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Marc Joshua Engel is the head chef and owner of restaurant Aux Trois Amis in Schernelz, Switzerland. Here, this young and skilled chef cooks up the tastiest regional and Swiss specialties with an original twist. To get to know him better, we spoke to Marc about his favourite foods, love of dumplings, and multiple career challenges in- and outside of the kitchen.
Marc, can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I started my apprenticeship when I was 16 years old. I’m 32 now, so I have been cooking for pretty much half my life. Our restaurant is located in the middle of the vines and has a beautiful view over the Lake of Biel, the Swiss Alps, as well as the Swiss Jura which lies on the other side.
Growing up with all these different cooking styles that are in a way connected, fed my interest in food
Aux Trois Amis
How would you describe your cooking style?
My style of cooking is surely driven by my German heritage and connected to all of my travel experiences, as well as my current home, Switzerland. I love the versatile German cuisine. It’s something that people outside of Germany usually don’t get to experience. In northern Germany, you’ve got the fish-driven comfort foods which are also kind of rustic. While in the southern part, where I come from, dishes are way lighter and have an almost Mediterranean character. Part of my family lives in the north, another part in central Germany, whereas I grew up in the most southern part of the country, which borders Switzerland. Growing up with all these different cooking styles that are in a way connected, fed my interest in food. After my apprenticeship, I traveled for nearly three years throughout Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia. Here, I developed an interest in different kinds of preparations and products. After returning to Europe, I changed up my cooking and developed a style that lies closer to my heritage. I did that with a really open mind, so that I can surprise my guests with new creations.
What's your favourite dish to make?
That's a really hard question! I think chefs shouldn't have one dish that they particularly enjoy making. I love to develop new dishes with new techniques and always move forward. I love my job because you never finish learning new things. I also love how versatile being a chef is: one day I’m working with amazing fish, the next day I get a whole deer delivered which I have to prepare. Sometimes even just a beautiful apple can be fun to work with. For me, it would be boring to only do the same thing over and over again.
What is your favourite ingredient to work with?
I do love verjus, the juice of the unripe grapes. In ancient times, people in Central Europe already used it to make their dishes taste fresher. At that time, they didn't have any lemons here. Although I think verjus brings a deeper, more sophisticated freshness to a dish than a lemon does. In our kitchen, we use it for a lot of sorbets and combine them with herbs, especially with all kinds of anise-like herbs such as dill, tarragon, chervil and fennel. We also use it for our beurre blanc, served with wonderfully fresh fish.
Who is one of your top suppliers or producers?
For me, all suppliers who are passionate about their product are good suppliers. We work with a lot of small farmers and producers as well as really big companies to make sure we always get the best products. I really enjoy working with secondary cuts of meat: there’s just so much more than filet and other primal cuts. I also don't like the term “prime cut”: all parts are prime cuts and most often you’ll find more craftsmanship, love and especially flavour in products like a belly or a cheek.
They exist in so many different varieties and you can find them pretty much all around the world
Aux Trois Amis
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your culinary career?
A culinary career comes with so many different stages of challenges. In the beginning of your career the challenge is working at different hours than all of your friends and not getting time off for family parties or any public holidays. After a short period, you get used to this and start to love what you do. But then you also realise that you’ll need to do a lot more learning in order to become a good chef. Even when you’ve finished your apprenticeship, you soon realise that you won’t work as a “chef” for the next few years. So you put all your effort into becoming better and start to get more and more passionate about your job. When you finally become a good chef, you begin your own business and all of a sudden start struggling with other, new challenges: employees, finances, management. But with every challenge you’ll grow stronger and become better. Our industry is struggling with finding new employees and I think we all have to do our best to motivate the young and upcoming generation by showing them what a wonderful career you can have in hospitality. This will be my biggest challenge in the coming years.
Which gastronomic trend are you excited about the most?
Sustainability! We have to adapt and start working with sustainable products to ensure that our kids and grandkids will also have a future. There are so many beautiful products around us with which we can be creative without exploiting the planet. As chefs, we have to confront ourselves with our products and producers more often. Working as a chef is more than just being in the kitchen: we have to educate ourselves on how to work sustainably.
If you could only eat one dish for the rest of your life, what would that be?
Dumplings. They exist in so many different varieties and you can find them pretty much all around the world. In Germany you’ll find Maultaschen and Klösse, in Japan gyoza, in Nepal there are momos, in China there are 1000 different types, in Italy you’ll find ravioli, in India samosas, and in Southern America you can enjoy empanadas. It never gets boring.
Thank you, Marc.
Book your table at restaurant Aux Trois Amis
Try top chef Marc Joshua Engel’s refined Swiss cuisine. Take it from us: it truly is a treat for your taste buds. You can book your lunch or dinner at restaurant Aux Trois Amis Schernelz, Switzerland) here.