Five Culinary Trends for the Future
There are no limits to creativity in cooking. © Tirol Werbung /Sebastian Gabriel
Food also has its fashions. Some trends stay, others disappear as quickly as they came. Molecular cuisine? Don't worry if you've never heard of it. Other trends, however, are more than just fads. They concern the way we use and value our resources. These trends will stay, particularly in fine-dining locations. We set out on a culinary journey of discovery through Tirol with our finger on the pulse of the latest food fashions.
1. "Eat food. Not much. Mostly plants." (Michael Pollan)
It was something of a revolution. A sensation in fine-dining circles which surprised some and dismayed others. Eleven Madison Park, a restaurant in Manhattan awarded three coveted Michelin Stars and selected as the Best Restaurant in the World in 2017, recently announced that it was changing its menu to vegan-only produce. It was news that was hard to swallow (!) for lovers of classic dishes such as lobster poached in butter or duck with a honey and lavender glaze. Daniel Humm, head chef at Eleven Madison Park, sees the new approach as an exciting challenge. "Over the course of the past year our world has changed – and we have changed with it. When we reopen we will be offering a 100% plant-based menu," he explains on the restaurant's website. One of the world's best restaurants going vegan? Humm says that in his opinion the term "vegan" has become too loaded. He prefers to speak of "animal-free produce". The word "vegan" does not appear once on the menu or on the website.
Like it or loathe it, there's no denying that veganism is booming right now. Magazines and newspapers are full of articles on animal rights, protecting the environment and making our way of life more sustainable. Eating less meat, they argue, is one key way in which we can protect our planet for the generations to come. Here in Austria, restaurants and their diners have also moved with the times. Long gone are the days when salads were "rabbit food". A key player in Tirol's own vegan revolution is Paul Ivic. Hailing from the village of Serfaus in the west of Tirol, his vegetarian restaurant TIAN has been awarded one Michelin Star. Indeed, despite its traditional love of meat, Tirol has (alongside the capital Vienna) become a bit of a hotspot for vegetarian and vegan food. Two restaurants in particular need to be mentioned in this context: Oniriq and Chez Nico, both in Innsbruck. It was Nico Curtil who brought the revolution to the regional capital years ago with his fine-dining restaurant using only vegetarian produce. Now it is Christoph Bickel who has taken up the mantle and created a concept in which the core menu is still vegetarian but diner can add meat and fish if they wish to do so. The dishes are as creative as they are mouth-watering. For example, carrots in a salt crust with a goat's cheese and cardamon jus. Or cauliflower carpaccio, sliced wafer thin and served with elderflower berries and lime blossom vinaigrette. Okay, just one more: iced spring herbs with meringue, advocaat and French sorrel (pictured below). For all those whose mouths are watering at the prospect of trying any of these, we can only recommend a visit to Oniriq in Innsbruck – a little restaurant with a big future.
Christoph Bickel and Nikolai Prachensky, chef and sommelier at Oniriq. © Tirol Werbung /Sebastian Gabriel
One of Christoph Bickel's vegetarian variations: iced spring herbs with advocaat and French sorrel. © Tirol Werbung /Sebastian Gabriel
One of Christoph Bickel's vegetarian variations: iced spring herbs with advocaat and French sorrel. © Tirol Werbung /Sebastian Gabriel
Oniriq in Innsbruck is a haven for fans of vegetarian food. © Tirol Werbung /Sebastian Gabriel
Oh, and before we move on to the next trend we simply have to mention Peter Fankhauser. His restaurant Guatz’ Essen in the Zillertal Valley is committed to 100% vegan and vegetarian food, all sourced from the local region – in fact most of it is from his own organic garden. The food he and his team create from these ingredients is just as spectacular as vegetarian pioneer and Michelin-starred chef Paul Ivic. Remember the name: Peter Fankhauser. And keep reading to find out more about him.
2. Nose-to-Tail: The Art of Using Everything
Finding a good seguay from veganism to nose-to-tail cooking is a little bit of a challenge, to say the least. After all, one involves using absolutely no animal products, while the other involves using absolutely everything on an animal – including all those bits we normally ignore like liver, heart, kidneys, etc. And yet, veganism and nose-to-tail do have something in common: they are both about respecting the animal, albeit in very different ways. Vegans ask themselves how they can create delicious food without the need for animal-based products. Fans of the nose-to-tail philosophy ask themselves how they can waste as little of the animal as possible.
Fergus Henderson, an eccentric British chef famous for his pinstripe suit and round spectacles, is considered by many to be the father of the nose-to-tail movement. In 1999 he published a book of the same name based on some of his favourite nose-to-tail recipes served up in his St. John eatery in London. A number have already become modern classics, for example his woodcock medley featuring the head, beak, tongue and brain as well as the more commonly eaten breast. Pig's tail is another favourite. Both recipes show that there is much more to cooking than just chicken breast and pork chop.
