Silvio Germann is a man of different guises. On the one hand, he is an ambitious rising star on the gastro scene. He is Caminada's top protégé and having been awarded 17 GaultMillau points now also a star in his own right. At the same time, however, Germann is extremely laid-back, a loveable rogue who is always ready with a witty remark and who manages his kitchen with a relaxed and easy-going attitude. Yet the food that he serves is perfect. A good combination.

For three and a half years, Germann has been chef de cuisine at "IGNIV by Andreas Caminada" - one of the Graubünden star chef's restaurant offshoots. Yet together with his maître d' Francesco Benvenuto, Germann runs "IGNIV" as if it were his own, and the same goes for the menu. "I like things simple," says Germann. "We've found ourselves. The dishes have become a little more sophisticated over time."

Gourmet sharing

Whether it's an Ei Royal egg dish, beef tartare with potato wafers or gnocchi with nutty butter sauce, at "IGNIV" everything is designed to be shared. "Sharing was our concept from the very outset. We want the atmosphere here to be really relaxed, but the service and everything else to be excellent," says Germann. His dishes are not rigidly regional. "I do sometimes like to put crayfish on the menu, because it's one of my own favourites," he says.

Sharing was the concept from the very outset.

Silvio Germann

Nevertheless, the Grand Resort hotel which plays home to IGNIV is right on the doorstep of the verdant Bündner Herrschaft region, so Silvio Germann is only too happy to use regional produce in his dishes and gets on extremely well with his producers. For example he is a regular visitor to Christian Risch's asparagus fields in Fläsch and can enjoy the first of the season's produce – the reward for helping to harvest it.

And he buys his chicken from Roman Clavadetscher, who specializes in slow-growth chickens. The fresh ingredients are then used as soon as they arrive in the kitchen.

Top chef Caminada has backed the young chef all the way

Born in Lucerne, Germann learnt his trade at the nearby Sempacherhof, a restaurant serving traditional fare. "I became a top chef mostly by chance," he muses. For two years he worked for Sandro Steingruber at Waldhaus Flims. "Sandro is good friends with Andreas Caminada, so Andreas let me do a trial in his kitchen," he explains.

Germann was just 22 when he began working for Caminada. "He must have liked me, because from a technical point of view my cooking was a long way off what is expected at the Schloss Schauenstein restaurant," he notes. He stayed there for three years before moving halfway across the globe to work under Alex Atala in São Paulo. But as he reflects, "I never really felt at home there. The city is incredibly big, dangerous and not even particularly attractive." Then Andreas Caminada entered the picture once again and asked if Germann could come and work at the Schloss. Germann said he could.

I became a top chef mostly by chance

Silvio Germann

After just two months Andreas Caminada approached Germann with an idea: "He told me about his project to open another restaurant. He actually thought I was still a bit young for the job, so why he made me chef de cuisine I really don't know." An incredible opportunity! "From the very start I was involved in all the decision making," says Germann, yet acknowledging that it was a baptism of fire, because Caminada was not actually going to be at the restaurant himself. "The first few months were hard work, but it was a massive plus that Francesco was there from the start, because we gelled immediately."

A bit of luck and a trusty notebook

Germann makes his own pasta: he feeds the pasta dough into the machine and fills it to form the tortellini that he will later serve with a chicken broth sauce. Now and then he glances at handwritten comments in his notebook. "I have to write down the recipes for what I want to cook, but I hate sitting at the computer. I wasn't exactly the best student at secondary school," he says. "I preferred playing football with my brothers." Nowadays, when Germann needs to stretch his legs, he takes a stroll to his greenhouse. This was once full of plants belonging to the hotel, but Silvio and his team cleared it out and now they use it to grow things they can use in the restaurant. "We've got cucumbers, melons, carrots and radishes," says the neo-gardener. "We got rid of the squashes."

There are a lot of gifted chefs in the Caminada talent factory, so how does Germann explain how he ended up as the number 1? He greets the question with a shrug of the shoulders. "I was lucky, that's all. I must have been in the right place at the right time. I don't think that I shone out because of my unbridled talent," he says, with a hearty laugh. That doesn't sound particularly ambitious, we say. "My ambition is to make our guests happy," says Germann. "Of course once you have won an award in our industry, you have to do it justice, but I'm not striving to achieve 18 points and two stars. I just love coming to work every day."

Text: Kathia Baltisberger, Photos: Olivia Pulver

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