Headed into town for Singapore’s first-ever Austrian Gourmet Week is Chef Josef Mühlmann of award-winning Innervillgraten, Tyrol-based restaurant Gannerhof. We grab Chef Mühlmann for a quick chat about his country’s sometimes misunderstood Alpine cuisine.
Apfelstrudel. Vienna sausage. And wiener schnitzel.
If that’s all you know of Austrian cuisine, some Austrian chefs intend to change that. Koch.Campus, a non-profit association made up of 58 renown personalities in Austria’s culinary, wine and agriculture spheres, aims to promote their country’s wholly underrated culinary traditions in a whole new way through workshops, tastings, excursions, and other forms of educational outreach.
One of those events is headed our way. Koch.Campus will be participating in Singapore’s first-ever Austrian Gourmet Week later this month, organised by the Austrian National Tourist Office and the Austrian Embassy Singapore. Headlining the Week is Chef Josef Mühlmann of award-winning restaurant Gannerhof in Tyrol, who along with Chef Armin Leitgeb will be presenting an exclusive four-hands dinner experience at Andaz Singapore that looks to elevate Austrian cuisine.
We grab Chef Josef for a quick chat.
Share with us what Austrian cuisine constitutes and what it means to you.
From fresh mountain spring water to our alpine air and regional organic ingredients, Austrian cuisine showcase the beauty and flavours of our natural landscape. I am proud that chefs like Armin and myself, as members of Koch.Campus, are part of a culinary movement to introduce the quality of Austria gourmet culture to the rest of the world.
What kind of produce is Austria best known for?
We are one of the leading countries in organic production and consumption. Austria is made up of many small regions and each has its own niche regional specialties. For example, because of the high mountain elevation in Voralberg (West of Austria) gourmet Alpine cheese from this region is well-loved. States like Burgenland near to Vienna and Styria (Eastern Austria) harvest berries and lemons, while Wachau Valley in Southern Austria is well-known for their juicy apricots.
We also produce cereals like wheat, barley and rye, as well as sugar beets, rapeseed and sunflower, and are the second biggest soybean producer in Europe.
What would you consider is particularly unique in Austrian cuisine?
The pleasure is in the details. We embrace ingredients foraged, sourced, or grown from the natural landscape around us. These high-quality ingredients are usually only found within the country and many of our chefs find new ways to present these flavours in the best light with new creations and unique interpretations. Austria is made up of many small regions and each has its own agriculture, livestock, and freshwater fish which flavours embody the quality of water, air and soil.
Tell us about your restaurant, Gannerhof.
Guests will find Alpine cuisine at its best. Almost everything that guests touch, smell and eat has its origins in our immediate vicinity and we use native produce that grows in the Tyrolean mountains and valleys around us. We are in Obertilliach, nestled in between the Carnic Alps and the Lienz Dolomites and we operate a hotel alongside the restaurant for gourmet insiders who visit the region to savour good food, and enjoy our idyllic countryside.
Through our culinary creations, we try to bring back childhood memories, and reimagine traditional “oma” (translates to “grandmother”) soul-warming comfort food. Earlier this year, Gannerhof was awarded 17 points by Gault&Milau – a first of its kind in the Tyrol region.
What’s your personal culinary philosophy?
Respect and love are the heart of what I do, both as a chef, and as a host of Gannerhof restaurant.
Why do you think Austrian cuisine is not as popular as it can be around the world?
Due to the largely organic nature of the ingredients we use in our dishes, the best culinary flavours have to be tasted here in Austria. Unfortunately, the perception of Austrian cuisine abroad is reduced to clichés such as wiener schnitzel, fried chicken, and apple strudel.
How do you think Gannerhof can change that perspective?
Together with Koch.Campus, a non-profit association formed by chefs and high quality of producers for agriculture and wine, we exchange ideas and collaborate to introduce Austria as a gourmet destination to an international audience.
Austrian Gourmet Week in Singapore is also one of these initiatives where we bring out some of our amazing alpine ingredients and showcase their exquisite flavours. These events can help more people realise that Austria has an excellent gastronomic culture that is yet undiscovered. Last year, we hosted some of the best chefs in Austria for a workshop at the Gannerhof to redefine Alpine winter cuisine. Inspired by how historically people of the Alpine valleys ate in winter decades ago, we explored contemporary ways of pickling, fermenting and preserving the local ingredients.
Austria makes some really great wines. Why don’t we see more Austrian wines in this part of the world?
In fact, Singapore offers quite a good range of wines from Austria. We have many artisanal wines made from unique indigenous grape varieties produced by small family vineyards which may end up in the shadow of larger wine exporters from other European countries, and hence maybe that is why Austrian wines are not as popular yet.
If you had to recommend one dining experience to someone travelling to Austria for the first time, what would it be? Aside from Gannerhof, of course!
Journey to greater heights literally with Austrian gastronomy on the mountains. We have Alpine huts where award-winning chefs present haute cuisine showcasing the stunning flavours of our natural ingredients found in the peaks and valleys of Tyrol.
Separately, a Gault&Millau Gourmet Festival takes place every September in Vienna. Award-winning chefs from different regions showcase their culinary creations made with ingredients that grow in our mountains, valleys, meadows, forests and lakes. This is a must-visit event for all food lovers as the quality and variety of regional specialities are excellent!
Austrian Gourmet Week will take place at Andaz Singapore from 29 October to 2 November 2022, and will feature an exclusive four-hands dinner experience by guest chefs Josef Mühlmann of Gannerhof and Armin Leitgeb at 665°F.
[Main image credit: Matteo Marioli Fotografia]
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