It is not unusual for Asian chefs, especially Japanese to serve French style cuisine in Europe. But it is not really common to find a German who is well-known for his ‘Asian’ cuisine and also has two-Michelin stars for this.
When Tim Raue took the stage at Chefs Revolution there was no question that his presentation reflected not only his bold character but also his bold cuisine.
He kept the audience in awe as he recalled his story of how he moved from cooking a random mix of food to Asian food. In 2007 he won the Gault Millau chef of the year award but as he himself put it “I was cooking randomly from Spanish molecular cuisine to French inspired shit. But it was not me and I always believe that you need to find yourself in a plate.”
He says that after a lot of soul-searching to find what he liked he managed to create a unique style of cuisine which is bold with lots of flavours. “I have now found the right balance,” he said.
At 40 years he is one of the most prominent chefs in Berlin if not the whole of Germany and he is well-known for his Asian inspired cuisine. As a teenager he was a member of the “36 boys” gang in Berlin. He knew he wanted to be creative but did not know what to do until someone pointed out that he could be an artist, a gardener or a cook.
He says that he fell in love with Asian cuisine which he considers as a melting pot of thousands of years. “In Germany, we eat to survive. Many are obsessed with their cars and prefer to fill their tanks with fuel than pay to eat. They prefer filling their car and then heat to a discount store to buy meat at 2 euros,” he said.
He owes his obsession with pure flavours to Japan. “Our roots and what goes on in the kitchen is in Asia. The focus in our restaurant is flavour. I love islands because there you can really get fresh ingredients which you cannot get in Berlin. My philosophy is to cook the way I am. I have a strong character so I serve strong flavours. With our dishes we never serve rice or bread. My focus is on flavours.”
His cuisine may not be for the faint-hearted. “I serve very spicy food. I want to take clients to the border and sometimes even over the border. The way I do it is to serve light snacks at the start of the dinner which are extremely hot. After four really hot dishes, I serve a very light first dish and the flavours are really enhanced.” Raue loves to play with tastes. He says bitterness makes you feel hungry for the next course.
The German chef explained how he was an executive chef at the age of 32 managing a team of over 3,000 chefs. I felt that I was no longer a chef but a manager and so I wanted to challenge myself. That is how he ended up opening his restaurant.
Raue has another two restaurants, one Asian and a traditional German restaurant. He says that this 60 seat a la carte restaurant is so popular that it can do up to three seatings in a night. He has created a signature meat ball dish which is so popular that they have a chef preparing just meatballs in the kitchen.
He believes that this is the future, i.e. to have restaurants which are much more casual. “Daily food should be relaxed and customers need to be comfortable.”
Another unique aspect of Raue is that unlike other restaurants he only has six plates on which to serve his dishes. “We interviewed more than a 1000 customers and asked them what was more important in a restaurant and for the majority it was taste and quality. Very few people actually give importance to plates. Only five per cent of our regular guests are chefs, the rest care about the food they are eating. I believe it is useless to spend thousands on plates and then forget about the most important thing which is the food and flavours.
He considers Berlin a unique city and believes that his restaurant would not work in any other part of Germany. Check out our interview with Tim Raue coming soon on Food and Wine Gazette.