The nose-to-tail trend has also arrived in Austria. Indeed, using everything an animal has to offer has a long tradition here. Viennese cuisine has long prided itself on its offal-based dishes. This waste-nothing, use-everything philosophy is now experiencing a Renaissance, led by chefs such as Max Stiegl. Voted Chef of the Year in 2020 by the renowned Gault&Millau restaurant guide, his name has become synonymous with a dish known as "Sautanz". It involves slaughtering a pig early in the morning and then using everything you can, including innards, brain, etc. He also serves up duck (with tongue, heart and stomach), pig (with brain and testicles), Mangalitza pig (with ears) and cow (with tripe and tongue). Nose-to-tail is a cooking philosophy where chefs can showcase their skills to the fullest.
Two men, one restaurant: Starting their own business was a dream come true for Waal Sterneberg (left) and Thomas Kluckner (right).
Cooking time: Lunch time is rush hour in the kitchen of the Meilerhof – no convenience products but instead lots of home-made dishes.
The ZOMM restaurant receives their meat not in finely packaged portions but one animal at a time - the best way to make sure everything is used. © Tirol Werbung / Verena Kathrein
Two more well-known exponents of this trend are Thomas Kluckner and Waal Sterneberg from ZOMM. im Meilerhof near Seefeld. Both have an impressive CV. Waal cooked in Haya Molcho’s Neni in Vienna before taking over in 2016 from Lukas Mraz at the famous Cordobar in Berlin. When the time finally came for him to set up his own restaurant he turned to his friend Thomas Kluckner, with whom he had worked at the three-star De Librije restaurant in the Netherlands. Kluckner made his friend wait a little as he completed his training as a chef in Zwolle, Portugal, America and New Zealand before returning home to Tirol. As the saying goes, good things come to those who wait – the restaurant opened by Thomas and Waal has been a hit. Classics in the making include their ragout of veal lights. Unlike many restaurants, ZOMM doesn't receive its meat in neatly packaged cuts – local farmers deliver half a pig or half a cow to the duo on a regular basis and leave the rest to them. For the chefs it means a lot more work, but it is the only way they can be sure that every part of the animal is used. Other locations following the nose-to-tail philosophy include "das grander" in Wattens run by head chef Thomas Grander, who specialises in game and lamb bezieht er gerne im Ganzen. Wild von befreundeten Jägern, Lämmer – all sourced from local hunters and farmers, of course.
3. Radical Regionality: New Nordic Cuisine
Of all the many trends which have come and gone in the cooking scene in recent decades, few have had more of an impact than New Nordic Cuisine. This approach, which found its culmination in René Redzepi's legendary Noma restaurant in Kopenhagen, influenced every aspect of cooking: the sourcing of the produce, the cooking methods themselves, the presentation on the plate. Little wonder, I suppose, considering than from 2010 Noma was voted Best Restaurant in the World four times. Dining at Noma has become a pilgrimage for foodies the world over. Its most famous dishes are legendary. "Young Vegetables", for example, comes in the form of a plant pot where even the earth (roasted haselnuts and malt flour) can be eaten. It comes with a green emulsion made from yoghurt and tarragon, topped off with a carrot (a real carrot!) and a radish (a real radish!). The driving idea behind New Nordic Cuisine is "back to nature". Chefs from restaurants such as Noma can be found foraging in the forests of Denmark and Sweden, searching for the best produce the land has to offer.
Gunther Döberl, head chef at STIAR in Ischgl, is one of the leading lights in the New Alpine Cuisine movement in Tirol. © Tirol Werbung / Sebastian Gabriel
This philosophy can also be applied to Tirol, a region with a rich landscape and proud history of farming and foraging. The Tirolean version of New Nordic Cuisine, which I suppose you could call New Alpine Cuisine, has already developed its own characteristics and identity which set it apart from Noma and co. Gunther Döberl, head chef at STIAR in Ischgl, is one of its leading proponents. Unlike some other chefs, Döberl isn't a man who enjoys the limelight. He may have trained in top restaurants in Portugal, Switzerland and Ireland, but today he prefers working away in his kitchen in Ischgl. Highly respected by other chefs, Döberl has made the restaurant at the five-star Hotel Silvretta one of the leading dining locations in Tirol. A pre-starter of dried bacon and cheese is followed by an amuse gueule in the form of a cardamom cream soup – Döberl simply loves cardamom – and smoked eel with caviar and celeriac tartlets with fir-tree powder. A simple but delicious combination. Meat dishes include filet of beef with asparagus, peas and buckwheat.
