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Cool cooking with ambition
Karim Schumann is chef at the “Münsterhof” in Zurich. Not far from Bahnhofstrasse, he is trying to do justice to this tourist hotspot with fine dining pretensions.
Karim Schumann rushes to the market past crates of vegetables and bouquets of flowers. He wanted to be at the vegetable stall at 9.30am. “I had to take my son to the nursery,” explains the new father and chef. It’s Friday, market day on Bürkliplatz in Zurich. Karim Schumann goes to the market before work twice a week to discover what seasonal produce it has to offer. He has a good relationship with vegetable producer Simon Müller. That’s handy, he explains, as “I can serve myself and pick out what’s best”. Schumann rummages through the potatoes and chooses the smallest ones for a dish on his current menu – whitefish from Lake Sempach with a hummus and potato mousse. Then there’s dill blossom and sorrel – Schumann has spontaneously chosen these on the market. “I do have a list in my head of everything I need. But sometimes I also just get what takes my fancy.”
It’s only about 350 metres from the market to Schumann’s kitchen. The 31-year-old has been cooking at the “Münsterhof”, right on the eponymous square in Zurich’s old town, since April 2019. Although the restaurant is steeped in history, it wouldn’t look out of place in hip and happening District 3. Plain wooden tables without tablecloths, simple chairs, modest lighting and blackboards displaying lists of drinks. Yet the two-storey establishment creates a very chic impression, and its large terrace is a great place to relax and unwind.
The restaurant’s location itself is a challenge. Bahnhofstrasse is booming and is considered to be a new culinary hotspot. The Münsterhof is also a magnet for tourists. How do you reconcile these two aspects as a host and a chef? “It really is a challenge. The tourists might not be all that keen on incredibly offbeat food, so on Saturdays I put bratwurst on the menu. But it does come with a chutney. It’s not just a simple bratwurst – I want to remain true to my chosen path even here.” Classics such as Zurich ragout are served in a reinvented form.
At midday, Schumann serves simple dishes. “They’ve got to be quick.” But they're still tasty. Swiss salmon from Lostallo or Karim’s meze dish with hummus, baba ganoush and home-made pita bread. Here too, the young chef is seeking to build bridges. He was born in Germany and grew up in Rheinland-Palatinate. His mother is Egyptian, but until now Karim has not really had access to his Arab origins. “I now want to move more towards my roots and incorporate this oriental aspect into my cooking. But I don’t want it to be too dominant,” explains Schumann.
Karim discovered his passion for cooking when he was still very young. “My father is also a chef, and I was always watching and helping him.” For that reason, he wanted to be a chef himself, but his father advised him against it. He said you could only do the job if you had an absolute passion for it. So Karim briefly toyed with the idea of becoming an architect, but then rejected his father’s advice and trained to be a cook. “The atmosphere in the kitchen has quite simply always fascinated me.”
And this didn’t change when “saucepans were flying around the kitchen” from time to time during his apprenticeship. Schumann then cooked in England, did a placement with Jonnie Boer in Holland and trained as a pastry chef on Lake Constance. He then went to Davos. What started off as a temporary position at the World Economic Forum ended up as a job as chef at the Waldhotel’s “Mann und Co.” restaurant. During the summer, he cooked at the partner hotel Vitznauerhof on Lake Lucerne, which has been awarded 16 Gault Millau points. Now Karim Schumann has arrived in Zurich. His family and the “Münsterhof” should be reason enough for him to stay.
Text: Kathia Baltisberger, Photos: Olivia Pulver
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