Easy-going and brilliant
A shooting star in the gourmet world, chef Dominik Hartmann from the Magdalena in Rickenbach, Schwyz, has 16 GaultMillau points. The young chef cooks without meat and fish. His concept has won over guests, critics and even sceptical locals.
In between preparing and serving food, the kitchen team at the Magdalena restaurant like to shoot a few hoops on the basketball court. Or hold quenelle-making battles. And on occasion, a two-and-a-half-year-old boy can be seen distributing a bowl of cornflakes around the eatery. The atmosphere at the Magdalena in Rickenbach, Canton Schwyz, is unlike that of other restaurants of a similar calibre. It is easy-going, uncomplicated, almost casual. And yet the service and cuisine are definitely more than up to the mark when it comes to making the guests happy. That's a requirement, not a contradiction.
To make the approach work, a well-coordinated team is needed. At the Magdalena, that consists of Dominik Hartmann, his wife Adriana Hartmann and Marco Appert. The three of them are equal partners in the business. Dominik manages the kitchen, while Marco and Adriana are in charge of the service side – although the young mother has scaled back a little since the birth of her two children. «Everyone has their own strengths, which means we complement each other extremely well,» says Dominik Hartmann, explaining his recipe for success. And he is a success with the critics too. As the «Discovery of the Year» and recipient of 15 points, the man from Schwyz made it into the GaultMillau guide two years ago, while autumn 2021 saw him being awarded a further point.
For a 29-year-old chef to enjoy so much success is the exception rather than the rule. Dominik Hartmann may seem shy, but he has always had ambition. He completed his culinary apprenticeship under Röbi Gisler at the Kaiserstock in Riemenstalden. «He taught me the basics. Röbi really makes everything himself from scratch, which had a great influence on me,» says Hartmann. After his apprenticeship, Hartmann headed off to the Tschuggen Grand Hotel in Arosa and his military service. Dominik also trained as a pastry chef/confectioner. «I've always had fun with desserts. Even as a child, I was allowed to make the dessert when we had something to celebrate.» His next step was to work with Andreas Caminada at Schloss Schauenstein. «It's the place to be if you're ambitious.»
I've always had fun with desserts. Even as a child, I was allowed to make the dessert when we had something to celebrate.
Dominik Hartmann always dreamt of running his own restaurant. He made his first plans while still at primary school, along with classmate Marco Appert. «But the fact that we've opened our restaurant here where we grew up is pure coincidence.» The Magdalena was previously an eatery and the building was due to be demolished and rebuilt. «We told the owners we were interested. With a little help from Sarah and Andreas Caminada, we then submitted a business plan.»
One pandemic, two Michelin stars and a pop-up bakery later, it's already time for a subtle change of concept. «Since the beginning of 2022, we've only been serving vegetarian dishes.» It's not a major change – beetroot and celery already featured strongly on the menu. «I don't really like meat all that much myself. But I think the region has great dairy products that I enjoy using,» says Hartmann, explaining the move. «We've only really had positive feedback. Of course there are a few sceptical guests too. But by the time they've eaten three courses, even die-hard carnivores are won over.» Beetroot still persists on the menu. «We had beetroot steak on the menu right at the start. And our guests ask for it. That's why we've kept on refining the dish.» In its latest guise, beetroot is served smoked with a radish and beetroot broth.
I don't really like meat all that much myself. But I think the region has great dairy products that I enjoy using.
It is also interesting to see the countless different variations and consistencies in which cauliflower is served: in a flan, as a velouté or chips, roasted or as a salad. It is accompanied by preserved citrons, pine nuts and cream of egg yolk. A salad offers a taste of springtime: pickled king oyster mushrooms with spring onions, mixed salad leaves, dill oil and lamb's lettuce broth. The dish is topped off with a refreshing dill sorbet quenelle. Quenelles are a sensitive subject at the Magdalena. «In our team, everyone thinks they can make the best-looking quenelle. But there isn't a clear winner,» says Hartmann, explaining the quenelle-making battles mentioned earlier. Hartmann's team are quite competitive and have extended the contest to include panettone, chocolate cake and tarte tatin. But the prize is always the same: honour and glory.
Text: Kathia Baltisberger, Photos: Olivia Pulver
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