Mr. Tress, this year you were awarded a green star by the Michelin Guide for particularly sustainable cuisine. You operate a total of four organic restaurants, the newest of which is "1950" with fine cuisine. Fine dining and sustainability, how do they go together?
First of all: We are not hipsters who are suddenly taking up sustainability. We have always worked this way. My family has been farming according to Demeter guidelines for 70 years. I'm just continuing what my grandfather and father sowed. The fact that the gastro guide Michelin is now taking up the topic and adapting to the zeitgeist shows that something really needs to change.
But fine dining hasn't been your hobby so far.
True. If someone had asked me four years ago if I would do this, I would have said: Who needs it? Nobody needs fine dining. I was wrong. Because it turns out that we need it after all.
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How did the turnaround come about?
We run several restaurants and supply supermarkets with fresh organic soups for the refrigerated section. Each of these channels must be played differently. In every area we have to think about how we can get our dishes onto the streets profitably. For us, whole animal recycling according to the nose-to-tail principle is extremely important and we always utilize the whole animal and not just the precious pieces. A fine piece of meat like beef fillet cannot be offered everywhere. But since we buy whole animals and use them completely, we had a surplus of these pieces, which is of course a luxury problem. However, in the "1950" we can offer these parts very well. The restaurant is our opportunity to give the precious items a valuable place. With the “1950” we want to show that fine dining can also be sustainable.
You've been offering a CO2 menu at "1950" since August, what is that?
The idea is not new to us. We had the word mark CO2-Menu protected back in 2010. It arose from the need to give all the producers we work with a face and to show that it is possible to cook a fine dining menu using only regional ingredients. For each menu, we have listed where the ingredients come from, the name of the farmer and how far the food was transported. Everything is as transparent as possible for the guests. We have now expanded this concept in the new restaurant.
Each guest gets a small box that fills up with more and more cards with each dish. Each ingredient has its own card. The corresponding farmer is shown on the front, and all the essential information about the product, including CO2 emissions, can be found on the back. By showing guests the people behind the products, we give farmers a platform. And every single product is valued in this way.
What does this do for the guest?
We don't want to convince anyone of anything by pointing the finger, that would be arrogant. We are neither radical nor dogmatic, the guests should still have fun with us. Through the CO2 menu we give guests the opportunity to playfully engage with food and its origins. And show what contribution each individual can make. This is our mission for society.
The menu is intended to contribute to a more climate-friendly world. To what extent do the courts benefit the climate?
Our goal is to serve the most sustainable plate in Germany. All of our food comes from a maximum radius of 25 kilometers and is of Demeter or Bioland quality. All except the salt. We don't have chocolate, lemons or anything like that. In addition, meat consumption is not a priority for us. Meat is a luxury item that guests can order as a side dish for three out of five courses if necessary. Curbing meat consumption is the biggest climate benefit.
25 kilometers, that's tight.
We work with the diversity that exists locally. We grow a lot of things ourselves. For example, we have a huge herb garden where Szechuan pepper even grows. The exciting thing about us is that we work with the real taste and don't go overboard with the preparation. The dishes should taste natural, pure. Guests come to us again and again saying that they had completely forgotten this taste. We don't have Wagyu beef or scallops. We have freed ourselves from this abundance of variety and the luxury of food that is offered elsewhere.
Is sustainability even conceivable without regionality?
Sustainability has become such a nonsense. I would not relate sustainability solely to regionality. Especially since regionality is not a protected term. There is no need to demonize organic products from abroad. Buying an organic banana is also sustainable. Fairtrade products are just as important because they allow you to support the people at the production sites. It's about developing an awareness of the products and taking this into account when buying in the supermarket. When it comes to our drinks, for example, we're not that strict either. Of course, we don't withhold coffee from our guests, and there is also wine. He comes from Baden-Württemberg.
Meat doesn't have the best ecological balance. What role does this play in your concept?
We have very high-quality meat, have the processes under control and pay the farmers a fair price. We pay close attention to where our meat comes from. We work with a cattle farm, three pig farms and a shepherd. These farms only supply us. We're happy to pay a little more for that. If a conventional pig costs 1.60 euros per kilo, we pay 4.80. It's worth it to us. We use almost all of the animals we process. Many people have forgotten what animals are edible and what variety nature gives us.
They have also taken up the fight against food waste. How's that working?
Since most of our cooking is vegetarian, we hardly produce any waste. We recycle everything from the leaf to the peel. We explain on the cards what we made from the kohlrabi peel, leaf and stem. Since the meat has to be ordered separately and comes on a side plate, there is less left over. If it is made the star on the plate, my experience is that most people go for the meat first and leave some of the vegetables behind. Because it is an extra, many guests choose to share the meat with each other. Our plates are almost always eaten. And we are Swabians, the plates are big.
Take a look into the crystal ball: what will the gastronomy of the future look like?
We can't turn everything from right to left from now on. But I believe that there will be more differentiation and transparency. We need the schnitzel, kebab and burger joints, but the profile needs to be sharpened. The schnitzel stall with character, so to speak, where it is explained exactly where the pigs that were made into the schnitzel come from. Real storytelling is becoming more and more important – but as I said: real, authentic storytelling. The world doesn't need more people just talking nonsense in order to sell more.