im Raue the human being – where do we start…Netflix has already come calling.
I take a somewhat ambivalent view of my episode in this chefs’ series. That’s because it was approached in a distinctly American way: from ghetto kid to star-rated chef. The egomaniac who thinks that the world revolves solely around him – that’s not who I am, at all. I am a reticent kind of guy. For decades, I have been surrounded by people, who have helped me action all these projects. They would not have stuck around if I were not a team player. I am only a cog in the wheel. But nothing against Netflix. The series brought us a massive amount of attention and guests.
To get to a certain level is one thing, but maintaining that level is quite another.
But ambition and a passion for new ideas has always been a Tim Raue thing…
Definitely, I am a very decisive person and the one that always leads from the front. I never take a backward step. I always want to discover new things, make progress and improve what I do and who I am. When I became a chef de cuisine at the age of 23, I really was a brash, boisterous prat. I suffered from a serious lack of empathy and social skills. I was only interested in my next success. If I was awarded 13 points, I immediately wanted to score 16 or 17. But we then realised that you have to create something that endures and that you can’t just follow trends. I want our guests to experience memorable wow moments. I don’t want to do what we have seen in Spain. A style of cuisine that is all the rage for a short period and then disappears. We want to create something that is still awesome in 30 years’ time.
And you can only achieve that with the help of a great team…
That I have learned over time as well – to develop, challenge and nurture your staff. The chefs have mastered the art of cooking after a few years, then they need to turn their attention to the next stage in their development – learning to work profitably and efficiently, passing on knowledge or having the self-motivation to create new dishes themselves. Sometimes you have really great guys, whose work is efficient but gruesome or who forget in the delirium of their creativity that the restaurant business is not just meant to shock. You have to teach them that guests are supposed to come in to the restaurant and need to be wowed. And then keep on coming back. We want to achieve consistency – as a business too.
What do you need most to achieve business success?
You need somebody who lives and breathes this issue. Fortunately, my wife Marie is still on board as a business partner. She handles the business management side of things and has effectively run the business for twenty years. I tend to be one of those people that if you give them five Euros, they will spend six. She is the one that says let’s put the one Euro aside. That is also something you first have to learn: you may be pretty good on your own, but you can only grow, if you are surrounded by people, who are good at things that are less your forte.
And how do you keep the creative process ticking over?
That is the biggest challenge for me personally. I can’t just employ a creative chef to do that. The team does indeed generate ideas and we do share them. But nine out of ten ideas don’t appeal because they lack the common thread I have or want. Often, it’s a combination of coincidence and a great deal of luck. That’s how dishes like this winter’s combination of Brussels sprouts and bananas are created. If you have already created a very large number of fabulous dishes, it’s really tough constantly coming up with something that appeals to guests in exactly the same way but isn’t just bland. Earlier, I used to knock out 30 to 40 dishes a year, now it tends to be six or seven. To get to a certain level is one thing, but maintaining that level is quite another.
How has the Berlin public evolved?
That is a long story. There was already an influx of people into Berlin at the beginning of the 1990s, but not as massive as it is these days. The city was relatively easy to split into the East and the old West with its traditional restaurants. At the end of the 1990s, people realised just how much potential there was in East Berlin. The public that goes out on the town there is different. The market consisted and still consists of tourists and new Berliners. Once, when there was a strike at Tegel Airport, we immediately had 60 percent cancellations, because nobody could reach the city any more. The proportion of international guests in our restaurant is sometimes 100 percent. Now we have to work on becoming more of a part of this city.
How do you manage to work at this level for so many years?
I asked myself four years ago how much longer do I have the necessary speed of action and assertiveness. In the kitchen, I am standing next to guys who have just reached 20. When I put in an 18-hour day, I notice that I need to take a break occasionally. My difficulty is that I still work far too hard. I find it difficult to say no if somebody asks me. I have already thought about taking a sabbatical. But I simply cannot imagine not working for a whole year. Then I thought, OK, maybe a three-month break, but I know that I can forget that right now as well. I am down to three weeks at the moment. I need to cut down so that I have more time to be creative and for the people around me.
How does a top chef plan for the future?
My best friend once told me that I am not only a chef de cuisine but also a restaurateur and host. I never wanted to be, because I had far too authoritarian views of how guests should behave. But he was right – I then mapped out the perspectives I had and suddenly had seven different new concepts in my mind. That was not very smart. You need so much energy and drive if you have to do everything from scratch. It’s better to have one concept that can be applied at several locations. That is what I have achieved with the Tertianum Premium Residences in Constance, Munich and Berlin. In all three residences, we have defined what senior-citizen-friendly breakfasts, lunches and dinners could (or should) be and have developed a brasserie concept named Colette. Or the next step a year ago – a concept for a TUI cruise ship. I am already working on the option of broadening that out. Yes, I still need to work for a while to fill up my pension scheme, but I still think in terms of one-year plans. And I then see them through come what may.