The years of the pandemic have overturned gastronomy like almost no event before. And with lockdowns, failures, re-inventions and, yes, unexpected successes, it is only natural that restaurant criticism will change.
For Gault & Millau, the second major restaurant guide along with the Michelin Guide, the changes would be significant even without the Corona. There have been three changes of publisher in a short period of time, which also explains why the German version of the guide, which awards the most important title in the industry with “Chef of the Year”, is published several months late. But of course the “extreme conditions” were also to blame for the waves of contamination, which made it almost impossible for testers to work for weeks, says Christoph Wirtz, editor-in-chief. The version for 2022 was presented in Berlin on Monday afternoon.
Overall, the verdict on top German cuisine was very benevolent: “Diversity and quality are growing despite all the crises.” Gault & Millau herself, more on that at one point, used the crises as an opportunity to say goodbye to large parts of the old idea.
Dinner Club in the communal kitchen
Dylan Watson-Brawn, who runs the Ernst restaurant in the Wedding district of Berlin, may be happy for the Chef of the Year award – an exciting choice because it is unusual for a traditional gastronomic guide. When the Canadian came to Berlin in his early 20s, he was the first non-Japanese chef to complete an apprenticeship at a three-star Japanese restaurant. As a result, his work is as closely aligned with the quality of the products as that of a few other chefs. Early on, when Watson-Brawn talked about agriculture with his producers, it was about micro-seasonality, irrigation dosage, harvest times or the composition of duck food.
The Canadian started a first advertising campaign when, together with his cooking partner Spencer Christenson, he was still cooking for a kind of dinner in his shared kitchen at the Wedding and suddenly many guests from the USA came to eat there. For example, perfectly ripe peaches brought by the chef from Sicily, without a refrigerator so that the taste does not suffer.
Watson-Brawn, 28, not only used the pandemic to open a second restaurant. At the same time he renovated “Ernst”, sharpened the concept and reduced the number of guests from twelve to eight. 20 to 25 small and very small dishes are eaten, which the kitchen behind the common counter prepares for all the guests at the same time à la minute. The testers’ verdict in the words of Christoph Wirtz: “The advance praise has faded and the advertising campaign is gone. What is left is great substance, independence, conceptual maturity and technical mastery.”
No more points, but red hoods
In the case of Gault & Millau itself, the “conceptual maturity” is such that testers will refrain from evaluating restaurants with points in the future. “School grades for cultural achievement are no longer relevant in today’s world,” Wirtz said. It also means that the crisis, with its ever-changing context, has shown that rigid scoring of “pretend objectivity and selectivity” has its limits. This can also be seen as a sign of humility. A restaurant review that has recently been helplessly clinging to old concepts is finally adapting better.
Another issue is that the old grade system based on French school grades (1-20) was difficult to understand even for beginners. Who could explain why sometimes there were half points, what exactly is the difference between 17 and 18 points or why the top score (almost) was never given?
Gault & Millau, on the other hand, insists on the second category of evaluation – the award of one to five toques – where restaurants that stand out in their category through special services will be marked in the future with toques framed in red. This results in a ten-level system.
Lost Star, Win the Red Tok
Testers see in particular three world-class restaurants (five red tokens), “Victor’s Fine Dining” in Perl (Saarland, Christian Bau), “Waldhotel Sonnora” in Dreis (Rhineland-Palatinate, Clemens Rambichler) and “Vendôme” at Bergisch Gladbach (North Rhine-Westphalia, Joachim Wissler), who lost his third star on the Michelin Guide in March. New among the “best” restaurants in the world with five (regular) tokens are the “Haerlin” in Hamburg (Christoph Rüffer) and the “Schanz” in Piesport (Rhineland-Palatinate, Thomas Schanz). Testers also included the Wolfsburg “Aqua” (Sven Elverfeld), the “Schwarzwaldstube” in Baiersbronn (Torsten Michel) and the “Tim Raue” in Berlin (Tim Raue) in this top group.
Gault & Millau named Viktor Gerhardinger from the vegetarian restaurant “Tian” in Munich “climber of the year”, the “new discovery” is the chef of the Upper Palatinate Adrian Kuhlemann (Restaurant Kuhlemann, Neustadt an der Waldnaab). Christophe Meyer (“Le Pavillon”, Bad Peterstal-Griesbach) may be happy for the title of sommelier of the year, the best pastry chef is Larissa Metz (“Favorite Restaurant”, Mainz), “Gourmet of the Year” Hermann Bareiss (” Bareiss Restaurant », Baiersbronn).