Imagine a fine dining experience where the spoon you will use resembles the shape of a human butt. Another dish requires you to partner up with the person sitting next to you because the dinnerware is too cumbersome to lift by yourself. The culinary collective that organizes these events goes by the name of Steinbeisser, which means “biting on rock” in German. Its Experimental Gastronomy concept is unlike anything you have ever seen.
Steinbeisser first came to Switzerland in 2016 when it hosted an event in Basel with Tanja Grandits of Restaurant Stucki, and it returned in 2017 in Zürich with Fabian Spiquel of Maison Manesse.
Focused on delicious food from talented chefs served in unique and surprising ways, Steinbeisser will come back to Switzerland this fall for two editions of its Experimental Gastronomy:
- September 19 and 20, 2018 in Basel. Experimental Gastronomy will take place again at Basel’s Merian Gärten, this time with Yoji Tokuyoshi. After working as a sous-chef for Massimo Bottura for nearly 10 years at Osteria Francescana (named the World’s Best Restaurant for 2018), Tokuyoshi opened his own restaurant in Milan in 2015.
- October 20 and 21, 2018 in Bern. Steinbeisser has recruited two chefs working in Switzerland — Simon Apothéloz of Eisblume in Worb and Fabian Raffener of Restaurant Meridiano in Bern.
All of these Michelin-star chefs will be serving up 6-course tasting menus with creative vegan cuisine, paired with wine or juice (CHF 275, per person.)
I recently had the chance to catch up via email with Martin Kullik, one of the founders of Steinbeisser. Based in Amsterdam, Kullik and his partner, Jouw Wijnsma, have been hosting Experimental Gastronomy events since 2012. Here’s what Kullik had to say about Steinbeisser’s activities this fall in Basel and Bern, as well as its future plans.
For what reasons did you select Merian Gärten in Basel and the former Swisscom tower in Bern as the locations for the next editions of Steinbeisser’s Experimental Gastronomy?
Kullik: “We are always looking for the spectacular in a location, in Basel it is the aspect of dining in nature and being able to pick ingredients for the dishes just seconds before being served, in Bern it is the overwhelming concrete architecture that we wanted to explore as an added element for the experience.”
Can you explain why Steinbeisser has decided to host events with entirely plant-based menus?
Kullik: “For the Experimental Gastronomy we chose to always serve a plant-based (vegan) tasting menu. Why? Because with the abundance of luscious dishes made with meat, fish, eggs and cheese there is a need for new, creative and delicious dishes made from plants only. So we also chose to get 100% of all our ingredients, both food and drinks, from biodynamic (Demeter) or organic agriculture sourced exclusively in the surroundings from where the dinner takes place. That’s nuts logistically speaking, but working with small-scale producers is incredibly rewarding, both personally and quality-wise. The chefs, the farmers and the artists are all essential to the whole. And last but not least, we ask all the participating chefs to cook without the use of any kind of additives or preservatives. Because we deem those unfit for consumption.”
How did you select the chefs for these upcoming events in Switzerland?
Kullik: “By feeling.”
Which organic farmers/producers are you working with in Switzerland for the events in Basel and Bern?
Kullik: “We are always looking for an experimental approach, whether it’s the cooking, the tableware or the farming. It all has to match and make sense as a total. First of all, we are working with the two farmers of the Merian Gärten in Basel that grow very rare varieties of vegetables, herbs and edible flowers, from ProSpecieRara. Then we work with Stefan Brunner from Brunner Eichhof, Klaus Böhler, Sabine Haag, and Eli Wurmser is our forager. We also invited Christine Tran, former baker at Tartine in San Francisco, to be our head-baker (only sourdough) for the upcoming events.”
Are any of the artists creating cutlery and dinnerware for these events based in Switzerland?
Kullik: “We assembled a very talented international group of artists. Four of them are from Switzerland: Laurin Schaub, Margareta Daepp, Atelier Volvox aka Lea Gerber and Samuel Coendet.”
How, if at all, will the events in Switzerland differ from the first edition of Experimental Gastronomy in Amsterdam?
Kullik: “The events continue to evolve in different ways, at each event we notice things that we want to see improved. And then there are many other aspects that we want to experiment with, think space, light, sound, furniture, etc. So the events keep on changing, hopefully for the better.”
What do you hope that your guests will take away from these events?
Kullik: “That you’ll have to ask them.”
What are your future plans for Steinbeisser?
Kullik: “We would like the dinners to be set in nature, with the chance of foraging on the spot, also having chefs and guests work together on the plating, and for the dinners to become more interactive and about sharing. We are also really looking forward to all the future projects. In May 2019 we are hosting our first event in New York featuring 4 of the best female chefs from the US and in collaboration with the James Beard Foundation, that will be exciting!”
For more information or to make reservations for Steinbeisser’s upcoming events, go to www.steinbeisser.org.
All photos courtesy of Steinbeisser.