…Vegetarian restaurant, that is! Way back in 1898, Mr. Ambrosius Hiltl began the Hiltl empire in Zürich, Switzerland, on the principles of vegetarian food and umcompromising quality of ingredients, and his sons and grandsons, and great-grandson have expanded the restaurant over the years into several locations, take away, nightclub, “butcher shop” and — cooking courses in the Hiltl Academy.
Until recently, the many different themed courses have been offered exclusively in German. But, seeing an opportunity to cater to a multi-national audience whose common language is English, Hiltl is now offering their top-quality course in English.
I had the pleasure of attending the most recent English-Language Vegetarian Cooking course and had a fantastic experience.
First, let’s talk about the location. The “Kochatelier” or cooking studio, is open and airy, tastefully designed, and featuring nice lighting.
You are greeted with a glass of sparkling wine and some light nibbles. As your fellow students arrive, you have a feeling of excitement. The other students are a multinational group, from England, France, Italy, Poland, the United States, and some local Swiss there with their English-speaking partners. The attendees are a mix of friends, couples, singles.
We meet our chef Wolfi from Austria, and his co-chef for the day, and as Wolfi tells us about his credentials of having worked in or run the kitchens in some of the world’s top luxury hotels, I am impressed. This is a real chef, not simply a cooking instructor. As we learn more about his journey to India and his Ayurvedic cooking training, we learn how his principles and cooking has developed and aligned with the principles and style of the Hiltl world.
We also meet his co-chef, Anurak, who hails from Thailand. He, as well, spent many years training in professional kitchen before landing at Hiltl. His specialities lie in the Asian areas of the cooking school, and teaches many of the Asian cooking courses.
Next we move straight into an overview of the ingredients we’ll be working with a brief on what our recipes will be. Seeing all of those delicious ingredients lined up on the cutting boards has me feeling hungry already! We split up into teams of 2 and start to tackle our assigned dishes. My partner and I have to prepare the appetizers, Stuffed Jalapeños, and Guacamole. This is a pleasure for me, as those are a couple of my favorite things and I’ve never made stuffed jalapeños before. The others in my class are chopping, sauteeing, pureeing, slicing, dicing… I can’t help but go around sneakily snapping some photos of the action.
The dishes on our menu:
Yellow Quinoa Salad
Hiltl Tartar (yes! the famous one!)
Sweet Potato Brownie
We need to let a few things cook/bake a bit longer, so we take a small break and go on a tour of the main Hiltl kitchen on the ground floor. If you peek in the big plate glass windows that span the entire height of the Hiltl restaurant on Sihlstrasse, the main kitchen can be seen from above. It was my second time in the Hiltl kitchen, I’d been in it just a couple weeks prior during a group dinner with my dining club. The first time I’d gone, it was nearing 11pm and operations from the evening food service were dying down and the night crew hadn’t yet begun. The Hiltl kitchen runs 24 hours, preparing overnight all of the food for the other restaurants, the juices, the smoothies, and much of the buffet food for the next day. For a relatively small space, the output is impressive. However on this evening, it was still peak time and the kitchen was hopping. It’s really such a treat to be in a working kitchen! Plus, their array of spices and seasonings is breathtaking!
After the tour we headed back upstairs, our bellies growling, and we found that our chefs had done an absolutely gorgeous job of plating and presenting all of our culinary efforts.
Part of the joy of Hiltl is the care that they take to make sure each part of your experience is unique and enjoyable. I always feel so special eating there, and this was no exception.Wine bottles were opened, and glasses were filled. We took our seats and our chefs served us each course. It was lovely to taste each group’s efforts, to perhaps tease each other gently that the one we’d prepared was better, to take guesses at what was in each dish (even though we had menus, not every ingredient was listed), and, finally, to be served coffee or tea and our dessert. Some participants needed to hurry off to make a train, some lingered and made small talk, and others made sure to stop and buy the amazing Hiltl cookbook and other items on their way out.
Another English language course is planned for October, and I would highly recommend signing up now before all the spots are taken. Their courses are always in high demand, and I suspect once word gets out, these English courses will fill up fast. If you’ve been hesitant to take a cooking class at Hiltl because your (or your partner’s or friend’s) German is not quite good enough to follow a German-language course, then this is the course to sign up for. The chefs were kind and knowledgable, and were always happy to explain why or how something was done the way it was, and the international company was a real pleasure to mingle and chat with.
When I asked each attendee how they’d learned of the course, most said they’d learned just by chance because they’d read about it while eating at the restaurant itself, or while looking on the restaurant’s website.
I think this is a fantastic opportunity to learn some great vegetarian dishes, in a beautiful setting, and with top quality ingredients. If you know someone who might be interested, tag them in the comments on my FB page (http://www.facebook.com/swisseats) or share this post with them! And of course go to the Hiltl Academy website to sign up.
Have you taken a Hiltl cooking course, or are you interested? Have you eaten at Hiltl and what did you think? let me know in the comments below!