Just recently I had the pleasure to sit with top chef Renato Wüst during Oettinger Davidofft’s first ever international ‘Tour Gastronomique’ at the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz.
Renato Wüst was just awarded the accolade of “CigarMan of the Year 2016” by GaultMillau. As the Executive Chef he is in charge of two large hotel kitchens and five satellite kitchens. His team includes more than 60 chefs, eight pastry chefs and six trainee chefs as well as numerous assistants who cater to the exclusive guests of the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz.
Since I wasn’t familiar with him prior to this interview, I wanted to get to know him a little better than what I could find online.
How do you do you stay so fit? Do you not eat your own food?
I have seven kitchens so I’m constantly tasting! I don’t cook every day, only once in a while when I want to test something. I only cook when I want to experiment with a new recipe. Then I practice and taste it over and over again until I get it right. The rest of the time I’m in the office working on the computer, organising, researching, and overseeing the kitchen.
When did you know you wanted to become a cook?
As a kid, the whole family would go to church on Sundays while my dad would stay home to prepare our lunch. Once in a while I would ask him if I could stay in and help with the cooking. Thankfully he would always say yes! That’s how it all started – I got to cook with my dad and miss church at the same time!!
Cooking became more and more interesting to me especially because of the positive affirmation I got from my mom and siblings. They loved it! It felt amazing and that’s when I knew I wanted to cook.
Then I started helping my uncle at his restaurant. And 50 years later I’m still in the kitchen.
What do you cook on your time off?
It all depends on what is available around me. For instance last Sunday I found mushrooms in the backyard. I picked them and made them with asparagus. So simple but so good.
I like to invite friends over to try out new dishes. If they don’t turn out as I hoped for then I take the recipes back to the kitchen the next day and revise it with my chefs. Once we get it right, I take a picture of the dish and here we go with a new recipe and a new dish!
No matter if you’re a young or an old chef, it’s all about learning every day.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Everywhere. It can be at other restaurants, on TV, in a magazine, in the mountains or traveling.
Are you an artist?
Taste is one thing and design is another thing. Times change but the classic kitchen will always remain. When cooking gourmet everyone eats the dish not only with their palate but also with their eyes. It has to look good.
In terms of the classic kitchen, the taste never changed but the design has definitely evolved. Having said that I have the feeling that old-school design might make a comeback.
What was the highest point of your carrier and the lowest point?
My highest point was when our restaurant got nominated twice as Restaurant of the Year. In Switzerland no hotel has had this title twice. This I must say has been the highest point of my career.
The lowest point of my carrier was failing my apprentice exam! I used a new cooking technique – cooking meat on low temperature. A big NO NO!! Everyone was shocked because no one would ever do that back then! So needless to say I got 1 out of 6! Ironically, today everybody cooks meat on low temperature. But I took the exam again and I passed!
What kind of boss are you?
I am a very cooperative boss but I’m also very strict because I know exactly what I have in my head. If they don’t do what I want I don’t scream but they know when I’m upset!
First comes quality. Once we have the quality then we can do the special things.
I have seven kitchens so I must make quality. I write all the recipes first then we take their pictures and add them to the menu.
The process and the end result are the most important. The taste will defer depending on the chef, but that’s ok.
I have a great staff in the kitchen. I have worked with my my main Sous Chef for more than 15 years. It’s a give-and-take and all about practicing.
How do you become CigarMan 2016? What does it even mean?
Years ago when smoking indoors was still allowed, you would see the most stylish men smoke their cigar, drink their whiskey and look fabulous. I wanted to be like them! I love Davidoff and have always smoked their cigar, and now that they are part of our resort, I love them even more than before. They are like family. I am one of their biggest fan, so maybe that is why they gave me the title 🙂
How do you relate food to smoking cigar?
First comes food then comes smoking. The other way around would not be good. Sometimes I like to cook using tobacco. I asked Davidoff for different types of tobacco and made infusions out of them. Then from pulverised the extract which I used for cooking, smoked salmon for example.
How do you balance your family life and your schedule?
I’ve been married for 30 years and my wife has gotten used to my schedule and understands that this is my job.
I go to work at 8am, work until midnight then I relax a bit before going home. My wife and I are partners, best friends and respect each other.
Do you have kids?
We have a 28 year old daughter currently studying tourism in zurich.
Any advice to the youngsters out there?
Go all the way! But go Your way. You must work but live too.
When you love your job the money comes but if it’s only for money you won’t be happy.
Two years ago I was nominated Apprentice Master of Switzerland. I love to work with apprentices and show them the way because they’re hungry and grateful. They also appreciate a good slap when necessary! When you love your job the ups and downs don’t seem so bad anymore. Your job should be your hobby.
I would also tell them that falling is part of life. When you fall you learn that with every Down there is an Up. And that’s the only way to learn. Let go of the fear and learn from the downs!
DON’T GO ANYWHERE! YOU ARE ABOUT TO GET A TREAT!
Two healthy recipes by our Chef Renato you can make at home and impress your guests with 🙂
I- Lobster with fennel and tomato carpaccio (87 kcal)
Ingredients for 4:
- 280 g lobster, poached & podded
- 120 g fennel carpaccio
- 140 g tomato Peretti ‘Carpaccio’
- 32 g mixed green salads, prepared
- 6 g olive oil
- 2.4 g lime jus
- 1 g dill, fresh plucked
- salt, pepper
Wash the tomatoes and fennel. Finely slice them and place them nicely on a plate. Arrange the poached, podded lobster meat on the carpaccio. Mix the olive oil with the lime juice and brush it on the dish. Add salt and pepper. Scatter the plucked dill over it. Form the salads to small bouquets and place them on the lobster. Drizzle with the remaining marinade.
II- Sauted Breast of guinea fowl with thyme on steamed snow peas, baby carrots & Couscous (385 kcal)
Ingredients for 4:
- 0.480 kg guinea fowl ‘pan ready skinless’
- Seasoning salt, pepper, capsicum powder
- 4 g olive oil
- 0.4 dl veal stock
- 4 pieces fresh thyme sprigs
- The pan finished guinea fowl breast without skin; season with salt, pepper and capsicum powder.
- In a Teflon pan, heat olive oil and fry the breast and finish cooking in the oven.
- Boil the brown veal stock and possibly slightly thicken with cornflour.
- Make a sauce using the brown veal stock sauce. Cut breast into three pieces (per breast) and put on the sauce.
- Garnish with sprig of thyme.
Ingredients for 4:
- 0.1 kg Couscous
- 0.1 l water
- 0.1 x salt and pepper
- 4 g Herbs (fresh parsley, basil & mint)
- Boil water in a saucepan. Sprinkle the couscous in the boiling water, stir, put on the side.
- Add herb mixture once couscous is ready to eat.
We’re not done yet! Here are a couple of really useful tips for at home cooking.
o If you make a risotto for your guests at home: use 3 parts Bouillon per 1 part rice. Use 2 parts of the bouillon to pre-cook the risotto, then spread it on a baking plate to cool down. If you want to serve it later: use the last part of the bouillon, boil it up, add the risotto, finish cooking; put cream and butter in it for the taste and serve it. Preparing a risotto this way gives you time to care for your guests!
o Instead of using full fat cream (35%) substitute it with 25% or with coffee cream with 15% fat for your sauces. Same goes for crème fraiche.
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