Paznaun is a centre of good taste. This is partly due to the chefs who are based here, and who are responsible for the high-end gastronomy in the hotels and restaurants of Ischgl. But even more than that, there’s a very special event which ensures better quality food in the valley’s huts than elsewhere, too: the Culinary Way of St James. The Way of St. James is, to put it flippantly, the importation of international expertise into Paznaun. Under the patronage of chef of the century Eckart Witzigmann, five top chefs from across Europe provide the ideas. They develop dishes which are complex and yet fitting for the places enjoyed by hikers and mountain visitors: the five huts above See, Kappl, Ischgl and Galtür. Eckart Witzigmann tells Trisanna: “If these Michelin-starred chefs served the dishes which are on the menus in their restaurants, it wouldn’t have any sustainable impact. But if they create special dishes for the mountain huts, it’s something completely different.”
The guest chefs this year are:
Jean-Georges Klein, Villa René Lalique, Wingen-sur-ModerHe comes from a decidedly culinary family, but Jean-Georges Klein didn’t actually want to become a chef. He studied hotel management in Strasbourg, and then worked as head waiter in his mother’s restaurant, the “L’Arnsbourg” in Baerenthal in Alsace – where he himself was born and raised. It was only in 1987, after the death of his mother, that Klein moved into the kitchen – as a self-taught chef. He developed his skills further with Ferran Adrià and Pierre Gagnaire, and was responsible for the unprecedented rise of his parents’ restaurant. He gained his first star straightaway in his first year as a head chef, and his second in 1998. As of 2002 “L’Arnsbourg” was awarded a third star. In 2015 Klein left “L’Arnsbourg”, which was taken over by his sister. Just 20 km away, he opened the “Villa René Lalique” in the house where the Art Deco glass artist had lived until 1945. His work there was also recognized with two Michelin stars.
Klein is a chef who loves the French classic style, putting it into practice with extreme precision. For the Culinary Way of St. James he has reflected the traditions o his home region and created a “Savoury Alsace tarte flambée” for the Jamtal Hut.
Paul Ivic, Tian, Vienna/Munich
So it’s only logical that Ivic has also created a vegetarian dish for the Friedrichshafener Hut: “Kasmuas (cheese sauce) from Fisser barley with braised leeks and pear vinaigrette”.
Tristan Brandt, Opus V, Mannheim
Brandt favours a direct interaction with producers, farmers and dealers which enables him to cook seasonally and with a regional focus. He combines his dishes in unusual ways, often with Asian notes, just like his dish for the Heidelberger Hut, “Calves’ cheeks with sweet potatoes and ginger.”
Knappett has developed his “Venison with sauce, pureed celery, tea-soaked plums and 100% chocolate” for the Almstüberl in See.
Onno is the freshly-crowned Gault Millau Chef of the Year 2019 in the Netherlands (making him a colleague of Ischgl’s own Benjamin Parth, who holds the Austrian title this year). He’s worked in “Ciel bleu” since 2003, a restaurant whose name is based on its exposed position – it’s on the 23rd floor of the 5 star Hotel Okura in Amsterdam. Onno reportedly already knew at the tender age of ten that he wanted to be a chef. Good food was highly regarded in his family, and Onno completed his training as a chef, was inspired by Cas Spijkers, who brought French cuisine to the Netherlands, and gathered a handful of trusted friends around him to create a culinary institution in the Ciel bleu. First star in 2005, second in 2007. Chef of the year 2019.
The dish he’s cooking for the Ascher Hut is “Wagyu short rib with shallots, salted lemons and trappeur sauce.”