All food aficionados long to be side-by-side in the kitchen, honing their craft with their culinary mentor. Whether it’s to observe a favourite dish come to life by virtue of a master chef’s creative hand or to have kitchen secrets revealed before our very eyes, the experience simply enhances our love of food. What if I told you this was the case for me in Zurich, Switzerland? Welcome to my fine-dining experience at the legendary Kronenhalle restaurant. Not only did I have the opportunity to learn from the best, but I also got to cook with the best, Chef Philippe Schoch.
The world-renowned Kronenhalle has become synonymous with fine dining. Equally impressive as an art gallery, it holds a collection of tableaus by various grand peintres such as Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Joan Miro, and Paul Klee. It’s hard to imagine dining in full view of such masterpieces, but at the Kronenhalle, you can do just that. As the old adage says, “Food is art.” In this case, it doesn’t ring truer.
During my exciting culinary bucket list adventure (an adventure I never thought would come to be), I learned so much about Zurich’s near-century-old establishment and the intricate workings that have made it successful over such a long time.
Before World War II, the Kronenhalle became a rendezvous point for musicians, actors, authors, and artists as they enjoyed la belle vie. However, later, during some turbulent time, the establishment also become a refuge for many European artists seeking safety from the Nazis in Switzerland. For some artists, their artwork became a form of payment. Because of that, today’s guests at this acclaimed dining institution can admire genuine works of art by such revered painters.
With its art collection, three dining rooms, and an exquisite bar that would make any mixologist swoon, one can easily understand why the Kronenhalle has become so popular. But it’s also their exemplary cuisine and upscale hospitality that makes patrons want to return.
First journalist ever to cook in their kitchen
To my surprise, my adventure began with my suiting up in chef whites under the supervision of Chef Philippe Schoch. Chef Schoch, with his ever-so-calm and pleasant demeanour, assisted me (giddy like a school girl) with putting on my chef apron and hat, making the experience seem like a culinary baptism.
Walking through the sizeable grand kitchen and witnessing the high-quality ingredients being used, I was beyond impressed. I was mesmerized by the carefully orchestrated flow of the food orders coming in and the quiet execution of the dishes leaving the kitchen, making their way to very satisfied patrons in one of the stunning dining rooms.
I was there to learn how to prepare one of the restaurant’s traditional signature dishes, sliced veal “Kronenhalle” and rösti. This dish exemplifies richness and decadence with its velvety, savoury sauce and tender morsels of veal that melt in your mouth. And if that wasn’t enough, their gigantic rösti was something dreams are made out of.
As I eagerly did the food prep, Chef Schoch explained that Kronenhall is all about providing its guests with the highest caliber meat cuts in order to enrich their dining experience. Case in point, only the filet would do for their signature veal dishes.
From cutting to sautéing to tasting, I was in heaven! You can say the piece de resistance was the moment Chef Schoch and I flipped a huge rösti together. Such an amazing memory! For those of you that don’t know, rösti is a Swiss potato dish that resembles a potato fritter except on a much, much larger scale. The amount of butter and clarified butter that goes into making this golden potato dish is unbelievable; that’s probably why it’s so delicious.
Beaming with pride that my tummy was full with such tasteful fare, I was given the grand tour of the restaurant, and I took it all in. As my eyes wandered to Chagall’s beautiful painting beside me, I realized I was living a ‘pinch me’ moment in which I had just cooked in one of the world’s most famed kitchens.
Kronenhalle embodies the fine art of dining with both style and refinement. The seamless, highly professional execution of both the front and back of the house in this art-laden establishment makes the dining experience a “must do” when one is traveling in Zurich.