In the end it’s always a question of taste
Interview with Andreas Kaiblinger
Restaurant Esszimmer has been one of Salzburg’s top addresses since 2004. Chef de cuisine, author, blogger, and teacher Andreas Kaiblinger treats his guests to high-class culinary delights in a sophisticated atmosphere. The restaurant manager doesn’t actually have time for an interview with La Loupe but he decided to briefly abandon his usual duties anyway and the talk ended when the first guests of the night appeared at the door.
L.L./ The Esszimmer (= German for dining room) is part of a home – what are guests supposed to bring for a present? Experience or curiosity?
A.K./ Both would be ideal, actually. But curiosity is a bit of a thing here: at a certain price range people tend to become a bit more selective anyway. Being able to indulge, however, that’s a capacity everyone needs to bring to the table – irrespective of the price. Example: if I’m going to treat myself to something special because I can but it doesn’t actually make me happy it’s already lost its appeal. And the same goes for food. If you’ve got the money but you can’t focus on the dish in front of you and the atmosphere in general the visit becomes trivial.
We tend to get the one or the other “label drinker” where it’s just about completing some artificial ritual without looking at the price – but of course we’re not here to decide what is supposed to be done and how. We see ourselves as a guideline in a protected space where all your sense get the room they need. See, smell, feel, hear, and, of course, taste. The guest gets here and when they leave again they’re supposed to be happy!
L.L./ You look back on a lot of experience, the Esszimmer has been in your hands since 2004. What key moments do you remember that helped you find your style and guided you on the path towards haute cuisine?
A.K./ Right, let me back up a little here (laughs): it all started in my early childhood where I did not spend my time in the kitchen watching my Mum cook. I spent my afternoons outside playing soccer. I was an average student and I think my parents were a little afraid nothing would ever become of their boy.
However, then I went to a high school with a focus on the hotel industry and there it was, the first key moment – during my first practical training I had such a great chef de cuisine who was also an excellent educator. You can say I kind of slipped into it all. Over the course of time there came more and more of those coincidental encounters that got me closer to the métier.
And this way it all developed over time. In 1996 my wife and I opened our first restaurant, with a mere 6 tables and a very simple menu. Much to our surprise we were awarded one Star. And even though things developed in a different direction both in my private life and at work after that you could say that this adventure really was the foundation of everything.
L.L./ You work in a team with your wife, you have a cooking blog “Essen Lieben” (= love to eat) and you write cookbooks. So – cooking obviously is your passion but what is it you want to communicate and pass on? Would you say people should focus and do their thing not just well but better than well!?
A.K./ It hasn’t been just about cooking for a long time. Everyone who knows their way around the industry a little bit knows that there are a lot of people who can cook. And if the cuisine is good but the service is bad that’s not going to go anywhere. Period. The blog was the result of a personal story that we simply decided to write down. I love my job and I’m never bored but there also is so much more out there than just cooking. Which is how I discovered boxing. And that really expanded my horizon. It’s not about running after every new trend, it’s about following your own path. And I found my own way.
L.L./ People can also learn from you – to cook, namely! What do your classes look like? Watch and learn or learning by doing?
A.K./ “Cooking with Andreas” is more of a conspirational affair with the culinary aspects on top. Of course, the participants can ask questions and in most cases I can answer them, too. But it’s more about the time spent together. We sit down together with nice people, we eat what we’ve cooked and we have a drink and enjoy good conversation. And I always say: you come here a client and you leave a friend. Cooking really isn’t supposed to be just about the cooking and the dishes, it’s supposed to be about the time spent together, really.
L.L./ Salzburg is a land of epicures – both cultural and culinary. How much of Salzburg do you have in you?
A.K./ When you walk through the city with your eyes open you realise what a privilege it is to be living here. Salzburg simply has it all. It’s a mystical place. And there is a lot of Salzburg in me.
Less trendy but all the more authentic, that’s award-winning chef Andreas Kaiblinger. Aside from his passion for cooking he was the first star chef in the province to start his own food blog - “Essen Lieben” - and debut as an author. Aside from that the owner of restaurant Esszimmer regularly inspires the participants of his cooking classes “Kochen mit Andreas”. And all that even though cooking for him is not just about inventing new things, it’s more about rediscovering things. Always following the motto: quality and indulgence are key. In spite of all the praise and the amazing reputation Andreas Kaiblinger has remained very down-to-earth and he sees his passion for cooking as was it is: a passion that only works out in combination with good service.