Switzerland’s First Gramona Amuse Bouche Competition

Tuna tartar with sea urchin mayo and a fried egg prepared by the team from Schweizerischen Hotelfachschule Luzern.

In an effort to bring greater attention to the amuse-bouche, Smith & Smith wine company and the Spanish sparkling winemaker Gramona, hosted a new competition in Switzerland dedicated to this very small dish.

To enter the Gramona Amuse Bouche 2019 competition, pairs comprised of a chef and another employee from a Swiss restaurant had to submit a photo and description of their amuse-bouche to pair with a glass of Gramona Gran Reserva Imperial Brut. In all, 47 teams entered — all of whom work at restaurants in Switzerland’s German-speaking regions. Gramona, a family company that has spanned five generations, has already hosted several of these competitions in the Netherlands.

Gramona Gran Reserva Imperial Brut on ice at the Amuse-Bouche competition.

What’s an Amuse-Bouche?

A literal translation for the French term amuse-bouche could be “mouth amuser,” or something that entertains the mouth. What grew out of the nouvelle cuisine era in France has spread throughout the world. These small, surprise dishes that arrive at the beginning of the meal offer chefs a creative way to welcome guests and wake up their taste buds.

amuse-bouche : a small complimentary appetizer offered at some restaurants

As defined by Merriam-Webster
Rice Chip / Swiss Alpine Salmon / Shiso Leaf / Cucumber / Ginger / Red Onion / Miso / Yolk / Tamarind by Convivio

The 10 Finalists in Luzern

From all the entries received for the inaugural edition of this competition, a jury composed of wine experts, restaurateurs and others from the gastronomy industry, selected 10 finalists.

  • Chef Jose Severino and Sommelier Alexander Stöckl from Barranco (Zürich)
  • Chef Thomas Brandner and Sommelier Sue Dervichian from Bauernschänke (Zürich)
  • Chef Jérôme Baschung and Manager Nadine Bielitz from Convivio (Zürich)
  • Chef Michele Meier and Food & Beverage Coach Christian Gujan from KKL (Luzern)
  • Head Chef Benjamin Plsek and Head Sommelier Raymond Fürer from Maison Manesse (Zürich)
  • Chef de Cuisine Philipp Heid and Chef de Service Steffi Heid from Prisma at the Parkhotel Vitznau (Vitznau)
  • Chef Andrej Radisa and owner Salvatore Mantelli from Restaurant LA (Basel)
  • Culinary Director Marc-André Dietrich and Sommelier Marcel Gabriel from Schweizerischen Hotelfachschule Luzern (Luzern)
  • Executive Chef Hauke Pol and Restaurant Manager Ramona Reich from The Omnia (Zermatt)
  • Chef Paride Giuri and Managing Director Lukas Rüegg from Restaurant Stall Valär (Davos) – This team was the people’s choice winner during the online voting phase of the competition.

On November 24, 2019, we gathered with these 10 finalists at the Schweizerischen Hotelfachschule Luzern. At this location, they presented their dishes before the jury. While not a member of the jury, I had the chance to sample all the dishes from the finalists.

The team from Bauernschänke, presenting before the jury.

First Prize Winner: Parkhotel Vitznau

In the elegant dining area with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Vierwaldstättersee (aka Lake Lucerne), the amuse-bouches from the finalists had varied textures, colors and flavors. Made with the finest ingredients, such as monkfish liver, Swiss caviar, octopus, and foie gras, I found all of them to be quite different. The jury judged them on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of their presentation, concept and adherence to the theme of the competition. Throughout the event, the courteous staff — students from the hotel school — kept filling our glasses with delicious Spanish bubbly.

The winning dish, Scallop with kohlrabi, apple and cilantro. Photo credit: Gramona Amuse Bouche.

After the jury had the chance to deliberate, the first-place winner was announced: Philipp and Steffi Heid from the Parkhotel Vitnau. Their dish combined a delicately sliced scallop with the fresh, crisp flavors of kohlrabi, apple and cilantro. It paired very nicely with the dry, refreshing glass of Gramona Gran Reserva Imperial Brut. This dish was my favorite of the 10 amuse-bouche presented, so I was pleased with the result.

For winning this contest, they will receive a trip to Barcelona, a visit to the Gramona winery and dinner in the three Michelin-starred El Celler de Can Roca.

Left to right: Markus Lichtenstein (Smith & Smith) with the winners, Steffi und Philipp Heid and Xavier Gramona. Photo credit: Gramona Amuse Switzerland.

Xavier Gramona was visibly touched at the close of this year’s Gramona Amuse Bouche. He told us that the competition at its heart is about enjoying life and self-improvement. Gramona currently plans to hold this national competition in Switzerland again next year, with more information available in spring 2020.

Gramona Amuse Switzerland, https://www.gramonaamuse.ch/
Smith & Smith Wine Company, https://www.smithandsmith.ch/de/

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