What would you like to cook?
Swiss cuisine meets exotic ingredients: the Tropenhaus head chef is a fan of cosmopolitan cooking, packed with flavour
Passion, an open mind and an enjoyment of eating and cooking – for Andreas Halter, these lie at the very heart of the culinary art. They are traits common to him, his favourite guests and, not least, his favourite cooking buddy: his young daughter. As a member of the FOOBY community, he shares his passion and his expertise in exotic and home-grown flavours.
Cooking and travel – the two go hand in hand for Andreas Halter. As head chef at Tropenhaus Wohlhusen, his enthusiasm for all kinds of different flavours ties in perfectly with his passion for far-away countries: the Mahoi restaurant, which has earned 14 Gault Millau points, is famous for combining tropical and Swiss ingredients.
How did you become a chef?
From a young age, I was an extremely picky and critical eater. By the time I was about ten years old, my parents had had enough. They presented me with a cookery book and told me to try cooking for the family, so I would realize what was involved. But I loved it so much that it became a hobby and, later, a career.
What is your favourite food nowadays?
I don't have one, I'd have to list 100 dishes. I love variety and diversity. But it's great to have a different favourite, depending on the season and your mood. To have an absolute craving for a particular dish one day, but want something completely different the next.
How do your culinary creations start?
With various influences. While travelling, when I discover something completely new. With an individual product or a combination of flavours I'm keen to interpret. Or when I'm wandering through the Tropenhaus and am confronted with all the products on offer. I will then usually decide to work with a particular product and create a dish around it. When I do that, I often imagine how it will taste – and it usually works.
What music do you listen to when cooking?
Jazz, funk, hip hop and rock. I always have to have music playing while I'm cooking, as I use it as inspiration.
Do you have a favourite cooking buddy?
My two-and-a-half year-old daughter. But not because she's a great help to me. It's just wonderful to see how much she enjoys simply washing the salad, or spinning it. She bombards me with questions all the time. So there's never a dull moment in the kitchen.
Do you prefer to cook alone or with others?
At home, I'd rather cook alone, because I can go at my own pace and have a greater sense of freedom. I love cooking for other people. But nobody apart from my daughter is allowed in the kitchen while I am cooking. At work, however, it's a completely different story. There's a clear division of labour and I simply couldn't cope by myself.
For whom would you like to have the opportunity to cook?
Any cosmopolitan foodie.
Which kitchen utensil could you not do without?
What's the most important spice or seasoning in your kitchen? (Other than salt and pepper)
Cumin. It's a spice that is grossly underrated in Switzerland and lots of people confuse it with caraway - though in reality they are completely different. Cumin is absolutely essential in exotic cooking.
Do you have a «secret ingredient» that gives your dishes that special edge?
I love the zest of all citrus fruits. It gives so many dishes a wonderful, light flavour, packed with freshness.
What is your best cooking memory?
My proudest cooking memory was the first time I succeeded in making my own tempeh. I discovered tempeh in Indonesia and was determined to learn how to make it myself. After at least 5 failed attempts, everyone told me I should just call it a day, but at last I got the hang of it. Since then, it's worked every time. So: never give up!
Cooking and eating is and always has been one of the most important things in my life.
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