For breakfast he eats musli, he likes to play soccer and is a fan of FC bayern, at work he watches bayern 1. And the best bratwurst is in central franconia, steffen szabo leaves no doubt about that. Since february, the 28-year-old star chef has been head pastry chef at the "schwane" in volkach and responsible for two restaurants . At the "schwane 1404," szabo’s team cooks "upscale local cuisine for heart and belly". And since the end of april, szabo has been offering "experimental flavored cuisine" in the "weinstock," the newly refurbished gourmet restaurant. His demand: "highest level". In coburg, where he last cooked, he had a michelin star. Does he also get it for the "weinstock"?? A conversation between pans and pots.
Question: mr. Szabo, how is it going??
Steffen szabo: i am shocked. When I came to coburg, we closed the gourmet restaurant every other evening for the first six months to a year because it was not accepted. But what we have here reservations – there I sometimes upset myself. It is going too well. We had thought that the guests in the summer, at these high temperatures, want to sit in the courtyard. You don’t want to. In coburg, this was an extreme problem, because i didn’t have a eatery there. The people were bos’ and did not come. I’m from central franconia, was in upper franconia, am now in lower franconia – it’s crazy how extremely different the characters are. As a chef, you really have to adjust and it takes half a year to understand what the guests want from you.
Are the people of lower franconia so hungry? So curious, so open?
Szabo: it just goes down well. In the last few years, nothing has happened in the gastronomy sector. Many say they are closing. Only gourmet restaurant was much too boring for me. We supply both restaurants here, gourmet and gutburgerlich, from one kitchen. That makes already completely different impression with the people from the environment, if you do not only schickimicki. I still cook with myself. You can celebrate up here in the gourmet area at the five tables with pleasure. But actually you should first go through down here in the gutburger restaurant. And I am also here only on the trichter vegetarian come.
To the funnel?
Szabo: I am an absolute fish and meat fan. But I brought my deputy from coburg, who is also my sugar fairy and makes the patisserie. And he said: if he goes again, he wants vegetarian cake from me. That’s why we offer two menus here. One completely vegetarian with nine courses, the other combined with fish and meat.
And then they say aromakuche to it. What’s the difference?
Szabo: that i want to completely exhaust the gemuse with all its flavors. I also serve a dark roast up here. But my roast is made entirely of celery and is vegan. The guest sees and does not know. He thinks there is a lot of calf and beef bones in it.
How do you come up with the idea of making gravy only from celery??
Szabo: in coburg people loved my soben, I couldn’t keep up with soben cooking. Always the same sobe, always the same – I thought that at some point it would get boring for me. I’ll try celery. Three months I have tufted around until the sobe looks one to one like bratensobe. You can ask any other chef who says there’s veal bone in it. My kitchen did not believe it at first . . . Okay, once I cooked them at home. Mistake! You should not do that. There you can’t go to the kitchen for three weeks . . . I wanted to show people that I can get the flavors out of vegetables that they only know from meat. In the past purple carrots were a world product. Today they have them again, in the supermarket, everybody says "wow" – but nobody knows what to do with them.
And that’s why you even have the suben gange at the end with fennel and beet?
Szabo: i don’t just want fruit, which everyone knows, in dessert. We make sure that the vegetables go through and are in each course.
Heibt: they do a lot of cleaning and shuttering.
Szabo: not at all! I don’t want to be washed away. This is getting worse.
Have you experienced this?
Szabo: in coburg i had three concepts: gourmet restaurant, steak and seafood and sushi counter. What you lose with a sushi counter . . . I’ve always found it almost repugnant. Here I use the carrots with peel in the restaurant, because I don’t see why we have to grate them. That’s just not necessary.
What is your first cake memory? What was there in childhood?
Szabo: i grew up on the farm, with my grandma and with my mom. And grandma’s cooked a whole different meal. You can’t tell anyone nowadays. Everybody needs sobe, otherwise it’s dry. There was just nothing, we did not have that in childhood. Not fries, but chicken thighs. We deliberately have liver on the menu: 50 percent say "uaah," 50 percent say "awesome!". Then we have the rabbit leg, you can’t get it anywhere anymore. We used to have them on sundays.
And everything was used?
Szabo: exactly. And it was eaten up. At grandma’s you sat down and got up only when the plate was empty. When I dress a dish, the lettuce is usually on it. I like to have everything on the plate. That’s how I learned it.
Sounds dictatorial . . .
Szabo: on the contrary. We have written the card according to a modular principle. You can vary any dish as a guest. The guests should eat what they feel like, and can combine everything.
You cooked with your grandmother and your mother?
Szabo: rarely. I was very fubballabhangig . . . It wasn’t until i got to know star gastronomy at elmau castle and was sick for eight weeks with a broken fub that the decision was clear: now i’m going to concentrate on cooking.
