Raised in Berlin’s trendy, multicultural Kreuzberg neighbourhood, Tim’s cooking philosophy — and his restaurant — wholly channel his youth. Eccentric and enveloped in a cloak of cultural nuances, his signature cuisine has made a name for itself on the international gastronomic stage. A constant on roundups of the world’s top dining venues, including the renowned The World’s 50 Best Restaurants lists, there’s no doubt that Restaurant Tim Raue is a culinary phenomenon well worth experiencing.
Raue is no stranger to the spotlight, though; he received his first Head Chef position at the young age of 23, and since then, the notches on his culinary belt have not stopped incrementing. In 2007, he was awarded his first Michelin star at Swissôtel’s Restaurant 44, along with the coveted title of Chef of the Year from Gault&Millau. After opening Restaurant Tim Raue with business partner, owner and managing director Marie-Anne Wild in 2010, it took only two months for the Michelin Guide to laud it with a Michelin star, followed by a 19-point rating from Gault&Millau and a second Michelin star in 2012, which the restaurant has retained since.
“The peak for me was (and still is) to be part of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. I had never even dreamed of entering that level one day. And it was based on the Gault&Millau guide that spotted me first, later the Michelin Guide awarded us with stars, then there were several Chef of the Year awards, and I cooked four-hands dinners and travelled to food symposiums around the world. The cherry on the cake was a Tim Raue episode on Chef´s Table on Netflix — that made me internationally famous and opened the door for The World’s 50 Best,” shares Raue.
A roaring success story thus far, it’s quite incredible to think that it stems from a stroke of luck in the beginnings of his career. Initially wanting to pursue architecture as a profession, Tim had to give up on this option because of low school attendance.
“Becoming a chef was more a need than an inspiration. I wanted to become an architect but didn´t go to school that often. So I was seeking a craftsman’s job to give me the ability to create something, and as I loved to eat, I did trial days as a chef and loved it.”
And this is a love that hasn’t stopped growing. As a young chef, Raue trained in classic French cooking, but his passion for Asian flavours quickly took the front seat and guided his relationship with food and cooking. This, paired with influences from a multitude of famous chefs, set the wheels in motion for his distinctive Asian-inspired cooking philosophy, based on Cantonese techniques, Japanese purism and Thai flavours.
“Marco-Pierre White, with his rebellious attitude in the kitchen, gave me the ability to understand that I could literally make it from the streets to the stars. Ferran Adrià paved the way for me to create whatever I want out of food. André Jaeger was the one who inspired me to include Asian influences in my kitchen. After travelling to Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Tokyo, I for sure knew that I had to change my cooking and give it a new direction. That was in 2003. So I ‘studied’ these Asian cuisines for four years and started a new Tim Raue style behind the scenes. It took a while, and before I was ready to present this new style, I received my first Michelin star and was awarded Chef of the Year by Gault&Millau in 2006. It was then when I had enough self-confidence to release my new culinary philosophy.”
Although Tim admits that never working under a chef at a two- or three-Michelin-starred restaurant was a mistake, this is probably one of the factors that gave him the creative freedom to develop a cooking style that is so unique. Fearless, uninhibited and unafraid of testing culinary boundaries, his cuisine excites the palate and aims to elicit a reaction. As for his muse for dish creation, it’s travel that keeps his ideas flowing.
“I have seen so much, tasted hundreds of Michelin-star menus and visited all continents. To create, first of all, I need to be relaxed — I must spend some hours playing sport and have a nap. It then comes from nowhere that my mind starts to give me input; I listen and write it down and come back to it later to start flavour pairings and creating proper dishes out of those inspirations. We then work for weeks to make every single detail perfect.
“Over the years, I tend to become more relaxed as a person, and that is, of course, also reflected in my dishes as well. Flavours are not kicking the palates of our guests anymore — it’s more sophisticated; spicy, with a refreshing hint of acidity and a balancing sweetness.
“I love chillies; I need at least a hint of spiciness in every dish, except the desserts. To me, the dishes have to be playful and full of fun, so I add sour and sweet to them. It’s all about the best ingredients with a flavour pairing that is sweet, sour, spicy and a touch herbal.”
A prime example of this is Raue’s wasabi langoustine dish, which he describes as a rollercoaster on the palate. “Textures like crispy and tender; temperatures like hot and cold. It’s sweet, spicy and sour in every bite! It’s me with bright colours and house music.”
All three of the restaurant’s menus follow this same style, whether it’s the vegan menu, the seasonal KOI menu or the KOLIBRI (hummingbird in English) menu. From KOI, guests can expect a celebration of seasonal produce with an Asian flair, such as dim sum with pumpkin, Alba truffle and roasted butter. Meanwhile, KOLIBRI features signature dishes invented within the last eleven years, like Raue’s Peking duck, wasabi langoustine and sangohachi pikeperch with sake and Japanese radish. As an added level of impressiveness, everything on the menu is gluten-free, lactose-free and contains no white sugar wherever possible.
As for the produce, Tim works with suppliers who have become his trusted partners over the last 24 years. Taste reigns supreme when selecting producers, and 99 percent of the ingredients are obtained from Europe. Fish hails from Norway and France, while vegetables come from Germany and Italy. The last percent of his ingredients are sourced from Asia, and these are mainly spices.
Asian influences aren’t only present in the cuisine though; the restaurant’s décor also channels Asia, paired with bold Berlin touches and accented with contemporary art. Housed in a sleek, urban-industrial space at Checkpoint Charlie — the most well-known Berlin Wall crosspoint between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War — the interiors pay homage to the city and its heritage through the predominant use of Prussian blue fabrics.
Envisioned by Ester Bruzkus, an interior designer Tim has now worked with on a further four of his restaurants, the aesthetic harmoniously combines the past and present. It, too, reflects Tim Raue’s childhood and the space’s previous life as a gallery, mirroring motifs from Kreuzberg, like a poured asphalt floor, paired with classic gallery lighting and exhibit-style furnishings. Meanwhile, American walnut furniture, delicate Kvadrat textiles, modern design classics such as the Vitra-reinterpreted Eames Chair and the Kolibri porcelain series developed by Tim Raue in collaboration with ASA SELECTION, bring in a more refined touch.
It’s this Berlin vibe, the flavourful dishes and the personalised hospitality that Tim believes makes his restaurant a must-visit when in the city. As for the reason behind the restaurant’s success? “Try to be better than yesterday; even if anyone sees you at the peak, keep on pushing,” is the chef ’s answer.
Of course, all restaurants have difficulties, but working together with his business partner Marie-Anne and his team of 35 staff, Restaurant Tim Raue sees these through by focusing on the details and working as a unit.
“You have to make sure that you push through every day, in every detail. You need to understand that an operation like this needs dozens of shoulders to handle it; you have to delegate and give trust to the team,” adds Tim. Even with lockdowns remaining a reality, Raue continues to be optimistic. His plan for the future is to focus on his local guests, strengthening this bond for the years to come.
“I always embrace the future with my chin up and an open mind for possibilities. So let´s see what 2022 will have in store for me.”
Meanwhile, in his spare time, you can find him enjoying moments in nature, taking long walks with his wife and dog. A day away from the restaurant is all about enjoying the small, special moments in life, shares Tim: “Lunch at the beach with fresh seafood and time to chill, and dinner with friends with amazing bottles of red burgundy and comfort food.” And this is something we couldn’t agree with more!
This editorial first appeared in FOUR’s 01.22 Edition.