“The Bernese Oberland region is a culinary Cockaigne,“ says Stefan Beer. “Everything I need to create my menus is there. Even Oscietra caviar.” The comparison with the myth suggests luxury and ease, but the Executive Chef of Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa is putting in quite a bit of effort. “Finding outstanding producers was one thing, distracting their fears of cooperating with a luxury hotel another,“ Stefan Beer recalls. Four and a half years later, his network has grown considerably, and by now allows him to use only products from within a radius of 40 km for his aptly titled menu “Z Menu vo hie” – the local menu.
“When news about our cooperation with Bönigen-based truffle hunter Christina Mader, a kindergarten teacher in her day job, spread, two additional suppliers contacted us,“ Stefan Beer explains. “And the same happened with other products over the course of the last few years.” Thanks to Beer and his menu idea, a new sense of closeness between the Victoria-Jungfrau and local residents has developed.
Should a product go out of stock temporarily, the chef resorts to improvisation. Last year, for instance, he had to replace cherries with mirabelles for his “Menu vo hie” dessert, then with greengage, and eventually with plums. After getting back home from eight years in places like Shanghai, Hongkong, Bangkok, and Singapore, Stefan Beer realised that he wanted to offer guests a cuisine that is firmly rooted in the region.
He feels deeply connected to the rural region, and yet, he always makes sure to add a pinch of subtle elegance to his creations. There is even a tongue-in-cheek nod to the world of theme eateries in Stefan Beers «Menu vo hie»: The cucumber sorbet with Swiss Crystal gin from Interlaken is served on a snow shovel.
The love for all things regional is not limited to the culinary delights on the Victoria-Jungfrau menus. The hotel also serves as a stage for little known wines of the canton of Bern. Daniela Wüthrich, Head Sommelière, and congenial partner to Stefan Beer when designing unforgettable fine dining experiences, has meticulously tracked down dozens of first-class products.
Season chicken back pieces and sear them in melted butter. Add garlic, thyme, and hyssop. Remove from heat and set aside.
For the pesto, pull thyme and basil leaves from stems. Brown walnuts in the oven and pestle them with the garlic, turning them into a creamy paste. Stir in hyssop and basil, and add grated cheese. Gradually stir olive oil into the mixture and season to taste.
Gently beat the eggs, add chicken stock, cream and hyssop pesto. Season to taste. Arrange chicken pieces in cups and cover with egg mixture. Place the cups into an ovenproof dish and coddle them in a hot water bath at 180°C for 12 to 15 minutes. Garnish with bacon crumble, potato cubes, and fresh herbs. Serve immediately.
Daniela Würtrichs wine suggestion: Chardonnay AOC Thunersee, 2018 Winery: Spiezer Alpine Weinkultur
words by Alex Kühn, photos by Tina Sturzenegger