Of all the chefs in Paznaun, he is the one whose career has taken off the most dramatically to date. Benjamin Parth, 28, has set out to accept no limits as a chef and to go right to the top. Here’s our interview with the quiet shooting star. Photos by Philipp Horak.
Benjamin Parth is young, good-looking, and in possession of a great amount of self-confidence. This self-confidence does not, admittedly, show in fine words or pithy sayings – but in the way in which he cooks.
When the neo-regionalism originating in Scandinavia was inspiring countless chefs the world over to only cook what could be grown or gathered in their closest possible surroundings – which in the Alpine area meant quite a lot of pine cone emulsion – Benjamin Parth already had very different plans.
He liked the French classics as the basis for his own ideas. The young man, who was an apprentice of Heinz Winkler and refined his skills with luminaries such as Santi Santamaria, Marc Haeberlin and Sven Elverfeld, was determined to produce traditional haute cuisine in the classic style.
Which produce do you use?
Only the best.
What does that mean?
Rungis Express service (the legendary supplier which delivers produce from the gourmet markets of Paris to top restaurants throughout Europe)
You’re not interested in local produce?
That’s pretty difficult. Here in Ischgl, we live at an altitude of over 1300m. Almost nothing grows here which can be used in high-level gastronomy.
Are there exceptions to this rule?
Of course. I’ve used Enzer, for example (Galtür’s gentian schnapps) for years in one of my favourite dishes, char with gentian foam. I greatly respect what Hermann Huber is doing in the cheese sector, and I have some of his cheeses on the menu. And of course, I really enjoy cooking game when the hunters bring me something special – marmot, at the moment, by the way. It’s not that easy to prepare. But if you do it right, it tastes great – and which of my guests has ever tried marmot?
These are in essence very self-confident pronouncements, which Benjamin Parth has been convinced of from a very young age. He did not flirt with different culinary styles but has known from the very beginning exactly what his cuisine should be able to.
How would you define your cuisine yourself?
Three important things: light. Modern. Classic.
Classic is clear. How do you define modernity?
For example, in discovering new acids which are essential for the balance of a dish. For me that’s a creative cooking process. Spiciness is also sometimes a statement.
How do you create the dramatic order of a tasting menu in Stüva?
For me, what’s important is the sequence of the different tastes. I begin with the iodine of sea food, move to stimulating spices, then introduce different acid tastes and lighten everything with bitter flavours.
What are your favourite vegetables, which you use with raw produce such as sea urchins, sea bass, cod or sturgeon?
Vegetables with taste, so the onion family, leeks, chives, combined with the right acids. That makes up 50 percent of the taste of a dish. I love artichokes. They are a tender vegetable, they need lots of sensitivity in their preparation.
Your dishes are gimmick-free and are very puritanically presented, although with an extra portion of sauce.
You can recognise a good chef immediately by the sauces. And I’m not the type for gimmicks.
How do you develop a dish?
In my head. I can summon up all the tastes with closed eyes. If I have an idea, then a new combination comes together or a new dish, in bed or on the chairlift when I’m snowboarding. Then I just need to cook it in the kitchen.
In the last two seasons in particular, you’ve received a great deal of nationwide attention. In all the current restaurant guides you are in the top 20 chefs in the country. Gault Millau has awarded you three chef’s hats and the attribute “Taste, taste, taste.” What are your next goals?
I can only say to that: I’m never happy. I enjoy everything I’ve achieved. But I want more. My next goal with Gault Millau is very clearly to get the fourth chef’s hat. And if the Michelin Guide comes back to Austria, two stars there. At least.