Less than ten minutes after you have checked into the "Casa Caminada" in Fürstenau and are exploring the small piazza next to the new coffee roastery, Andreas Caminada comes out of the side entrance of his gourmet restaurant in Schloss Schauenstein with some guests. The three-star chef from the Swiss canton of Graubünden could also make a career in Hollywood, he looks like a mixture of the young Mel Gibson and Bradley Cooper. You don't need a fixed interview appointment, his communications officer said, something like this tends to happen in the
. Just like now, when he greets you and takes you on a guided tour.
The last visit to the 350-inhabitant village of Fürstenau, which advertises as the smallest town in the world, was four years ago.
At that time, Caminada had just opened his second “Igniv” restaurant in St. Moritz - with a sharing concept that he introduced in Bad Ragaz and which is so successful that he now also has branches in Zurich and Bangkok.
Andreas Caminada is an exceptional figure among top chefs: connected to his homeland and at the same time cosmopolitan, he is not driven by the desire for recognition, but by the will to a careful and responsible use of resources, which is still a rarity in luxury restaurants.
At Caminada, however, the concept never weighs more heavily than the good taste on the plate.
Each of his dishes is balanced right down to the tip.
New fermentation techniques, homemade fish sauces and koji cultures are also used, but are never the topic itself. The fact that Caminada uses products from the region is not a concession to the culinary zeitgeist, but a matter of course.
“Here at the castle, we make haute cuisine with simple basic products such as bacon, onions or beetroot,” he says.
A break shaped his kitchen
In spring 2018, Caminada took a break and closed his restaurant for five months to travel half the world with his family from Colombia to New Zealand.
This has had a lasting impact on his cuisine.
He brought some sharp accents with him from Thailand as inspiration, which he now uses as a “harmony breaker” in the form of canned chillies, as he says.
“My kitchen was almost too harmonious for me,” he says, referring to the incredibly finely coordinated flavors that used to run through his menus like Vivaldi melodies.
"After my vacation in Thailand, my balance was lacking sharpness."
Balanced right down to the tips: pork neck, onion, dried peach and spicy oil from Andreas Caminada
Source: Oriani Oregoni
The new direction leads to an extremely tasty tension.
He now serves his pickled tomatoes in a slightly spicy kimchi stock and a thin, wafer-thin lardo from the Swiss mountains, while his onions and physalis get a surprising spiciness kick from a hidden pickled chilli with the pikeperch, which is only slightly cooked in the acid.
On a tour of the vaulted cellar of the "Casa Caminada", he shows his potted treasures.
A wide variety of fruits, vegetables and parts of plants are waiting to be used in his dishes in large glasses. Various types of tomatoes, chili peppers, chilies or pickled Jerusalem artichoke buds are the yields of his new test garden, in which he now grows sprouts and flowers for the daily restaurant business on a former sheep pasture in the middle of the village, but also just looks what becomes of vegetables when you have them lets stand. Delicious little pods that you can pickle, for example, are made by the radishes, and that's how he discovered how beautiful broccoli blooms.
Later in the evening he uses the flowers for a dish with pickled peas from the previous year, fresh pea sprouts from the new polytunnel and watercress leaves for a local, hot note. The fact that canned peas can retain so much flavor and even gain through preservation is a completely new experience. The dish clearly shows how the realignment has been reflected in Caminada's kitchen and where its journey is headed. Caminada has just assigned an employee to familiarize himself with the specifics of permaculture he wants to tackle next. Later he leads through his coach house, which is currently being converted into a chef's table with ten seats and spontaneously changing carte blanche menus from the yields of his vegetable garden and which is due to open in the next few weeks.
The vegetable garden has also become something of a training institute for the farmers in the area, to whom it shows exactly which types of plants and parts it needs at which stage and what it can guarantee sales for in its various restaurants.
School classes are occasionally held here.
The involvement of the villagers in his growing empire is important to him, after all, he lives with his family in the middle of this village, as you learn by the way, when you walk across the lawn in front of his house on the way from the restaurant to the vegetable garden and he shouts something to his children .
View of Schloss Schauenstein, where Caminada runs his three-star restaurant
Source: Courtesy Andreas Caminada
He finally opened the "Casa Caminada", an inn with ten rooms across from the exclusive castle hotel, in September 2019 after water damage delayed the opening. The inn has a shop with products from friendly manufacturers, for example the chamois salami of a hunter who processes various types of game into permanent sausages and does not require any curing salt. In front of Caminada's bakery with the most delicious sourdough breads there are also people who would not necessarily eat in his restaurants. The two houses are always fully booked, says Caminada. In Corona times, he was only allowed to entertain overnight guests, but they were doing very well, so that sales were right. 2020 was actually a great year, he says and grins a little.
Sharing doesn't just happen on the plate
Caminada has made the smallest city in the world a lively place that should inspire even those interested in culture.
He is building an art collection for his restaurants, because sharing, which is also important to him, does not only take place on the plate, it is also a form of cultural participation, of passing on and giving back to the region.
That is why he collects works by local artists, including Not Vital and Konrad Jon Godly from Chur, but also the painted pastry cardboard from Ser Serpas, which he simply had unframed glued to the wood paneling.
The fact that his maitre is bothered by the lack of framing seems to amuse him more.
In the bar of his Zurich “Igniv” there are pictures of young men made by underground photographer Walter Pfeiffer. A few steps down in the restaurant there is a glowing red neon sign with the slogan “Miniskirts Forever” by Sylvie Fleury. “After all, it was once a gay bar,” is Caminada's very plausible reason for the selection of art. He has just bought pictures by the Argentine-Swiss painter Vivian Suter for the “Igniv” in Bangkok.
Another neon work by Sylvie Fleury hangs in the entrance area of the restaurant in Schloss Schauenstein. The word "Envy" (envy) shines towards you in the gaudy building. And in fact, you could be jealous when you see how Caminada manages
and how easy it all seems to be to him. But you allow him too much for that.