“Reduction is my credo,” says Erwin Gegenbauer, “luxury is simplicity and contentment.” An artisanal vinegar maker renowned the world over for his delicate flavors, it’s a topic dear to him.
When the family business he inherited, a large-scale producer of pickled vegetables, became irreconcilable with his desire for quality and sustainability, he sold it. Instead, he turned to making specialty vinegars, which are now used by many of the world’s best chefs, including Alain Ducasse and Thomas Keller. To ensure byproducts like raspberry pulp don’t go to waste, Gegenbauer started filtering out the seeds, which he presses into subtle gourmet oils.
But his pursuit of exquisite simplicity didn’t end there: After expanding into coffee roasting and microbrewing, Gegenbauer recently moved into the hospitality business, opening five guest rooms at his 10th district home and manufactory. “I hate the modern, impersonal chain hotels. And I hate their buffets,” he says with disapproval in his voice. Hence, he strove for “agri-turismo in the city” or an “urban eco- system,” as he calls it: guest rooms and a rooftop garden as well as access to Gegenbauer’s pool and sauna. The room’s key elements are once again reduced to the essentials – a high-quality bed and a shower and minimal decoration. “You don’t want to wake up seeing a painting you don’t like on the wall.”
Photo credit: Petra Meisel
For breakfast, guests get fresh fruit and eggs from his rooftop garden and if they want to cook in the evening, they can do so in the well-equipped communal kitchen with homegrown vegetables and – of course – Gegenbauer oil and vinegar. Mahlzeit!
Pikeperch and Tuscan kale
Gegenbauer’s recipe – Pikeperch with Tuscan kale
“I love to cook, but I am not a good cook”, Gegenbauer said repeatedly. Isn’t that how every hobby chef feels? This minimalist recipe creates a simple but impressive dish.
· 4 fillets of Zander (pikeperch)
· 12 leaves of Schwarzkohl (Tuscan kale)
· Gegenbauer’s Asparagus vinegar
· Gegenbauer’s Fennel oil
· Salt and pepper
1. Use one fillet of fresh pikeperch per person, season with salt and pepper, and marinate in asparagus vinegar.
2. Chill for two hours, turning the fillets once after an hour.
3. Boil salted water in a pan and blanch the Tuscan kale.
4. Wrap the filet in the warm kale leaves and sprinkle with fennel oil.
Serve with a glass of champagne.