Nutrition alone will not win games, but it does improve the performance of every player, and the players are all aware how important nutrition is for them. Against this background I always put a buffet together, which is as varied as possible, and takes into account different physiological nutrition options. The main criterion in compiling a meal is always a balanced relationship between carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats. On a match day, the pre-match snack is very important: around three and a half hours before the game, there is a light carbohydrate- based meal to ensure that energy reserves remain topped up during a strenuous length of play. Full-grain pasta and Bolognese sauce or mashed potato with sauteed vegetables are on the menu, together with semolina and rice pudding. Two to three litres of still water are drunk over the day, and I also recommend teas containing ginkgo and ginger which enhance metabolism and stimulate blood flow in the brain.

And finally, what is your own favourite dish?

My favourite dish is quality.

About

Holger Stromberg was born in Münster. The 44-year old chef is married and has one son. Stromberg is a restaurant chef, nutritional consultant, television chef, and author. He currently runs the restaurant KUTCHiiN in Munich, an inn belonging to his parents called Stromberg in Waltrop, as well as Campus Loft, Kounge, and Werkstatt.

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