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Magazine August 2020

Herbert Hintner. Half a century of experience and a star that has been shining for years

Zur Rose: starry stage in the province of Bolzano and main interpreter of South Tyrolean cuisine

Profession or vocation? Both, when it comes to Herbert Hintner, chef chef of the Zur Rose restaurant in San Michele Appiano in Bolzano. For Herbert, South Tyrol, as it appears since its origins, is the source of his philosophy: he does not hide behind classic recipes, but makes tradition liveable with unlimited creativity and accuracy. According to the chef, preserving traditional cuisine is also a social responsibility: regional and local products are a precious tribute to farmers and producers for the conservation of peasant culture. Furthermore, the very fact of knowing the origin of the products is an unequivocal guarantee of their quality.

With the chef, we retraced the beginnings and decisions that led him, together with his wife Margot, to build what is now the Zur Rose: a restaurant that confirms its place among the Michelin stars year after year.

How were the beginnings?
“I’m going to be 50 in the kitchen. I started at the age of 14 in the room and then as an apprentice. Everything went quite well, so I implemented my experience working in Austria and Germany. Upon returning, I met and married the daughter of a restaurateur from Appiano. This was the turning point, the beginning of our adventure. Together with my wife we ​​decided to manage the existing restaurant and transform it from a restaurant for the workers into something different”.

What kind of kitchen have you built?
“The idea we had was that of a creative cuisine but linked to the products of our territory. It was very difficult. In those years, from 85 and for the following three years, we have been highly criticized. Customers were not used to it, the new one sometimes scares. The complaints were for the type of cuisine (on the menu we proposed the brain with the egg) or for the small portions and the high prices. We also got into debt but we went ahead. After the release of a small article from a local newspaper, which presented us very well, things began to change. In December 1994, a telegram arrived from Milan informing us of the recognition of the first star”.

After what happened?
“We have managed to further improve the restaurant and the kitchen. Subsequently, I was president of the young restaurateurs of Italy for about seven years. This allowed me to travel around Italy and acquire even more knowledge of regional recipes”.

What is the situation today?
“My son is working well in the kitchen with me, we are slowly preparing the changes for the new generation”.

How are the ideas for your dishes born?
“They are spontaneous. The first thing I refer to is seasonality. The freshness of the products in their specific period. Creativity has ups and downs and an idea can come to me at any time. To be creative you have to be like a child playing”.

What percentages would you assign to creativity and technique?
“I would first divide creativity into standard and then into genius. The second belongs to very few in the world. Among those who were brilliant for me is Adrià Ferran and Gualtiero Marchesi. It takes, I think, a 30% head followed by manual skills”.

What will the future of catering be?
“I believe that the slogan of the future will be: true luxury is simplicity. People need to understand what they are eating. Many are getting tired of the design kitchen and too many elaborations, there are also many places with raw materials not of excellence. This thing annoys me a little. There are too many young people looking for shortcuts and wanting to work as little as possible. Another problem is that in families there is no possibility to educate to taste and everyone already comes out with an industrialized palate”.

Her son has been working with her for some time. What advice would you like to give to all young people who undertake this career?
“Discipline and absolute knowledge of the raw material. You have to believe in yourself. Build your line and keep it without losing your character”.

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