Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé + Joachim Wissler: An enjoyable time at Lake Tegernsee

Joachim Wissler: top chef’s encounter with top car

The early sun, a view of the lake and the sound of cheerful voices greet me in the lobby of the Hotel Althoff Seehotel Überfahrt in Rottach-Egern at Lake Tegernsee. This is where I’m due to meet Germany’s likeable top chef Joachim Wissler, awarded 3 stars by the Michelin guide for a number of years and 19.5 points by Gault Millau – but at the moment he’s here enjoying a holiday. His kitchen at home is at the Restaurant Vendôme, part of the Althoff Grandhotel Schloss Bensberg in Bergisch Gladbach. Together we now climb into a Rolls Royce Drophead Coupé, a whole new world, and set off for a picturesque drive around Lake Tegernsee.

Mr Wissler, you are a top chef with 3 Michelin stars and 19.5 Gault Millau points.Is that a blessing or a curse?
It's a calling. If it were a curse, nobody would be able to keep it up for so long. It’s about measuring up to the demands every day, time and time again – both those we make of ourselves and those others make of us.

With 50 years or more behind you, you are one of cooking’s elite, and you still have about 15 years of work ahead of you.Would you like to get that extra half a Gault Millau point?
So far, only 2 cooks in the world have been awarded all 20 possible points. Gault Millau says, that there is in fact no restaurant with 20 points because, if there were, it would be perfect, which would be close to divine creation. That’s why they leave that option open and in Germany, at least, don’t give more than 19.5 points. For me getting up to 20 points isn’t an incentive; the 19.5 is something that is already in the past and it makes me feel happy, proud and very content. What’s important now is that what I do is a part of me. That part is a total experience for the people who come to us and immerse themselves in a universe for 4-5 hours and then take that whole experience home with them. They put themselves in my hands, so to speak, experience and feel what I feel and allow the many and varied aspects of my cooking to take their effect.

I had the highly enjoyable pleasure of being invited to a 16-course dinner at your restaurant.How much does a 16-course menu actually cost there?
At the moment, it would cost €268. With accompanying wines, it would cost another €110–130. The wines and food are very well matched.

Can you describe your cooking in just a few words?
What I’m trying to do is express a part of my life on the plate. Things that move me at that moment. My dishes don’t emerge from a particular formula, but from a set of circumstances; a taste, an aroma, a memory from childhood – like the Sunday pork roast. Of course all my dishes are always influenced by seasonal produce.

Is it true that you prefer regional produce to the classic ingredients of high-class gastronomy?
I always use a certain amount of regional produce in my cooking. Unfortunately the top German chefs seem to have forgotten how to do this, how to nurture our own culinary DNA and promote it abroad too. And local produce is key to this.

The standard of your cooking can transform the taste of a product into something different.Is that a balancing act?
Are there limits to doing that? In the period between 2003 and 2010, many chefs discovered new techniques that they fell in love with. It was all about presenting an unusual product in an even better way with an even better taste, not transforming it. In that period, I learnt how to use these techniques, as I still do today, without the guest being aware of it – not to show off the techniques.

Your name is a brand.Just like this Rolls Royce Drophead Coupé we’re driving round Lake Tegernsee in. Do you see any parallels between this car and your cooking?
In the many details, in the quality, in the materials used, in the love of craftsmanship, in the small numbers produced – I can see parallels with our work in all that. I wish my work were shared more by people who have not yet had the nerve to come into my restaurant. Just as many people wish they could sit in a Rolls Royce like this just once.

What sort of menu would you create based on your cooking and this Rolls Royce?
This convertible has a Mediterranean feel – it could just as well be in Monaco as Lake Tegernsee. So I would begin with something very light focussing on fish and shellfish and then an elegant main course with grilled guinea fowl and a salad of Mediterranean artichokes and truffles, linking the exceptional characteristics of this product to the exceptional nature of this car.

