Almost everyone is a “foodie” these days. We seek out delicious-tasting food at the best restaurants and flood our social media accounts with pictures of fantastic-looking dishes. I have been one of the many “foodies” for years. As time passes by, I’m beginning to want more out of it.
What do I really want?
My food journey began as a fussy Asian who could only eat Asian dishes. Inexpertly, I disregarded the quality of its ingredients. Having been living in Germany for six years and surrounded by colleagues who ate their meals just for the sake of eating, I concluded that there was nothing to be liked about German food.
Familiarity was what I needed as I tried to settle down in a new country. The food culture was too different for me to understand. While I was whipping up dishes that I was familiar with, I started to explore various cuisines in different atmospheres from food stalls to Michelin Star restaurants, but I was unable to get myself accustomed to sausages, beer, schnitzel and that popular green sauce from Frankfurt. I was looking for an opportunity to learn more about the food.
An invitation to JRE’s first gourmet 3-day travel experience provided a whole new glimpse on German food in particular. We all know Michelin Star restaurants, but what role does JRE play? A search on them showed that they are a network of exclusive restaurants and hotels which connects food lovers and experience lovers to gourmet food. While Michelin rates restaurants and awards them for their excellence, JRE provides a platform for young restaurateurs and chefs to network with the aim to foster the passion in delivering a supreme gourmet food experience. Sounds impressive!
Throughout the three days, I and other 6 food enthusiasts (Corinna, Phoebe, Jens, Caro, Petra and Julia) had one of the best food experiences of our lives. We drank the finest wines and champagnes, and were served delectable food. It finally helped me to gain entirely new insights on the German food culture. There is one after all!
Tell a story through food presentation
Most gourmet food is associated with beautifully aligned food with lots of wasted space on the plate.
The experience at Oliver Röder’s restaurant Landlust Burg Flammersheim was mind-blowing. I do mean it. Ox tail cooked with celery and apple in the shape of a cigar? Oliver paired the “cigar” with ox tail soup in a brandy glass. The creativity that went in it is exceptional!
Nils Henkel at Restaurant Burg Schwarzstein, on the other hand, created such an harmonious piece of art on the plate with several shades of greens using merely natural and fresh ingredients. The dish was composed of kingfish, pomelo, celery and ceviche, and surprises with a pleasantly light taste. Just like spring.
Each dish delivered a story through its presentation. It became an essential part of the entire dining experience along the Rhine. Serving with a story also the guest recall the flavours after months and offers a subtle emotional attachment to the presentation. It is true when people say that you eat with your eyes first! The sight, odor, taste and sometimes the sound of food crucially impacts one’s impression of a serving.
Passion should be in everything we do
I have long admired the deep passion and diligent dedication of brands and establishments for what they create, especially when they are passed down through generations. Little did I know that JRE has built a solid network of such gems.
If you follow me on Instagram Stories, you might have seen the hotel I spent a night in. Marek Gawel is a proud 5th generation owner of the Bellevue Rheinhotel who only strives for the very best. Often, family restaurants and hotel establishments of many generations tend to be lacklustre. However, the Bellevue Rheinhotel stands out of the crowd and Marek speaks of his great ambition of transforming the business using the internet. Marek believes that his effort to communicate with his guests online through booking and social media platforms will help to identify issues and to improve business processes.
While the first hotel building is classical and charming, the new apartment building by Bellevue Rheinhotel is large and tastefully decorated, just like its brand.
Service during dinner at Le Chopin Restaurant (inside Bellevue Rheinhotel) was impeccable and the food was astonishing. Pastry chef Stefan Kneip and I had a conversation about how he enjoys creating desserts for his family just like the desserts he served us. It is made of a chocolate, hibiscus jelly and basil combination. I smiled the moment I took a spoonful. Stefan shows great excitement for his work and said that it is sometimes hurtful when others say that they love eating mass-produced ice cream. It just shows how much passion he has for his food!
The Management of Bollant Spa & Hotel is another family-run business which really impressed me. The whole establishment consists of a beautiful spa, hotel and restaurants. A tour around the premise by Nicole Prass-Anton (Head of Spa) and Janine Bolland-Georg (Hotel Manager) was given to us with so much passion. You were able to see that they have put their heart and soul into every detail. Despite having their main business in wellness and spa, gourmet restaurants are also in their focus. Their Gourmetrestaurant Jungborn is home of two Michelin Star chefs! We did not have a chance to eat there but I want return for a wellness and culinary experience!
Throughout the gourmet journey, I had the priviledge to meet passionate people like Marek, running businesses which they all truly believe in and are proud of. I learned that a brand can remain stagnant and be well-forgotten if changes are not made. It is the undying passion that you have for your brand to in order to continue improving. Such commendable ethics will easily capture the hearts of customers and encourage them to spread the name of the brand.
Quality of ingredients plays a significant role
Of course, that makes sense! We are what we eat, right? I used to enjoy using lots of ingredients without knowing their origin. As I began to do the groceries on my own in Germany, I learned more about the different origins of a certain ingredient and how the tastes differ under various conditions.
My experience at Oliver Röder’s restaurant was a very good example. A dish which we tried had lamb shank served in an egg-shaped ceramic container.
Although I’m not a big fan of lamb due to its gamey flavour, the taste of this lamb shank was surprisingly pleasant and it literally melted in my mouth along with the silky texture of the raw egg yolk which it was served with. My tastebuds were dancing gleefully! I took a moment to wonder why the gamey flavour was not present at all. Hans-Jürgen Lammers from Lapinchen, a breeding shed and slaughter house, explained it best: His lambs move freely in their environment and only ate natural food. The result is excellent as the meat will be low in fat, delicate and excellent in taste! Much effort is needed to produce high-quality meat which in return will result in delicious tasting meals.
German food is actually delicious!
The food which was served to us since day one was nothing short of spectacular. I learned how the chefs use regional products and were constantly creative with their dishes. Even a simple Schnitzel had its right way of cooking while I always thought that it was just another deep-fried piece of meat.
Bertl served us the popular Frankfurt Green Sauce in his own interpretation. Served with some perfectly cooked scrambled eggs and caviar, I was not able to stop myself eating them. Oh boy. That was it.
Now I know that my flawed perception of German’s lack of taste was not because that German food isn’t flavourful but because I had not found good German food. The whole trip was so rewarding! Everyone whom I met were deeply passionate about the food they cooked. Speaking to professionals in the industry made me think a lot after the trip.
As a “foodie” running an online publication on food, I now do not only want to eat delicious food but I crave to learn more about food, the ingredients and each component that makes up a delicious plate of meal. The experience also challenged me to think creatively in every way, the details of the recipe and also the presentation of the food.
I honestly think that gourmet food is worth it because I learned a lot and it is quality that one is paying for. Added to that, paying a higher price is a token of appreciation, not only for the food but for the whole thought-process and the details that happen behind the scenes!
Now, how can I present the classic Curry Laksa and turn it into gourmet food? That’s a challenge!
If you enjoyed this and would love read more on the whole journey, I think Corinna did a fantastic write up on the details which brought back lots of memories while Jens shared how low carb diet and gourmet food fit perfectly!