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Interview with a Celebrity Chef: Meta Hiltebrand

GG Zurich
GG Zurich posted on November 15, 2020

She’s wild, full of life and fueled with passion for her food and her guests. Meta Hiltebrand is a red force to be reckoned with and we had the opportunity to harness her energy into an exclusive interview to discover the story behind her involvement with The5 360º Dining Experience and her restaurant Le Chef.

The5 360º Gourmet Dining Experience: 2nd Course

From 12 November through 20 December, The5 is a spectacular audio-visual Pop Up dining experience welcoming 5 celebrity chefs who will create 5 courses representing 5 regions of Switzerland.

Each course will reflect the unique qualities of each region and celebrity chef Meta Hiltebrand is responsible for the 2nd course. She describes her hometown of Zurich as “loud, vibrant and full of surprises.” To reflect these qualities, she is surprising diners with an unconventional combination: Züri Honig-Tirggel with Swiss prawns, served with fresh apple caviar and seasonal pumpkin gelée, and a rosemary (the parfum of Zurich’s kitchens) and white wine soup plus a “firework” surprise – all presented in a glass globe.

When asked about the inspiration for her dish, “I love Zurich,” she says, “but I don’t have a lot of products to show what Züri truly is. In creating the dish, I thought about our nice lake. Sun shining. Beautiful sunsets. Golden honey. Even the bees in Zurich are not aggressive. I needed local honey in my dish.”

Meta describes her love for Honig Tirgil (a pastry originally from Zurich, made from honey, flour and spices) as something that we are all so accustomed to with the conveniences afforded to us, that we forget about the simplicity behind this traditional recipe. She is inspired by the work and passion that goes into making honey thanks to happy bees that have the ability to dance between untouched plants in the nature outside our bustling city.

For her vegan option, planted chicken replaces the shrimp. This is a plant-based product made from peas, that was developed right here at ETH Zurich.

Accompanying this course is a Zweifel Rosé, produced from the Pinot Noir grape. The fresh strawberry caresses the palate with an intense fruity and juicy enjoyment that pairs perfectly with the dish.

“I love this city, it is open
to diverse cultures and colors.
People like me find a home here
with the city that has a fast tempo,
but surrounded by honey…the love.”
– Meta Hiltebrand

Who is Meta Hiltebrand?

“I am not a ‘star’ chef,” she says about herself. “I do not want to be boxed in to what is expected from a Michelin Star rated restaurant. What I want is that people have an open mind and do not expect a stuffy environment. I do not shock with fancy caviar and exotic products…I need basic ingredients and then try to find your emotion. When you eat my food, I do not want to hear ‘wow’ or ‘yummm’ – I want to see that delightful glimmer in the eyes that words cannot express.”

The flamboyant chef is quite modest, she can be quiet in a small group but when placed on a stage in front of millions of people and a studio audience, she feels at home. But where she feels most at home is in her restaurant, Le Chef Meta’s Restaurant.

Le Chef

In 2009 Fred Tschanz – a famous gastronomic personality with 12 bars, hotels and restaurants at one time – opened “Le Chef” his last restaurant at 80 years old right next to the house where he spent his childhood. Described by Meta as a true ‘heart man’, Fred asked her to be the head chef of his new restaurant, but she had just opened her own at 27 years old. It didn’t take long before she was convinced to take over his restaurant and sadly Mr. Tschanz passed peacefully in 2012, leaving his legacy to his granddaughter, Stéphanie Portmann and her husband Domenic Zembrod who also make disguised appearances in artwork adorning the restaurant walls.

Le Chef was transformed into “Le Chef Meta’s Restaurant” and everything from the menu to the décor reflects not only her vibrant personality, but also the ever-present protection she feels from grandfather Tschanz. There are classic dishes on the menu that remain especially for him and Meta presents them when asked because, she says, “I can feel his presence with his heart and my heart in the same room.”

Tantalizing the Senses

Do not be fooled by appearances, Meta likes to keep it simple…simply complex that is. She knows that food is tied to our emotions and she wants to tantalize your emotions with every bite.

Textures in one dish will range from gelée and crunchy to juicy, dry and creamy. Her favorite soups are served in a glass dome and the warm soup slowly melts the gelée ensuring every spoonful tastes just a little different as the flavors combine.

Meta wants you to feel your food with your eyes, mouth and stomach to truly celebrate taste.

My life is orange: Crazy.
My restaurant is violet: Perfect.
This represents my dual personality
And with these two sides, I am Meta.
– Meta Hiltebrand

Larger than Life

It may not be easy walking in the shoes of Zurich’s “it” girl with the orange hair and larger than life personality…but Meta has the bold confidence to live her life to the fullest without negativity ever getting in her way. Her personality is a true “mix of reality and dreams,” says Meta who never really sleeps because, “I lose control in my dreams. I do not want to dream, I want to do it. I want to be doing in my dreams.”

When asked about the inspiration behind her signature moustache, she simply states, “I am a strong girl, I am not a gastronom (restauranteur). I am a cook. I do not need girly things, I am not a female chef. I am a chef. The name on the building is Le Chef and that is what I am.”

Meta’s sister is both her biggest support and toughest critic. As a professional publicist, she has helped define the branding behind Meta’s bold complimentary colors and eye-catching art. Originally a blonde, her external appearance finally matches who she truly is on the inside and her greatest joy is when a bite of her creations will transport you deep within to enjoy childhood memories of simple ingredients tastefully combined.

Advice from Meta: “Don’t search. Listen and your head and heart will talk.”

When you eat my food, I do not want to hear “wow” or “yummm”- I want to see that delightful glimmer in the eyes that words cannot express.
– Meta Hiltebrand

 

The5 360º Dining Experience
12 November – 20 December 2020
Website . Tel: +41 44 267 47 57

 

Le Chef Metas Restaurant
Kanonengasse 29, 8004 Zurich (map)
Website . Tel: +41 44 240 41 00

 

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