Günther Doberl, a cooking virtuoso at work. © Tirol Werbung / Sebastian Gabriel
"Maashof" is a dish where all the ingredients come from the restaurant's own farm, the Maashof: veal, asparagus, peas and buckwheat. © Tirol Werbung / Sebastian Gabriel
4. Back to the Roots: New Ancient Knowledge
Closely connected to New Alpine Cuisine is a tradition which could be called "back to the roots". It revolves around two core ideas. The first is rediscovering old recipes and using ingredients which used to be popular but have been forgotten over the years. The second is the tradition of pickling and preserving produce in summer to be eaten in the barren winter months. The big trend at the moment is fermemtation. Without knowing it, we all eat fermeted produce every day: chocolate, wine, cheese, yoghurt, etc. Without the help of bacteria it would be impossible to produce these foods. Sauerkraut, a firm favourite in Tirol, is cabbage which is broken down by bacteria during the fermentation process. The same phenomemon is responsible for producing lactose, fructose and the sugar which can be found in alcohol. Fermentation makes it easier for us humans to digest the food when we eat it – and on top of that it gives the produce a different taste and preserves it in many cases for months or years on end.
In some parts of the world fermented food is a real delicacy. Kimchi is one of South Korea's most famous exports, for example. Soy sauce in Japan is also fermented. And, last but not least, who could forget the fermented fish found in many Scandinavian countries? This trend has now also reached Austria. Heinz Reitbauer, chef at the world-famous Steirereck restaurant in Vienna, serves his deer's heart with fermented turnip. He also likes to use salt and whey bacteria to ferment morels and often uses garum (fermented fish sauce) instead of salt as a condiment.
Here in Tirol it is Peter Fankhauser from Guatz’ Essen who is leading the way. He draws on the many weird and wonderful vegetables produced by his permaculture garden (including pumpkins, cucumbers and beans) and also enjoys fermenting mushrooms and berries. Anything that is left over is turned into jam, chutney or gelée (black elderberry, dandelion, etc.). He specialises in making "Moalach", a sweet jam from the Zillertal Valley made from young pine-tree shoots. Everything is then stored away in the kitchen cupboards ready for winter.
Peter Fankhauser’s garden draws on the principles of permaculture, a philosophy of working with rather than against nature by following the flow of the seasons. © Tirol Werbung / Sebastian Gabriel
Peter Fankhauser has perfected the art of fermentation. © Tirol Werbung / Sebastian Gabriel
The second aspect of "back to the roots" is rediscovering ancient recipes. Claudia Kogler and her team at the Wilderin restaurant in Innsbruck are experts at precisey this. Run by Claudia Kogler (the boss), her brother Michael (service manager) and their head chef, the Wilderin is one of Innsbruck's leading eateries and famous well beyond the borders of Tirol. When it comes to the recipes, Claudia and the crew like to look back to the past to gain inspiration for the future. They use a wide range of ancient crops native to Tirol as well as old animal species which would have been eaten by people here hundreds, in some cases thousands, of years ago. If you want to know more, there is only one way to find out...
Sweet temptation. © Tirol Werbung / Sebastian Gabriel
5. Fusion Cooking: The World on a Plate
So far we have talked a lot about regional produce, back to the roots, local farmers, etc. But that certainly doesn't mean that there is a lack of exotic food in Tirol. "Fusion cooking" is the name of the game – the idea of bringing together recipes, ingredients and chefs from around the globe. This multicultural approach promotes mutual understanding and also happens to result in some pretty amazing food.
In cities across Austria and around the world this idea is nothing new. In Innsbruck, for example, Lucy Wang's two restaurants have brought the Japanese traditions of sushi and sashimi to Tirol. However, true fusion cooking is about more than just import/export. One of of the most exciting initiatives in this regard is the Sherpa Project. Set up 15 years ago, it aims to bring members of the Sherpa community in Nepal to Tirol each summer to work at the huts high in the mountains. During their time in Austria the Sherpas can learn how to run a hut and acquire the skills they need to set up similar businesses back home in Nepal. The project has been a great success – and the Sherpas have brought not only an incredible work ethic and infectious enthusiasm but also plenty of delicious recipes from their home country. One of the huts taking part in the project, the Glungezer Hütte at 2,600 metres above sea level, has Spaghetti à la Kathmandu on the menu. This dish was created a few years ago by Sherpa Purba and is now one of the best sellers among walkers and hikers. From the mountains of Nepal to the mountains of Tirol – now that's what we call fusion food!
Kami and Lhemi have moved from the Sudetendeutsche Hütte and will be working at the Stuttagrter Hütte this summer.
The hut serves traditional Tirolean food ...
... and Nepalese delicacies such as "momos".