The young chefs from the Salzkammergut |
From culinary roots & flights of fancy
Stefan Haas, a chef for all seasons, as he describes himself, runs the four-star Hotel Mondi on Grundlsee as a head three-stars chef. The fact that he not only writes his menus but also draws sketches of all the dishes makes his style unmistakable. With the craftsmen he trusts, he creates his own handmade damask knives. He works closely with selected craftsmen from the region and gets “his” meat and “his” own vegetables.
At the Geiger Alm in Altaussee, Dominik Utassy combines his basic knowledge of the Austrian cuisine with elements of French cuisine and thus always surprisingly reinterprets the taste of his homeland at a three-star level. The alpine hat is an old Troadkasten that the ski star Markus Wasmeier set up here. As a thank you to his favorite and top restaurateur from Ausseerland, Paul König, Dominik's foster father.
The third member of the group of young, wild chefs is award-winning chef Christian Wölkart. You can find him in the forest just as often as at the stove in the classy and casual “Das James” – he gets his own ingredients from nature. In addition to mushrooms and berries, there are also mosses, lichens and spruces. Meat, fish and vegetables come from a radius of a few kilometers - it's all on your doorstep, it all tastes like Ausseerland. With a fresh, cheeky twist.
With the young wild ones we experience the culinary traditions of the Ausseerland and their reinterpretation. The chefs are in very close contact with farmers, breeders and fishermen from the Salzkammergut region.
The culinary high-flyers have exciting career paths behind them. Hurdles, setbacks and mistakes have made them strong. And there is something else special that doesn't exist everywhere in the star business: their friendship and willingness to help one another.
Stefan Haas, who was born in Schladming, only became a chef during his “second educational opportunity”: after what he found to be a torturous apprenticeship as a carpenter, the young man did not want to pursue his profession and had to retrain. His motive for taking cooking courses at a Styrian training center was primarily to be able to at least cook for himself. However, a job in the catering industry seemed unattractive to him: “I was actually lazy back then. I definitely didn't want to work on weekends and evenings." But his trainer advised him: “You definitely have to keep going. You have talent.” The teacher turned out to be right - from then on the young man's career took off. In responsible positions in hotels such as the 5-star Hotel Schloss Pichlarn / Styria, or the Restaurant Ikarus in Hangar 7 / Salzburg as well as during internships in Germany and Holland, he mastered his craft.
Stefan Haas has been leading the large kitchen brigade at the Mondi Resort on Grundlsee / Styria since 2014 and has achieved three Gault Millau stars with his team.
After setbacks of a health nature - a result of total exhaustion for the job he loves - he has been learning to manage his strength for several years. Mental training, personal development, strength training, mediation and reflection are topics that the top chef now takes time for. And last but not least, he maintains a management style that is based on delegation, development and personal responsibility of his employees instead of “micro management”, pressure and control. This means he has his head and hands free for his creative dishes.
In his private life, Stefan Haas is married to the regional sommelier Juliane Haas, and the two will soon be parents for the first time.
Christian Wölkart has been head chef at the Bad Aussee golf club restaurant “Das James” since 2019. You can find him in the forest just as often as at the stove - he collects his own ingredients from nature and “rexes” them. He uses mushrooms and berries, mosses and lichens, spruces, wood and even hay from the immediate area in his kitchen. “I can’t offer a dish with pineapple if it doesn’t grow here,” says Wölkart, emphasizing his radical approach to the regional cuisine.
Christian grew up in a pub - and always wanted to be a chef. Raised by his father and grandmother in the “Draxlerwirt” inn in Modriach / Western Styria, he learned how to cook, but also how to fully utilize and preserve food, from his grandmother, a farmer and a landlady.
After several positions as head chef in Austrian tourism companies, the ambitious chef opened his own restaurant with his wife in Altaussee. The seven-day week drove him into burnout and put him in the intensive care unit, ruined his marriage and turned him into an alcoholic who was admitted to Kalksburg. These weeks of therapy were a very important experience and a healing process.
Today he is abstinent and works hard and a lot, but with a “clear head,” as he says. The experience has encouraged him even more to go his own way: only 5 days a week in the award-winning restaurant as a solo artist and dishwasher. Sometimes guests have to help out; he simply grabs them and organizes them.
He spends his two days off per week hiking in the Ausseer Land. The forest is his wellness program, his source of inspiration and strength. To compensate, he cooks roast pork from the wood-fired oven at his father's in Modriach in November, or builds small wooden chests for his restaurant in his father's workshop.
Christian develops his dishes in his head and is inspired by nature. “People say I’m crazy. But that's exactly what they like about me." On his hikes, he snacks on freshly picked porcini mushrooms and sours them with the lemon of the forest - the ant.
He doesn't mince his words and criticizes the business with the reviews. Thick menus make him skeptical. In his ideal vision, he no longer has a card and his guests don't need them at all.
His many tattoos show a huge kitchen knife, cucumbers, tomatoes, mushrooms, etc.: “I tattooed my cold store!” In the perhaps somewhat “wild” shell there is the soft core of a friendly, sensitive person.
Dominik Utassy, who was born in Altausse, combines his traditional cooking with elements of French cuisine at the Geigeralm in Altaussee and thus constantly reinterprets the taste of his homeland in surprising new ways at a three-stars level. The alpine hut is an old Troadkasten that the ski star Markus Wasmeier set up here. As a thank you, he gave the Geigeralm to his service man and today's restaurateur Paul König, Dominik's stepfather, who turned it into a ski hut. Paul runs a restaurant in Altaus.