And now you’re here in your kitchen as coach, team captain, captain, and sports director?
Szabo: no, it always heibt, the star cooks no longer cook with. I’m a normal player in the evening and I’m in it just like everyone else. The apprentice comes with the boss and leaves with the boss. I’m not above cleaning my own place and doing the floor at the end of the day. I ask my boys and madels fruhs, which item they want to cook. I do the one that nobody wants to do. I have always handled it that way.
Your favorite item?
Szabo: clearly fish, meat, sauces! Right now I’m doing the gardemanger, the cold item for the appetizers and the bread and butter service.
And otherwise? Is the cliche of the rough and tumble in the kitchen true??
Szabo: that was the case in the past, in the extreme. Pans have flown before, no one can imagine that today. There you have been waited for. If things get rough at our place for a minute, it’s forgotten right away. And nothing flies anymore. There are a lot of assholes in the industry, I didn’t like that. I like humanity.
What don’t you like to cook??
Szabo: I don’t believe it. Because I was raised that way: you eat everything. What I can do without: foie gras. I don’t need it.
Szabo: bratwurscht with kraut!
Szabo: without! If there’s one thing that comes with it, it’s cranberries.
The most important cake maker?
Szabo: finger palette.
Finger palette? What do you do with it?
Szabo: to prepare the fine, practical things. An absolute sanctuary. If you don’t watch out, they will steal it from you very quickly.
The tweezers they have stuck in their arm?
Szabo: it is more deco. If you want to have a good tweezers . . . I give? I don’t like to. I stole mine from the dentist. And right after the finger palette comes the roulade needle for me.
Szabo: the roulade needle allows me to determine exactly what the cooking point of my meat is, and what the cooking point of my vegetables is. One quick touch on the lip – and you know what temperature, what cooking level.
What steffen szabo cooks in private?
Szabo: I have to say, I’m a huge fan of burger king. Eating pizza, doner, fast food . . ., but okay, I cook a lot of vegetables in my private life and I try a lot of things. One week of private vegan food for example.
What does sternekuche mean to you? Where does the star start?
Szabo: it has become a soft term, because – in my opinion – today there are too many star restaurants. For me it means: spab on the whole menu. Many components, all coordinated. I prepare the food in such a way that each component tastes good on its own. My deputy wants that you taste the whole thing. Sternekuche is for me: still talking about it the next day as a guest.
In coburg you became bavaria’s youngest star chef . . .
Szabo: . . . As a 25-year-old fidget spinner. The star has been there for seven years, I have defended it. Defending is harder than cooking new. But when I look at my first menu in coburg today, I feel ashamed.
Why that? What was on the card?
Szabo: so i served a braised veal cheek with a veal fillet and three mini carrots and a potato puree. I don’t do that anymore, it’s home cooking for me today.
And were the testers already here, in volkach?
Do you know that? Because they announce themselves?
Szabo: at feinschmecker i know it by name. In coburg, the sternefuhrer was there eight times, and once he made himself known. The guides always give you time to develop yourself. They are so humane.
But the goal is already: next star here, or?
Szabo: sure, the demand is there. Because I’m not young, I’ve always had a bad conscience, I’ll be 29 next week . . .
It’s awfully old, really . . .
Szabo: yes, cruel. We have set a goal, we want to have both cakes here. Everything can, nothing must. First of all we want people to talk about us in volkach, the star is secondary. You live in the gastronomy from the turnover.
Your favorite guests?
Szabo: the satisfied. But I also like it when I get complaints. I give out every plate the way I think is right, the way I would eat it. For us, it’s the love of the product. If the guest sees it differently, I will not discuss, but look at it. I only serve gemuse with fish, because it’s cool. When the guest says, there is missing the satiating garnish . . . For me, fish with vegetables or salad is perfect.
Favorite product in summer?
Szabo: i’m glad the asparagus is over . . . I am extremely fond of parsley root. And red beets.
What, how, where will steffen szabo be cooking in ten years??
Szabo: someday i want to have a look at hospital cakes in any case. Star cuisine is a matter of the mind. Before I get burnt out and no longer stress resistant, I would rather cook really well in an old people’s home and look at the beaming faces. Okay, maybe I’ll learn to be a brewer too.
Steffen szabo: the 28-year-old cake chef at the romantic hotel "zur schwane" in volkach is bavaria’s youngest star chef: in 2016, the michelin guide awarded him a star for the first time in the "esszimmer" in coburg. Szabo comes from central franconia; his previous stations were elmau castle and the star restaurant "eisvogel" in the landhotel birkenhof in the upper palatinate lake district. In 2016, szabo was voted top 50 chef by schlemmer atlas and was among the nominees for up-and-coming chef of the year in "feinschmecker" magazine. In volkach, he opened the gourmet restaurant "weinstock" at the end of april.