What are your earliest memories of being interested in food and to become a Chef?
My earliest memoriesof the restaurant trade are the ones in my grandparents’ pub where there was always aslice of freshly baked mixed-grain bread spread with butter and topped with Westphalianham waiting for me as I came through the door and where I would fall asleep in theevening to the chatter of customers and the sound of people clattering around in thekitchen. Nevertheless, many years later, when I finished school, Ihad no idea ofwhatdot do afterwards.While my twin brother decided to become a joiner, the results of anaptitude test at the local job centre suggested that I was best suited to being either acook, a baker or a farmer. I settled on becoming a cook, and even at that early stage Iinformed his parents that “if I’m going to be a cook then I’m going to be a good one”, aprinciple to which I remain true to this day.
What would you say has inspired your cooking the most?
For sure traveling as well as the culinary garden of Ippenburg Castle that I am allowed to use.
Describe your culinary style…
My cuisine is avantgardistic and aromatic, featuring each individual product’s natural flavour as the basis for all of my dishes. I am convinced there is no more authentic and intense taste than the original, pure taste of a product. Which is why I always places the natural flavour in the foreground, often experimenting for weeks with various techniques to create purist “taste bombs”.
Another characteristic of my cuisine is the way we prepare our dishes: My cuisine is dominated by my penchant for low-temperature cooking. My according motto is “take your foot off the gas”, and by this I am not only referring to the time taken to prepare a dish but, in particular, to the temperature at which it is cooked. Rather than pan-searing a fillet of fish, for instance, I prefersto braise it for a few minutes in homemade infused oil at no more than 55°C. Meat and vegetables are also cooked “sous vide”, i.e. in a bain-marie. This allows plenty of time to fully bring out the different aromas and also makes for a much more relaxed atmosphere in the kitchen.
However, just as important as the technique is an extensive range of a cuisine: rather than viewing our set menus as a collection of disparate courses, we liken them to a symphony. Sometimes the violin can be heard, at other times it is the oboe – but strong emotions are only ever aroused when the whole orchestra comes together. I love these supposed opposites, and try to compose them when assembling our set menus: purist dishes are juxtaposed with playfully arranged plates, creating a sensuous dramaturgy.
This year marks your tenthanniversary at La Vie, what will you be doing to celebrate?
We will throw a big house party onApril1, presenting classics from 10 years la vie. On top of that, we will have guest chefs coming to la vie from all over the world during the entire year. We have Vicky Lau and Gert de Mangeleer in May, Andreas Caminda in June, Jonnie Boer and Tanja Grandits in September as well as Björn Franzen in October.
What do you feel are the mostimportant things you have learnt over the last ten years?
Patience and humbleness. Aswell as the understanding that you can only play in the top league when really everyone of your team is standing behind the same idea.
What can the guests expect from you during the exclusive event?
For suresomearomatic taste bombs that are characteristic for our la vie cuisine.
What kind of experience do you generally aim to give guests when you cook for them?
In general, I just wish that my guests enjoy abeautifulevening in a relaxed atmosphere and that they experience a level of taste they have not experienced before.
What are your most indispensable ingredients?
Love – for cooking and for using greatproducts only.
What would you say has been the most memorable moment in your culinary career so far?
My third Michelin star,
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self, starting out a career in the world of food?
Make as manynotes as you can as well as pictures.
What’s next for you/What projects do you have lined up?
Definitely our 10year anniversary of la vie this year in April. We are going to welcome guest chefs from around the world, among them Andreas Caminada, Vicky Lau, Björn Frantzen and many more.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Bread and cheese.
What restaurant is currently at the top of your list to dine at?
Per Se in New York andAndreas Caminadas restaurant at SchlossSchauensteinin Switzerland.
Find out all about Thomas’s culinary career