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A shooting star of vegan cuisine
She's the new star of Zurich's gastro scene: Zineb "Zizi" Hattab delights guests and critics alike with her vegan cuisine.
"My mother has six siblings. For a while they all lived with us. It was a crazy time. But when we were eating it was always really quiet for a while." It's a childhood memory which is still very vivid for Zineb Hattab. Zizi – as everyone calls her – doesn't come from a gastronomy background. Eating wasn't even the most important thing in her home. But if there was something to celebrate, then there was always lots of cooking.
For a few years now, life for Zizi has revolved around food and preparing it. In January 2020 she opened "Kle" in Zurich, where all the food is plant-based – meaning no animal products are used at all. The GaultMillau Guide awarded her cuisine 14 points and lauded the 31-year-old as the "Discovery of the Year." This is even more surprising when you think that just a couple of years ago Zizi spent her days at the computer, writing code and developing software.
But Zizi Hattab wanted something different. She discovered her love of cooking when she moved from Barcelona to Switzerland. She learnt professional techniques to use at home, but that wasn't enough, she wanted to do an internship with none other than Andreas Caminada. He told her she should reconsider the whole thing – but his warning fell on deaf ears. Zizi cooked, learnt, and honed her skills. And realized being a chef is really hard work. "On my days off all I did was sleep. Everything hurt. And I constantly asked myself, when is the pain going to stop?" The pain never stopped. But the passion never waned. "I've never regretted my decision to become a chef."
After her stint at Schloss Schauenstein with Caminada, Zizi and her husband moved to New York. Zizi began work at "Cosme", Mexican top chef Enrique Olvera's US branch. The head chef was Daniela Soto-Innes, named "Best Female Chef" last year in the "World's 50 Best". Zizi once again proved her talent and soon became Daniela's deputy. "New York was even harder. When you have to travel home by subway at 2 a.m., you see all sorts of things: crime, drugs, rats. And US values are so different, too. But I definitely grew both as a person and a chef while I was in New York." Zizi and her husband returned to Switzerland because she wanted to open her own restaurant. "I can trust people here, I never have the feeling that they're using me."
Vegans aren't radical.
Inspired by the best chefs in the world, she nevertheless does completely her own thing at "Kle". The decision to make the restaurant vegan was quite a spontaneous one. It was finding out more about food production that led her to make the decision. "There were thousands of chickens in a barn with no light – I simply don't believe that is the right way to produce our food," she says. So she creates dishes with vegetables, grains and potatoes. She marinades carrots for three days in soy sauce and vinegar and serves them as a tartare on a bed of quinoa, accompanied by vegan mayo. Instead of eggs for the mayonnaise she uses aquafaba – the cooking water from chickpeas. Zizi uses vegan alternatives only very sparingly in her cooking. "I don't specifically look for an alternative. I look at what I've got and make something out of it." Her secret tip for vegan cooking: apple sauce. "It works like egg yolk. You won't be able to make zabaglione, but it works well for cakes and brioche."
Text: Kathia Baltisberger, Photos: Olivia Pulver
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