From the mountains to the forests, lakes, hills, and plateaus — whether covered in snow or blooming under the soft spring sun — the pristine Swiss landscape is omnipresent in chef Sven Wassmer’s cuisine. And this comes as no surprise considering where this celebrated chef was born: in Switzerland’s lush countryside.
“I was born in the ‘Fricktal’ in Switzerland, a green rural valley between Basel and Zürich. I’ve had the privilege of always having been surrounded by fresh produce. Our family cooked, we had our own vegetable and fruit garden and lots of nature around. My original inspiration [to become a chef] came from my mother and grandmother, who valued food and eating and paid attention to fresh ingredients.”
Armed with a passion for natural produce and a desire to hone his cooking skills, Sven kicked off his culinary career with a three-year apprenticeship at the Swissôtel in Basel. He then joined renowned chef Andreas Caminada’s three-Michelin-starred kitchen at Schloss Schauenstein in Fürstenau in 2009 before moving to London to take up a Sous Chef position at Viajante restaurant. Although he enjoyed travelling, it was during this time that he realised there was nowhere else he wanted to be except his Swiss homeland, cooking his beloved Alpine cuisine.
“After completing my apprenticeship in Switzerland, I headed to, amongst other destinations, London to learn, grow and, get inspired by a big city. Funny enough, what I discovered was my love for Switzerland and the Alps when I was away. I realised that Swiss cuisine did not have a voice in the international foodie landscape. So while being confronted with multiculturism, having friends from all over to learn from and appreciating different cultures, I rediscovered my love for Swiss Alpine cuisine.”
This led Sven back to his native Switzerland, where he worked at Park Hotel Vitznau under chef Nenad Mlinarevic. Things started to hit full throttle in 2014 when Sven undertook his first Chef de Cuisine role at 7132 Silver Restaurant at Hotel 7132 in Vals, which was awarded one Michelin star in 2016 and two Michelin stars in 2017 under his tutelage. A guest chef residency at Ikarus restaurant at Hangar 7 in Salzburg was Wassmer’s next step on his path to culinary greatness, which eventually led him to be named the Culinary Director of the esteemed Grand Resort Bad Ragaz in 2019. This is when his debut gourmet restaurant, Memories, was born. A sleek, thirty seat dining venue dedicated to showcasing fine-dining Alpine cuisine in all its glory, this is Sven’s personal stage where he brings his gastronomic magic to life.
“We are located within the leading health and wellness resort in Europe, the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz. We have access to our own thermal spring, which represents a long tradition of the highest level of hospitality and service quality. It is a place of inspiration.”
Envisioned by Swiss interior designer Claudio Carbone, the restaurant is an elegant oasis that mirrors Sven’s love for nature. With the feel of a comfortable living room, every facet recalls an element from the natural environment, from the Serpentinite stone walls that replicate the mountains to the wooden, Alpine-shaped fixtures that give privacy and mimic a forest. This magical milieu forms the backdrop for Sven’s favourite aspect of the restaurant: the beautiful open kitchen. Lit up as the dining room’s focal point, it offers guests an unobstructed view of the chefs at work — nothing is hidden, every move is seen, and this complete transparency between the diners and the cooks is what spurs Sven on.
“I call it ‘the new way of hospitality’; I want my restaurant experience to be approachable and provide a new level of hospitality. Guests, service, and kitchen should unite and create unforgettable memories.”
More than just making new moments to cherish, Sven also hopes his cuisine will evoke fond recollections. By creating cuisine that stimulates all the senses, he aims to conjure up the diners’ connection to nature: all it takes is a specific smell, texture, or flavour, and those beloved reminiscences start springing back into one’s mind. For Sven, it’s about reviving these embedded feelings and rekindling a sense of wonder, adventure, and happiness to create a dining experience that can be savoured in one sitting yet will remain etched in the diner’s mind for eternity.
“My kitchen is highly reduced and product-focused. It might not be created for Instagram, but surely for the guest. I want guests to remember the evening and hold fond memories of eating my food. It connects to experiences many of us lived through when we were young — be it walking barefoot over a field, smelling trees in a forest or feeling the fresh mountain breeze during a hike. I am fascinated by the products the Alpine region has to offer. Also, the techniques used back in the day can be replicated and elevated with modern touches. The Swiss Alps are home to me, and if I want to give people a taste of Sven Wassmer, it is synonymous with giving them a taste of the Swiss Alps.”
“I draw my inspiration from nature, particularly the mountains and forests. Especially mountains, they have been here for millions of years; they are strong, provide protection and are unpredictable at the same time. They consist of many layers, like a human being or, eventually, a set table. Everything rests on top of something else, and a strong foundation is crucial.
