It is so quiet that it is almost unbearable for city inhabitants used to constant noise. In the silent forest, every step almost sounds like a thunderclap – even though the thick bed of leaves and moist earth mute the sounds. “I am searching for especially fine young spruce tips”, explains Dominik Käppeler. Spruce tips as an ingredient for the celebrity chef? One thing is clear: Dominik Käppeler goes off the beaten track – with both his recipes and when walking through the forest. The gastronomer regularly comes here to find the perfect ingredients. Driving his V-Class from Munich’s inner city to the forest at Tegernsee has become a ritual. And anyone who thinks this is just something for summer, does not know Dominik Käppeler. Because he is anything but a fair-weather chef.
Dominik Käppeler always gives his best. What might sound like just a figure of speech has an almost ideological dimension for the Michelin star chef from Munich. He uncompromisingly measures the success of his restaurant “Showroom” against its consistency. Even if it seems as though this might make life more difficult than necessary for the chef and his team. The dogmatic principle of never repeating a dish on the menu makes this demanding ambition especially challenging. Despite constant change, every dish should still create a firework of flavours that inspires both the guests and the anonymous Michelin inspectors. Stressful? Käppeler shrugs his shoulders. “Maintaining this level should not be laborious. If we had to force it, we would have given up long ago”, he explains equanimously.
We strive to surprise our guests anew every single time.
The reason for his serenity? Perhaps it is the fact that Dominik Käppeler has lived with the pressure to succeed from the very outset. When he opened his restaurant in 2017, the 31-year-old inherited a daunting legacy: as a former employee, he took over the celebrated Michelin star restaurant from the television chef, Andreas Schweiger. The celebrity chef left him the premises and an incredibly high bar. How do you handle a legacy like that? Käppeler decided to confidently rename the restaurant “Showroom” and to trust in his own strengths: “I believe that my greatest strength is seeing nothing as a matter of course and setting my own standards. I do not use phrases like ‘We have always done things that way’”, he says. Today, “Showroom” still has both: the Michelin star and Käppeler’s idealism.
When Käppeler gets into his van and heads out to find ingredients, it becomes obvious that he lives his ideals. “Everything I claim only makes sense if I go out and harvest the herbs with my own two hands.” Back in the restaurant’s kitchen, he blanches the spruce tips from the forest in a small silver pot. It is late in the afternoon. The chef prepares one of the evening’s numerous highlights in a heavy, film-covered stainless steel bowl. Mysterious white smoke escapes through a small hole in the transparent film. “We strive to surprise our guests anew every single time”, says Käppeler. Yet in the kitchen, no one seems very surprised. Unperturbed by the smoke, everyone continues working on surprises large and small. It is almost like watching a magic show. Is this even cooking? Dominik Käppeler is the type of person who does not care what others call it. It is his way of doing things. End of story.