Wood sorrel in sorbet, moss as decoration, self-shot game on the plate: Nuremberg chef Valentin Rottner has earned a Michelin star with his culinary creations.
Valentin Rottner: Shooting star
The world of gastronomy almost lost a star: “Actually, I wanted to be a footballer! I was on the U16 national team and was on the pitch every weekend. But perhaps I lacked a little ambition,” says Valentin Rottner. “It was also important to my parents that I complete my vocational training in case things didn't work out with the sport.”
Valentin is a shooting star: shortly after he founded the restaurant “Waidwerk” in the family-owned Gasthof Rottner in 2018, the magazine “Feinschmecker” declared him “Rising Star of the Year”, and a year later the Guide Michelin awarded him his first star. The Gault Millau lists the 31-year-old with 17 points and three caps.
A menu full of surprises
"Don't even try to create 'Schäufele 2.0' "
The young chef wants to create excitement with his multi-course menus: “There are only basic products on the menu, so guests don't know exactly what to expect. In this respect, an arc of tension builds up with every course.” Guests can expect exotic creations such as pork belly with Japanese dashi broth or Norway lobster, a fish from Iceland.
“But that doesn’t mean I don't like traditional cuisine,” says Valentin. “A well-made roulade or Schäufele according to a traditional recipe simply taste good! You shouldn't even try to create ‘Schäufele 2.0’.” Especially since you can order the classic recipes from his father at the inn under the same roof (Schäufele = fried pork shoulder).
Three starred chef stations
Valentin already worked in renowned kitchens during his apprenticeship and travelling years: “I trained with star chef Alexander Herrmann at ‘Herrmanns Posthotel’ in Wirsberg. That was so much fun that I stuck with cooking.” This was followed by stints with two-star chef Johannes King on Sylt and with Nils Henkel at the “Lerbach” restaurant.
The creativity and freedom fascinate Valentin the most about his profession – but first and foremost, “craftsmanship” was the foundation: “During training, of course, you first learn the basics. But after you have cooked and internalised the classics, you can get creative,” he says. “You can combine different products and flavours, and there is no standard when it comes to arranging the plates either. This freedom is just great!”
Puristic and full of flavour
Valentin does not see returning to his homeland and his parents’ business as a contradiction to his love of freedom: “I have always been very close to home. I also wanted to give something back to my parents, who have supported me for so long, both on the human and the financial level. I wanted to lend a hand and also bring in a breath of fresh air, which then also benefited the place.”
Critics call Valentin’s creations “youthful”, “puristic”, “full of flavour”. And they were worth one star in the Michelin Guide. “It is the recognition of the good work we do as a team. Of course, I was even happier that the star was awarded so quickly,” he says. “After all, the gourmet restaurant was my idea, not my parents’. With the star, I could make them proud and make it economically worthwhile.”
The interior of Waidwerk reflects the character of the kitchen: traditional and stylish at the same time. The decoration is minimalist, with one exception: a mighty stag’s antler on the wall puts a clear exclamation mark. For Valentin, it is more than an accessory: it was a gift from his grandfather for his twelfth birthday.
"Hunting is my haven of peace and inspiration“
His grandfather took him hunting when he was still a little boy – and thus indirectly laid the foundation stone for hunting. “Being alone in the forest, nature – hunting is my haven of peace, but also my inspiration,” Valentin enthuses. “When I’m hunting, I think about cooking. And in the process, I often come up with exciting things, new cooking methods, new recipes.”
This is how, for example, a dish like wood sorrel sorbet, which tastes slightly sour, is created. “Collecting it was not so easy, because you need a lot of it,” he says and laughs. “I took my whole kitchen crew with me.”
Hunting, harvesting, gathering
But Valentin values game not only because of the hunting tradition: “We work sustainably, for example by using more than just the highly sought-after backs of deer. From the bones we make an essence, and the kidney, liver and spleen are also processed. Hunting and cutting up increases my appreciation of the product, unlike just buying it.”
The Rottners grow many ingredients in their own garden: Herbs such as nasturtium and lemongrass, but also horseradish, tomatoes and even Jerusalem artichokes. Valentin also brings back all kinds of things from his walks in the forest: “I keep my eyes open and collect: the wild herbs go into the food, we arrange our appetisers on the mosses we collect.”
From the kitchen to the football pitch
Of course, a chef doesn't have much free time, especially when he is also busy hunting. But when the time comes, Valentin is kicked in the stadium: “Then I play football! I still make time for that. I can't come to training during the week, but on Sundays I'm on the pitch with my team.” And who knows, maybe the football world really has missed out on a star.
More information about the Restaurant Waidwerk (only in German)
... from Valentin
I don’t only like the Franconian landscapes: Nuremberg with its beautiful old town and castle is also great. As a football fan, the Max Morlock Stadium is of course also one of my favourite places.
A walk or hike in Franconian Switzerland (Fränkischen Schweiz), which is the flagship for us here in Franconia, is highly recommended. It’s also an activity for children. In Pottenstein, for example, there is a summer toboggan run where I used to go often as a child.
Off to the woods
I love the cultivated walnut orchard in front of our house. When you sit under the walnut trees in the evening, you get a real beer garden feeling. And of course I feel really at home in the Franconian forests.