La Societé and Koppert Cress, Culinaire Saisonnier
It is often the most unexpected encounters that create that largest and most longlasting impressions. In the heart of Cologne, in a neighborhood where you feel lost, we may find the strangest trouvaille of recent years: La Societé.
When you're at the door, you don't feel like you're here at an awarded restaurant. For 30 years this business has been making progress, always with its own identity, its own (odd) audience and its own methodology. It's viewed as a night out here, a feast for the eyes and a feast for the mouth. The restaurant has now been awarded a culinary award, but the look and feel have not changed.
On the outside, the place looks like the average German pub with a window full of stickers, a pompous beer advertisement on the facade and the name of the restaurant in slightly weathered letters on a shield. Once inside you go from one surprise to another. Orange lanterns adorn the ceiling, interspersed with colorful garlands. Photos by David Bowie cover the walls, as do many gaudy boas that wouldn't look out of place at an average carnival party. In the back corner, a bit pushed away, is the warm kitchen, the cold kitchen can be found illegally in the basement. Its as gaudy as it can get.
But what goes in the glass and comes on the plate is of world class. Already for thirty years, contrasts everywhere, controversial and showy.
Super talent Grischa Herbig has been the new chef since June 2018. His career is eventful and quite unusual. That is why La Societé might suit him so well: open-minded, casual and adventurous. His kitchen focuses on the entire globe, without borders and of absolute top quality. That is not so strange. Grischa is a man of few words and interviews, he finds it difficult to be in the spotlight. He prefers to work in the kitchen to bring his culinary experiences and travel experiences together. He was born and moved to Hanover, love eventually brought him to Cologne. He did not get the love for gastronomy from home, his father is a goldsmith and runs his own business together with his mother.
Grischa got his first experiences with cooking during his civil service, where he ended up in a monastic monastery for 9 months. Not knowing what to do with his life, he decided to travel with his saved money. Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania came his way. Everything purely for fun. During his travels, he met a German cook who advised him to obtain a chef's diploma, because that would allow him to go anywhere in the world. More and more international travels loomed in his fantasies. Through his sister he ended up at Holger Stromberg, at that time the youngest German star chef and also the cook of the German national football team.
Everything was new
Everything was new to Grischa, but the discovery of the art of cooking more than made up for the hardships of that period. He stayed there as an apprentice for almost three years before going to the Seven Seas in Hamburg. There he really learned to cook, he was allowed to go through all parti's and the profession really started to do something with him. Traveling then attracted him again and he worked as a cook on a sailing yacht for 10 months to see the world. Once again, he decided to help a friend with a burger restaurant.
From there he went to the Belle Epoque with Kevin Fehling, to gain experience at the highest level. Together with the chef, he moved to The Table in Hamburg. The story is not yet finished, because Grischa then decided to go back to the school desks to become Küchenmeister (Master Chef). Then drop everything and go on a world trip again. In June 2018, La Societé came his way and as said, he became the chef there.
It was a match upon arrival. The environment fully reflects our chef's personality. During large events, the whole world comes together and you can see that on the plate. Grischa knows no boundaries. The experiences of the restaurants where he worked and the flavors of his worldly travels come together in technique and presentation. However, he is not the prototype chef, he does not like the hierarchy. He prefers to be part of the collective.
The worldly appearance of a city like Cologne also removes all boundaries for Grischa. He just cooks what he likes. Where the environment has no limit, so is his kitchen. Grischa loves herbs and spices, including Koppert Cress cresses. The distinct character of his kitchen also gives the cresses a distinct place. His dishes must have taste, even in a bombastic kind of way.
Grischa: “The cresses that often have a lot of fraîcheur are ideal for adding fine accents or accentuating certain flavors. Due to their shape and size, dosing and placing is easy. The guest is the big winner here. We want to make memories with the guests with our dishes and the cresses contribute an essential part to this. So much taste in such a small plant, that makes you crazy as a chef... ”
Restaurant La societé
Kyffhäuserstraße 53, 50674 Köln, Duitsland
Tel. 0049 221 232 464
Source: Culinaire Saisonnier 92 - Spring 2019 (Dutch Edition)