CC Mag recently visited the Berlin Master Chefs’ gala dinner, one of the foremost culinary events in Germany. Our interview with the president of the jury is reproduced in this edition, along with a brief profile of the prize-winners. After that, it is high time to stop by at a brand-new Asian restaurant. The shooting stars of Berlin’s gourmet scene were nothing if not self-confident, showcasing their innovative ideas and concepts, and avidly gathering stars, chef’s hats and toques – even, on occasion, in settings that seem far-removed from the elitist ambiance of the gourmet community. Jörn Pfannkuch and Manuela Weber, founders of the Cinnamon Circle and publishers of CC Mag, seized the opportunity afforded by the Berlin Master Chefs’ award ceremony to talk to jury president Dr. Stefan Elfenbein about how the German capital is rediscovering the pleasures of the palate.
CC Mag: We have already talked a little about the current success of Berlin’s top chefs and their growing confidence. To what do you attribute their success?
Stefan Elfenbein: To the way they embrace the experimental and combine it with a perfect mastery of their trade. Our reigning »Master Chef 2013«, Matthias Diether, is not averse to serving his amuse-bouches on marrowbone boiled to a snowy white instead of dainty little plates. Tim Raue presents works of art fashioned from sea cucumber or an Achilles tendon of beef from the Uckermark region. You won’t find this kind of variety anywhere else in Germany. But it has only come about in the last couple of years. The current edition of »Feinschmecker«, German’s gourmet restaurant guide, lists 64 Berlin restaurants among the country’s best. You’ve never had that either. Hamburg has 36 and Munich 32.
CC Mag: Has Berlin yet appeared on the rest of the world’s gourmet radar screens?
Stefan Elfenbein: For a growing number of travelers, good food is becoming an integral part of the overall experience of visiting Berlin. So yes, they do indeed come because of the city’s creative cuisine – at the latest after being duped or disappointed in such legendary hives of hedonism as Rome and Paris. Quite apart from its healthy dose of youthful innocence, Berlin also boasts unrivaled value for money.
CC Mag: More and more business travelers are coming to the German capital too. And they are the economic mainstay of many restaurants the world over.
Stefan Elfenbein: Yes, Berlin has no need to fear comparison on that score either. Culinary quality is definitely an important aspect of business entertainment. It is easier to negotiate over a delightful meal. And business partners nowadays willingly come to Berlin even from a long way away, quite simply to be a part of this »crazy« city, if only for an evening out at a restaurant. I hear that all the time. Almost every day, someone asks what the best place is to take this guy or that lady from wherever…
CC Mag: Yes, we did exactly the same a few months ago when we were here in Berlin for a different story. Even late in the evening, you were kind enough to mail us a hot tip. And it was a fantastic evening – thank you again.
Stefan Elfenbein: Yes, I remember. You went to Stephan Hentschel’s »Cookies Cream«, which was crowned »Master Chefs’ Hip Restaurant of the Year« at the gala. The best and most beautiful that the new Berlin has to offer. Excellent cuisine. Frank Bruni of the New York Times, one of the most famous food critics in the world, went there last year, by the way. He was really taken by it, animated by the lightness of Berlin’s spirit in Berlin, and by the people too. No frills, no bells and whistles – just waiters who smile as though they mean it, who stay human even when they make a slight mistake; and children who are allowed to crawl on the floor now and then. I mean it! To my mind, after London, Berlin is right now the most exciting gourmet venue in Europe. And things are happening not just in the heart of the city. Ingenious chefs and unique restaurants are suddenly springing up in Kreuzberg and Neukölln too, and even in Wedding – the kind of places you will only ever find in Berlin.
CC Mag: You’re certainly whetting our appetite: Let’s go eat! And thanks for the interview!
Stefan Elfenbein: You’re most welcome. Oh, and by the way, don’t worry: We can still do the snacks too – the curried sausage and the kebabs, both of which were »invented« here. Berlin born and bred, so to speak. Do you want to know where the best snack bars are?
BERLIN’S MASTER CHEFS
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