What wine or champagne would you choose to round it all off?
For champagne, I love the blanc de blancs, without mentioning any particular brand. I love champagnes that have very little character, where the basic product is what stands out and the presence of carbon dioxide is more in the background. In fact here, I see a Ruinard blanc de blanc or a glass of Dom Pérignon, but that’s my personal subjective choice.

Top restaurants are not easy to run from a commercial point of view.High standards for both produce and staff are of paramount importance. What’s your experience?
Our daily outgoings in relation to the price we charge is difficult to calculate from a business point of view. It only works if the restaurant is constantly at full capacity.

Can I get a table in the Restaurant Vendôme at short notice?
1–2 weeks’ notice. From Friday to Sunday, we’re booked up somewhat further ahead. But even then, short term bookings can be possible.

You have a very young and motivated service team with a deep knowledge of food and drink.
We give them a very intensive training, because my cooking needs a certain amount of explanation. The member of staff who brings the finished plate to the guest at the table, who reaches the finishing line so to speak, has to explain to him succinctly and accurately the thoughts I had while I was preparing the dish, because from that moment on I don’t have any more control over what happens.

There is a trend for top international chefs to run several restaurants under their name.What are your thoughts about this?
Positive, because the enormous expenditure, the creativity, everything is spread over several restaurants, which has commercial benefits. There are issues about what happens with regard to the personification of a restaurant and a name. But there are plenty of chefs who manage this successfully thanks to staff who really understand that top chef’s thinking and standards and live them themselves.

On your website, I found key words such as purism, humility and memory amongst your maxims.Which is closest to your heart?
At the moment, I’d put purism first and then right after that humility. You could compare my work with that of an architect or an artist: over the course of his professional life, he becomes more selective and more of a purist, because he reduces things more and more to their essentials and perceives the quintessence of things. This is true for my cooking too, because we try to base the power of a dish not on thirty different ingredients but on just three or four.

Thank you very much for this most enjoyable and interesting conversation, Mr Wissler.

Born in 1963 in the Swabian Alb in southern Germany, he went on to train as a chef and earned his first Michelin star in 1995. Since 2002 he has been the creative and visionary heart of the Restaurant Vendôme at the Grandhotel Schloss Bensberg, Bergisch-Gladbach, where he cooked his way to a second and then third star. He has been awarded 19.5 points by Gault Millau, and in 2015 he was once again voted The Chef’s Chef by Germany’s 100 best chefs. Joachim Wissler is married, has a son and loves to holiday on Lake Tegernsee.

The Restaurant Vendôme, which has been under the direction of Joachim Wissler since 2000, is located against the historic backdrop of the Grandhotel Schloss Bensberg, a 25-minute drive from Cologne. The main event here is the menu, reduced to the essentials and offering a unique experience. The Vendôme is number 30 in the world rankings for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, making it Germany’s top restaurant. Open from Wednesday to Sunday.

This convertible is a real eye-catcher with its graceful design and dynamic profile. The sporty, elegant two-door – the doors open backwards! – gives the impression of an Italian motorboat at full speed, and with no effort whatsoever! It glides over the street as streamlined as a yacht. A wide range of different optional extras, from the tyres through to the interior design, turn this coupé into your very own Rolls-Royce.

Dimensions Vehicle length: 5612 mm I Vehicle width: 1987 mm I Vehicle height: 1566 mm I Wheelbase: 3320 mm I Turning circle: 13.1 m I Boot Volume (DIN): 315 ltr Weight Unladen Weight (DIN): 2630 kg Engine Engine/cylinders/valves: V/12/48 I Power output @ engine speed: 453 bhp / 460 PS / 338 k @ 5.350 rpm I Max torque @ engine speed: 720 Nm / 531 lb ft @ 3.500 rpm I Fuel type: Premium unleaded Performance Top speed: 240 km/h / 150 mph (governed) I Acceleration 0-100 km/h: 5.8 sec

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