The September/October 2010 Issue is just out now and what a great story about dining with Blushwhispers, my dinner group in Germany…..
Story written by food writer, Peter Lau:
How Do We Want to eat:,
There is a change in the food scene due to dinner clubs and other eating possiblities outside our home. Why do we focus on food so intensely? It’s possible because we are seeking gastronomic pleasures or sensory excitement rarely met in a restaurant?
It’s a cold evening this spring evening and the streets are baren. But in the backroom of a small shop in Potsdam, Babelsberg, no one cares. We are 9 people sitting around and improvised table. A travel journalist and her funny husband who is doing something with properties, a food blogger from Frankfurt, the charismatic boss of a porcelain manufacturer, and a kind of young wine specialist, but all this I don’t know yet since I just arrived. For now we are just 9 strangers gathered in a small room with a tiny kitchen to experience a 7 course meal.
As a welcome jesture, we are served a fresh aperitif on a spoon, a sparkling mojito gelee. Now our wine glasses are filled and the conversations begin. The atmosphere is very relaxed and then the food arrives.
Everytime something makes me very happy, I have this overwhelming urge to hug someone, and i’m sure I wasn’t the only one. And that night, it happened often to me. The wet chicken confit with the coriander, almond and chicken skin crust with white chocolate potato puree to the very soft pear panna cotta with rice cream and even the dessert intro, the last snowball, a lemon cream ball with a liquid yogurt center and coconut powder. Here you get for real what the term composition often promises but hardly fulfills. Different tastes, aromas, and textures melting together to a sum of like different instruments in an orchestra, creating a wave of sound, light and hope…Its like music you can eat. Like me, the others share the same feeling. The evening is filled with alot of “Ahhs and Ohhs”, in different scenarios it might sound over the top but not here. While we share these pleasures, we tell the stories of our lives, it feels like we have know each other for years. Due to the happiness of sharing this experience, everyone seems to open up and the walls are now down. Every now and then, Roberto the master of this menu is coming in to talk to us. Not two steps behind us, he is cooking in a kitchen that is not bigger than a sketch of one. A tiny oven and a tiny side table. Any hobby chef would get tears in their eyes because of this. The overall question is “How does he do it”. It seems like an impossible piece of art. But Roberto Cortez himself is the same.
He was a former guitar player who was injured and could no longer play guitar. Then watching t.v and seeing a commercial for cooking he diecided to try cooking school. He then eventually went to Paris to study and then moved to L.A and was cooking for Eddie Murphy, who was known to pass on chefs by the week and Roberto stayed the entire 8 months the job required.
Roberto is soft and friendly and he looks much younger than he is. “As soon as you are known in this circle of clients, it is easier to cook for many of them as they treasure their privacy”, says Roberto. The list of people Roberto has cooked for would be a dream of every gossip magazine journalist. And whoever wants to know what a billionaire does, he is hiring a chef like Roberto Cortez. And if you live off your trust fund for months, what do you do then, you go to Potsdam. For me it is a miracle to meet such a chef in such a place. Responsible for this is Katja Bremkamp who is a concentrating and a serious looking designer who is specializing in plates and different eating utensils. Roberto started to write her a few years ago if she would like to design some silverware for him. What started out a a small project grew into a close working relationship. Every course is served with her cutlery. Both of them together have orgazined big events. One of them was for the London Design Festival last year where they created a dining scenario on desserts based on emotions.
Their private dinner club “Blushwhispers” is not very well known yet and how cheap 90 euros is after you experience what you get for this, but at least they don’t have to deal with all the restaurant rules. “I dont really want to have my own restaurant” says Roberto, as it is usually monotonous. The diners will esxperience the same things over and over again. A restaurant is very chaotic and alot of chefs who own restaurants say they are slaves to their restaurant and no relationship can survive under these circumstances. Therefore I try to look outside the box, “why do chefs always have to cook in hotels or restaurants”?
It is now the end of June, I am going to Potsdam again for another dinner, and this time I take my wife. What else is important to have a specacular night a friend asked? And despite sitting around a table, usually a dj, good music or a live band sometimes comes with it..not so with Roberto Cortez, it is just about his food. “When I have a good idea, I cook it in my head first and taste it in my head first”, says Roberto..”For our dinners I sometimes cook things I have never done before”. “Once I served a 6 course meal and I’ve never cooked one element of it before”. It’s a nice summer day and we are all sitting together. It is vey nice here and the group of people is slightly bigger than last time. Everyone came because of recommendations or previous guests. The food is “Grandiose” and even maybe a tiny bit better than last time.. The risotto with coffee syrah glaze shall never end. Some of the other guests at the other end of the table seem not so friendly, I guess the one who is not playing is not winning! Peter Lau