Stefan Zimmermann

Stefan Zimmermann

Vegetables from grandma’s garden

He cooks for just 16 guests every evening, and that is fine by him. After a rocky start in the industry, Stefan Zimmermann soon came into his own. At «S.Zimmer» in Adelboden, the chef relies on vegetables grown by his grandma, Hungarian street food and his wife Tünde.

The «S.Zimmer» is a charming restaurant that is not much bigger than a dining room. There are only 16 seats in its location on Dorfstrasse in Adelboden. «That's the way we wanted it,» says owner and head chef Stefan Zimmermann. He has been running the «S.Zimmer» together with his wife Tünde for three years and is on the up and up. Just this autumn, GaultMillau awarded the restaurant its 14th point. Impressive when you consider that the two of them do almost everything by themselves. «During winter, we employ an additional chef,» says Zimmermann. The extra help is a must, because in the cold season the tiny restaurant is always fully booked.

The hob is scattered with pots and pans, all filled with different sauces. At the same time, Zimmermann is heating the oil for the house speciality. Lángos! «That’s Hungarian street food that we serve here as an amuse-bouche,» says Zimmermann. «In Hungary, every family has its own recipe. This is my family recipe,» adds Tünde, who grew up in Hungary. The potato and yeast dough is deep-fried and topped with garlic sour cream. «It's a bit messy to eat. But that's fine, because it makes our guests feel even more at home.»

A rough start to working life

Stefan Zimmermann calls the Bernese Oberland home. The 32-year-old comes from the village of Thierachern near Thun. The memories of his apprenticeship as a chef aren't happy ones. Hundreds of hours of overtime and an overbearing boss made this period of training unbearable. «In the end, I changed restaurants and finished my apprenticeship at a hospital,» Zimmermann says. However, this did not go down well with potential employers. «Nobody wanted to hire me.» After three months working on building sites, Stefan Zimmermann made one last attempt and applied for a job with Heinz Rufibach, who was the chef at the «Alpenhof» in Zermatt at the time. «We had an incredibly long conversation and hit it off immediately. Heinz was prepared to give me a chance.» Zimmermann seized the opportunity and flourished. «I learnt to cook all over again. To this day, I am still grateful to Heinz. He is just such a nice guy and still a kind of mentor to me.»

But Zimmermann kept moving, passing through the Kursaal in Bern and the Beau Rivage in Interlaken. He honed his skills with Jürgen Willing at the «Bellevue» in Adelboden and Kurt Mösching at the «Sonne» in Scheunenberg. It was in Adelboden that he met his future wife Tünde. Most recently he has cooked for René Schudel in Unterseen. That was when the opportunity arose to take over a restaurant of his own in Adelboden. «The place was formerly a bar. But we wanted to turn it into a restaurant,» says Zimmermann.

And although space is limited, the restaurant is doing well. «Many of our regulars own a second home in the area,» says Tünde. Of course, tourists and locals are also among the Zimmermanns' guests.

The place was formerly a bar. But we wanted to turn it into a restaurant

Stefan Zimmermann

Regional products, Asian elements

When enjoying a meal at the «S.Zimmer» (pronounced «Ässzimmer», which means dining room in Swiss German) you can choose between three and seven courses. Appenzeller duck is a brand new addition to the menu. Stefan Zimmermann cooks it sous vide, then crisps it up in the pan and serves it with a trio of beetroot. «The beetroot is supplied by my grandmother. She is 88 years old and grows vegetables for me at 1,200 metres above sea level,» Zimmermann enthuses. The chef likes to use regional products for his dishes. The ravioli are filled with an Alpine cheese from Adelboden. «But I don't want to limit myself and sometimes serve fish from the sea.» Currently, however, he has chosen a Swiss fish for the fish course. The confit Brüggli char is served with salsify and a lemongrass beurre blanc.

Guests should definitely try a Hungarian wine or two with their meal at «S.Zimmer». This is Tünde's area of expertise. «Along with Swiss, Italian and Spanish wines, I really wanted to serve wines from Hungary. Hungary used to have a great wine tradition, and for the last 15 years or so people have been trying to reconnect with the past,» explains the sommelière. «The guests are glad to accept my recommendations.»

Text: Kathia Baltisberger, Photos: Olivia Pulver, Datum: 04.01.2024

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