Bruno Reichart is the chef of the Hotel Gotthard in Lech am Arlberg, Austria. During a quiet moment in his working day we meet over coffee to chat about his influences and approach to cooking.
“I try to bring the most out of individual ingredients, instead of mixing them with lots of pepper and things…We like to source our meat, eggs and potatoes from local people and our fish from Zug [3km from Lech], from the local lake,” he says in a matter-of-fact manner.
“If a fish is fresh you don’t need heavy sauces. If it’s fresh you need a piece of lemon, salt and that’s it,” says Reichart with conviction.
The kitchen staff at the Hotel Gotthard prepare an evening dinner menu for guests who select the half-board option. The meals are served in the Lecher Stube dining room, which was renovated ahead of the 2014-15 winter season, Reichart’s third at the hotel. They also prepare regional and international dishes from the Gotthard Stube’s a la carte menu.
The dishes served in the Gotthard Stube include salads, dumplings, goulash as well as Austrian specialities such as Tafelspitz (boiled beef with horseradish) and Wiener Schnitzel (veal cutlet pan-fried in a coat of breadcrumbs). As winter takes a grip on the Vorarlberg game dishes such as Hirschbraten (roast venison), Hirschragout (venison ragout) and roast duck breast will be served.
So does he have a dish that he’d recommend guests try, I ask?
“I’ve travelled the world and enjoy everything. In South Africa I enjoyed mieliepap (a dish made from maize) with just a little gravy and in Mexico I liked the Mexican food. Everyone’s favourite dish is different,” he answers philosophically.
“If it’s Käsespätzle (egg dumplings in a cheese sauce and served with fried onions) we make a good mountain cheese mixture and Spätzle just with eggs. If you’re out working in the woods and have Käsespätzle there’s nothing better. If you’re lying in the sun then a piece of trout from the lake and a little salad is the best you can get. It all depends on what you’re doing that day and what you’re longing for. I wouldn’t say this is my favourite dish, this you have to try. I don’t want to push people into something, they have to decide themselves,” he answers.
“I’m a little old fashioned. I believe time is running faster than we can keep up with it. An apple needs the whole summer to grow on the tree. In my cooking I want to have the basics and take the time for the cooking. Hopefully the people will take the time to eat it and enjoy it, and really take it in instead of eating and reading the paper on the side,” says Reichart, who admits he is a fan of the slow food movement that has been gaining popularity in recent years.
“A carrot always gives 100 per cent. It’s up to the chef to take this out and give it to the customer. That’s what I try and what my people try to put on the plate,” he says.
Reichart hails from Germany. After initial training, he began his career in Dusseldorf. He’s also worked at the Swiss Centre on Leicester Square in London, the Sheraton in Edinburgh and spent time working in hotel restaurants in the South African cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria. While working on a cruise ship he was involved in a nasty accident.
“I was doing ice-carving. I chopped two fingers off. I was off work for one-and-a-half years,” says the chef as he reveals his hand.
He returned to work at the St Georg, part of the Benedictine Einsiedeln Abbey in Switzerland. During his time there he met a number of classical musicians, including members of the Hillard Ensemble.
“These guys are world class but they are happy, relaxed and thankful,” says Reichart. “That’s the thing, if you have a talent and you’re grateful for your talent that makes special people. Einsiedeln was a special place; living in the moment and being thankful for what you have and what you can do. I think it’s good to humble and hope that people enjoy my cooking,” he says.
Bruno Reichart works at the Hotel Gotthard at Omesberg 119 in Lech am Arlberg, Austria (tel. +43 5583 3560 0).