Tim Raue is one of the most prominent German chefs in Berlin if not the whole of Germany. His restaurant Tim Raue has made it to the 40th position in the recently published Opinionated About Dining list, moving forward from the 62nd place.
The German chef is unique in his style and in his approach. His two Michelin star restaurant serving Asian inspired cuisine has been awarded 19 points by Gault Millau. His cuisine, as he himself says, reflects his character.
We caught up with him a few months ago but had not yet published our interview and we feel this is the right time to bring to the fore this talented chef.
But why would a European be cooking Chinese food in the German capital? “What I am looking for is basic, traditional Chinese dishes. What I love is that they are so pure and simple. In Western cuisine we are doing things which are so complicated and using too many techniques. At the end of the day, what I want to do is bring everything together. What I look for in a dish is texture, acidity, sweetness and spiciness which work in harmony,” Tim tells Food and Wine Gazette.
“Sometimes I get my inspiration when I am shopping. I might feel a towel or a particular fabric and try to create that same feeling. What I try to do nowadays is to show all sides of my character in the menu. I want to have dishes which are charming, with harmony, humoristic and even traditional because I am a traditional person following the roots of my grandfather.”
The German chef, who won the Gault Millau chef of the year award in 2007 tells me he thanks God that his cuisine is not based on any tradition or region. “I am a globalised Asian. This sets me free and apart from others who look at what produce they have next to them, while I can look far away without constraints.”
He tells me with a smile that sometimes he wonders why no one asks why ‘a small fatty guy is cooking totally Asian food. People accept that and like what I am doing. If they have any doubts, mainly the first dish they eat will change their thoughts and then have can have fun.”Tim loves what he does and also loves the pressure of the job. “We don’t know how long we live or what happens to us afterwards. I want to enjoy the time I have here. I don’t see this as pressure. You hear people say that the job is tough. But I love the pressure and this is what I am looking for. I don’t want to stand and cook for 12 or 18 people and to feel like I am in a museum. I like it when the restaurant is packed, the service is rushed and there is pace in the kitchen. This might be personal and subjective but it describes what I like and who I am.”The German chef tells me: “Of course I look at colleagues like Kobe Desramaults who is like a rockstar. He is like Marco Pierre White in the 1990s but he is much more relaxed. He is so free but works with emotions and loves what he does. If I look at him I see myself as being too technical. But then I see someone like Quique Dacosta and I say wow, this chef is phenomenal with the use of his techniques.”
He has one word of advice for people in the creative fields. “You need to ask who you are and what you like to do. The advice I give to people is not to copy and paste. Find your own way. Go deep inside yourself and find what you are passionate about and what you love.”
I ask him what he thinks about stars, awards and social media. “If you do not tell your story in the media, you just have a small amount of guests. That means you do not have the money. And no money means you cannot buy the best products. So everything must come together. Things have changed. 10 years ago we had 5 or 6 printed restaurant guides which were really important in Germany. Nowadays, I am only interested in three. The 50 World’s Best list is incredibly influential and gives you a rush of international guests. But Michelin is still the main driving force to fill up a restaurant. From star to star means a 30 to 40% increase in revenue, occupancy.”
At the same time, Tim agrees that you should not look only at the food but also at the whole thing. He is of the view that in future, places like Ducasse or Robuchon will still exist. 20 years from now these will be the places you go to for anniversaries, birthdays, but people do not want to have to worry about what to wear, how they behave. People want to be more relaxed.
We start to speak about food waste and Tim says that he comes from a very poor family so has grown up trying not to waste anything. “In my restaurants, I am looking to try to avoid that anything goes into the bin. But I am aware that this is something that I have to take care of because the people that come to the restaurant do not care about food waste. They want to have the best menu with the best produce.”
His view on the trend for the coming years is one I find myself sharing. “I believe that we are moving towards purism. If you look back at the three biggest cuisines in the world, Italian, Chinese and Japanese, all three are based on purism. French cuisine is mainly based on techniques and is closest to Chinese. It is not a cuisine which has hundreds of years of history. My view is that if you take any one of the three kitchens, Italian, Chinese and Japanese and open a restaurant in any town in the world, it will work. People today are overloaded with visuals, looking at their smart phones or tablets and so they do not want to have 37 components on a plate. They want simplicity. I can see this coming. There is still a small amount of people looking for this. These are people with a certain lifestyle. But I have learnt over the past 17 years that you need to focus on these to see what the likely trend will be. What is sure is that I don’t look for a trend but rather prefer consistency. One of the greatest places I have eaten in the world is at Maison Troisgros which has had three stars for 45 years. Some dishes which they serve are 40 to 50 years old and are still amazing. It is unbelievable what they did 50 years ago. It must have been so avant garde at the time.”
Was this the best ever meal, I ask him. He tells me that the experience at Le Bernardin, in the United States, was the best. “From a business point of view it was great. It was pure, simple and perfect. The staff is great, the atmosphere perfect and the culture of wine amazing. This is to my view how a perfect restaurant should be.”