Andreas Caminada about intuition and innovation

Andreas Caminada grew up in Sagogn, in the canton of Graubünden, in Switzerland. In 2003, he became tenant and chef de cuisine at Schloss Schauenstein Restaurant and Hotel in Fürstenau, awarded three Michelin stars and 19 Gault Millau points and one of the 50 best restaurants in the world since 2011.

Andreas, you are the most famous chef in Switzerland, but also a successful entrepreneur. You run several restaurants, a hotel, a bakery, and a roastery and are an ambassador for various brands. You even have a magazine that bears your name. Who would you say you are?

I'm a chef who started his own business here in Fürstenau 20 years ago. Since then, the business has grown significantly, going from 4 to about 150 employees, winning awards in the process. We are never complacent and always looking to make the next move.

Was it your intention to build yourself as a brand?

No, I never thought about that, I just tried to do things my way. When everyone else would come out with a cookbook, I'd publish a magazine. That's how you stand out and make your mark, without following the mainstream.

So being an excellent chef isn't enough for you?

It was always my dream to start my own business, so I could decide for myself what goes on the plate. I started with my team at Schloss Schauenstein in 2003, with no supporters and I've always worked twice as hard as everyone else because I realised talent alone is not enough. Cooking takes a lot of dedication and willpower and you have to be prepared to give your all. At one point, we were awarded three Michelin stars and 19 Gault Millau points. We then took over Remise and opened a restaurant with a different concept. Everything I've done so far comes from intuition.

Andreas Caminada is unquestionably one of the greatest masters of his craft. An exceptional chef, he is also an eclectic creative mind and well-rounded entrepreneur. He has opened four IGNIV restaurants — three in Switzerland, one in Bangkok — as well as a hotel, a bakery and a roastery in the village of Fürstenau, where Schloss Schauenstein is also located. He is also an ambassador for various brands and the publisher of a magazine that bears his own name.

In such an eclectic, food-centered portfolio, a prominent role is played by the Uccelin Foundation. Founded in 2015, it is a not-for-profit organisation that supports aspiring chefs from all over the world. The formula is simple: Caminada and his wife Sarah put aside 2 Swiss francs from every menu consumed at their premises and use them to fund scholarships for under 35 talents who want to train their culinary skills at the best restaurants in the world. Most of them end up becoming successful chefs themselves.

Which is more important to you, Michelin stars or Gault Millau points?

It has always been about something else: passion. Guests sense that and at some point, you end up on a list, which in turn attracts guests. It's easier to do something in a city like Zurich than here in the mountains. The crucial question for a restaurant is: can you survive or not? Whether it's with three Michelin stars or not, it doesn't matter. Michelin stars don't necessarily guarantee you success, it's more of a way to generate buzz around your business.

 How were you able to make a restaurant in a small village such as Fürstenau so well known?

The key to success and getting noticed is continuous hard work and patience, and you also need to at least sustain, or even better, improve, the high standard of quality over the years. If I was still cooking like I did 20 years ago, we would no longer exist. You must sense what society wants, and never stand still. We used to cook classic French cuisine, then came Spanish molecular cuisine, then regional cuisine. This is still in demand, today people are eating more sustainably and consuming less meat and I had to react to all of this. During the pandemic, we decided to open a vegetarian restaurant because we'd been practicing permaculture for years.

What is permaculture all about?

We have some property and want to become even more autonomous by producing our own ingredients. I see this as a further development of our concept. We also store preserves in our cellar, which we use in our kitchen, and our culinary repertoire features fermentation. People appreciate the fact that the ingredients are locally sourced, from this region. We have invested a lot of time in these gardens over the last five years, which gives us an advantage that other kitchens don't have, and this freshness is reflected in the flavor. However, the competition is huge, so we must differentiate ourselves.

"I have a passion for creating, and it could be anything - new dishes, new designs, new stories. I've always loved thinking outside the box and applying little touches that you might notice subconsciously." - Andreas Caminada

You have had a partnership with V-ZUG for years. Can you tell us about it?

Fifteen years ago, V-ZUG asked me to share some recipes for their lifestyle platform. Back then, there were no such partnerships between chefs and brands, so I ended up becoming their first ambassador. I need the brand to suit me, because I want to tell a story through my partnerships, and the more innovative a partnership is, the longer it lasts. We have always tested and implemented new things, but that only works if you share the same values.

What values do you share with V-ZUG?

V-ZUG is celebrating its 111th anniversary and we are celebrating our 20th. V-ZUG has a long tradition and has developed many innovations and its own design language over the years. Like me, the people at V-ZUG are perfectionists. They want to develop the best appliances, I want to serve the best dishes.

What other parallels are there?

The Swiss origin. The fact they manufacture their appliances in Zug is impressive, there are few companies that still produce here in Switzerland. They have created a brand that every child recognizes. It was a great honor for me to start my partnership with V-ZUG fifteen years ago and start developing recipes together as we both have a commitment to quality and innovation. We currently have fifteen to twenty V-ZUG appliances in our kitchen.

"The key to success and getting noticed is continuous hard work and patience, and you also need to at least sustain, or even better, improve, the high standard of quality over the years". - Andreas Caminada

Which is your favourite?

The V-ZUG CombiSteamer, of course. I can do everything with it, bake, steam, make a soufflé, you name it. It even dries my children's gloves when they come home after a day out in the snow. It's an appliance that's in use every day.

What are your thoughts on the digitalization of the kitchen?

It might be exciting for tech geeks at home, but when you have 30 guests at lunchtime and in the evening, what you need above all is reliability, we simply don't have time to plan. In a professional kitchen, appliances must work flawlessly above all else.

Is a sense of aesthetics important to you?

I like beautiful dishes, chairs and lamps. Guests do too, and it makes them feel comfortable. Design has always been important to me, I pay attention to every detail.

In your restaurant, you’ve kept your origins, but you've done it very stylishly.

Here you forget the world around you. I work with Hublot, but there is no marble here, nothing that screams luxury. You could say the château, despite being a castle, is down-to-earth, but we still have a passion for beauty. Everything here is very understated but carefully chosen, blending together nicely.

Cooking is your passion, but also your business. How do you combine the two?

I have a passion for creating, and it could be anything - new dishes, new designs, new stories. I've always loved thinking outside the box and applying little touches that you might notice subconsciously. Thanks to my team, we have a great creative platform here. People just need talent and passion for the job, whether in the kitchen or the hotel, I don't care where people come from. As long as they come here thinking they can really learn something, I will gladly give them a chance to grow.

You also launched the Uccelin Foundation, through which you have been supporting young chefs since 2015.

We want to share our success and give back. Out of every menu, two francs go to this foundation, to which V-ZUG also contributes. We use this money to give young people the opportunity to be selected, provided they have at least five years' experience. There is also a Master's program thanks to which they can travel the world. They can choose where to go and experience great things, learning a lot in the process. They have no obligation to us, it's all about opportunities. Some of them set up their own business and become successful chefs.

Many of the people who have worked here now run restaurants themselves.

We've been around for twenty years, so hundreds of people who have been through here have now been awarded with stars themselves. It's a special, innovative and high-quality environment which people are attracted to.

Together with Living Circle, you bought Schloss Schauenstein in 2022 and are now the majority owner. Have you reached your zenith?

Nonsense, I'm still far too young to think about that. I also have even more responsibility now and it's a new beginning, just like when we got the third star, we just kept going and are still a long way from reaching our peak. As I mentioned before, I'm someone who always looks to the future.

V-ZUG is anchored in the belief that a future needs a past. Can you already see a certain heritage in your company?

This house was built in 1742. The mountains around it, the patina of the building make it unique and allow us to stand out from the competition. There are many excellent restaurants in the world but this one tells our own story, which we can continue to shape for years to come. In twenty year’s time, the place itself won't have changed much, but we’ll have to keep "equipping" it with good people, chefs and guests alike, with everyone saying: "Wow, this place is one of a kind!"