“Creativity can come and come. My favourite dishes are the ones that immediately work and that are based on instincts. The main guidance is the seasons and the micro seasons. I think about what a particular producer has to offer right now, then I think about how to add Alpine spirit and, finally, other elements that will give it emotion. I look for producers who share my passion for great produce, who share my values and, of course, who have the same ideas and principles of sustainability.”
Over and above sourcing the best products from local farmers, Sven also enjoys venturing into the forest to forage his own mushrooms, herbs, and vegetables. Not only does this provide the chef with some much-needed time for self-reflection, but it also allows him to understand and appreciate the effort producers go through to get their products to his restaurant. Another aspect Sven enjoys about picking his own ingredients is that he can see exactly where they have come from — an integral factor when he selects what to cook with. What’s more, nature has a way of feeding one’s soul and boosting energy levels, so the chef is as bolstered as ever to cook when he returns from his foraging expeditions. One of Sven’s favourite ingredients to use is fir, a quintessentially Alpine plant that wholly represents his passion for showcasing the treasures of his native landscape.
“Fir is a beautiful, strong and universal symbol of the Alps. Everyone is aware of it; everyone has their own connection to fir, be it the cones, the tree, or the smell. Furthermore, the fir tree is able to grow from the sea-side to the top of mountains. They are adaptable, and while leaf trees are unable to grow in high altitudes, fir trees are the ones forming the tree line at approximately 2,000 meters above sea level.”
Naturally, this prized plant is also one of the integral components of one of his signature dishes: mountain char with caramelised cream and fir tree. As the chef describes it: “This is Sven on a plate. It has been on the menu for seven years, and it was the first dish that I truly had the courage to cook, reduced and product-focused. All my favourite products are combined — fish, dairy, and fir.”
Another dish guests can look forward to features seasonal sorrel, served in ice cream with pine chantilly cream and poached fir cones. Then there’s Sven’s take on traditional Swiss “Knöpfli”, a small dumpling locals eat during childhood, representing comfort and soul food. Sven’s elevated version features cheese water, truffle, and roasted yeast, which takes these dumplings to a whole different level.
It’s not only the food that provides an elevated dining experience, though. The wine programme at Memories has also been carefully conceived to enhance every aspect of diners’ visits to the restaurant. Overseen by sommelier Sebastian Stichter and Sven’s wife Amanda, this duo provides a fresh, unrestricted take on wine pairings.
“Our sommelier, Sebastian Stichter, and my wife, Amanda, also one of the two Wine Directors at the resort, focus heavily on the pairing. They are open to anything, from orange wine to beer. Usually, they test five to six wines and decide on a ‘winner’ together. They focus on the local wines from the canton of Graubünden as well as European ones. We do not serve wines from the ‘New World’, in line with our Alpine philosophy. Finally, our non-alcoholic pairing with teas, kombuchas, and flavoured waters is also a big focal point for us.”
To create a harmonious relationship between the restaurant’s key players —from the sommeliers to the kitchen staff and front of house — Sven always prioritises teamwork. And to guarantee his team can give their best during service, he encourages a work-life balance.
“To me, it is all about reflecting day in and day out. And about trying to become a better leader. To be a leader to me means finding each team member’s strengths and encouraging and promoting them. We, as a team, are like racehorses in their boxes on racing day. All are eager to run and give their best. As the Head Chef, I am the one opening the gate. When everyone is prepared to give it all and focused on achieving goals, it is important that the social part does not come short. Therefore, we also must make room for the less serious. Work is part of life; all there is for me is life. I want to make the best out of it, and one of my biggest challenges is ensuring the team has room and energy for life outside the kitchen.”
On a personal level, he attributes his success to always staying true to himself and what he believes —and this has more than resonated with guests and critics. His passion and hard-working attitude, where he seeks to constantly evolve and learn, have earned him and the restaurant several awards. Initially lauded with two Michelin stars off the bat in 2020, Memories went on to earn its third star in Switzerland’s latest Michelin Guide, cementing its place
amongst the world’s gastronomic elite.
A dream come true for the chef; he’s more motivated than ever to continue delivering the apex of culinary excellence to his diners. Simple but effective, his vision for 2023 is to have a full restaurant with happy guests where he can continue to spread his love for Swiss Alpine cuisine. And this all while loving and nurturing his proudest achievement: his family. His two children and wife, Amanda, truly make his life complete.
To find out more about Sven Wassmer and Memories, contact the restaurant using the below details: