Nenad Mlinarevic: the Modern Swiss Chef and the Victorinox Swiss Modern Kitchen Knives
With its unpolished walls, plywood surfaces and its history as a former car repair workshop and boxing venue, Die Stadthalle is a world away from the refined atmosphere of Focus, the restaurant at the Park Hotel in Vitznau where Nenad Mlinarevic made his name.
All eyes were on the gifted chef as he announced his departure from Focus. After a stellar career at some of the world’s best restaurants including Noma in Copenhagen and Schlosshotel Schauenstein in Graubünden, it was at Focus where the young head chef established himself, earning two Michelin stars and 18 Gault-Millau points within six months of his arrival.
With such an impressive track record, was it hard for this master chef to begin a new chapter, leaving behind everything he’d achieved at Focus?
“Not really,” says Nenad. “I saw it as a chance to have more freedom, to be able to create anything we wanted in the kitchen. I have no fear of pressure, so I enjoyed cooking to the standards required of my team in Vitznau and exceeding expectations, but I was also excited about having the chance to do something new”.
From Gut Feeling to Stomach Pleasing
Having carved out a niche cooking solely with ingredients sourced from Switzerland, Nenad deliberately chose not to follow the same path at Die Stadthalle. “This wasn’t a conscious strategy, I’m very much driven by my gut feeling” he says. “But I really wanted to make the food and the experience at Die Stadthalle more accessible”.
He’s definitely achieved this. With an affordable eight course menu which includes crowd-pleasing flavors from around the world, Die Stadthalle is one of the most exciting pop-ups to arrive in Zurich and the reviews from both press and public are superlative.
The Swissness Feeling
Of course Nenad is still strongly connected to Switzerland and still works very closely with several Swiss suppliers with whom he has built strong relationships over the years. This is also one of the reasons that he has chosen to partner with Victorinox. “A Victorinox knife was the first knife I held in my hands when I was 16 years old and starting my training. So I feel a special bond with this brand. These knives have been an authentic part of my journey so far”.
The partnership has also allowed us to be part of Nenad’s exciting project at Die Stadthalle, where he is exclusively using our new Swiss Modern range both in the kitchen and at the table. Much as Nenad himself has done with his new venture, we’ve taken our winning kitchen knife formula (combining quality, functionality and design) and given it a fresh, contemporary spin. The Swiss Modern knives with their ergonomic walnut handles are a perfect match for the minimal and sleek setting of Die Stadthalle.
As Nenad points out “A quality knife is an absolute must for any chef and one of the most important tools of the trade. It’s just like being a traveling salesman – you need a good car or you can’t do the job properly. If you’re a chef, it’s simply not possible to create perfect dishes without a precise knife in your hands”.
Making People Happy
This isn’t the first time we’ve talked to Nenad. We’ve been watching his career closely over the past couple of years because his commitment to excellence, innovation and quality strongly mirrors our own values. For us, he’s the perfect partner because of the common mindset we share: “I like to have a firm foundation which provides a certain amount of security. This forms the solid base which then gives me the freedom to focus on creativity and innovation. This in turn helps me to reach different types of diners and basically make more people happy”.
So now he’s ticked off a successful pop-up restaurant in Zürich off his To Do list, what’s next for the top chef? “I enjoy variety and challenge. I don’t want things to get boring” says Nenad. A private atelier experience, offers of collaborations from around the world and a cookbook are all on the cards. But Nenad is not necessarily looking for the fame and glory of fine dining: “I dream of doing a very simple ramen bar, or a coffee shop with a great bakery where people can come with their laptops and just hang out”.
Although Die Stadthalle has now closed its doors, Nenad and team are taking over the Bauernschänke in Zürich as of mid-March 2018. We are excited to see how this traditional restaurant will be transformed in the hands of this young, dynamic team.