Swiss chef Nenad Mlinarevic is only 33 years old but he has surely worked his way up in the restaurant business. After years of dedication and passion for food, working full-time in restaurants like the Hotel Widder (Zurich), Hotel Schloss Schauenstein (Fürstenau) or Restaurant Mesa (Zurich) Nenad is now the head chef at the Restaurant Focus (Park Hotel Vitznau).
Recently Nenad had the honnor to launch the Dom Pérignon Rosé creative combustion’s menu during an exclusive dinner at the fine dining Restaurant Focus.
What a challenge for this young chef!
But Nenad seems to embrace challenges and to always want to push himself further to be where he would like to be.
During our interview the morning after the 5 course menu, he admits having not taken any vacations during the last three years. All of his time off he spent training in well known restaurants like Restaurant Noma in Copenhagen, Restaurant Amador in Langen or Restaurant Vendôme in Bergisch Gladbach.
One chef who counted a lot in his life is Andreas Caminada. Nenad worked with him at the Hotel Schloss Schauenstein (3 Michelin Stars & 19 GM Points) and the two years he spent working as a sous-chef are unforgetable. Nenad enjoyed his personality, creativity and dynamism.
When he heard he had been chosen to be one of the nine chefs for the Moët Hennessy’s project, he was shocked he confesses. But no worries, it was a good kind, the one that makes you very proud, he continues, stressing on the word proud.
After Nenad had realized what had happened, he of course agreed to go on this new adventure. He created two recipes for the champagne house, two recipes, which had to go well with the Vintage 2003. He was helped by Amanda Bulgin, the British manager and head sommelier of the Restaurant Focus. She is very good with flavors, Nenad clarifies.
When Nenad arrived for our meeting in the beautiful lobby of the Park Hotel, he was all relaxed with a large smile on his face, interested and eager to tell me about his experiences. And I must admit Nenad has the type of personality you can easily get along with and someone you would love to follow in the kitchen for a day; you would learn so much without seeing the time going by.
The Dom Pérignon’s project was really exciting and unique for him and he enjoyed every moment. The chefs met in France last year. Even if he did not know any of the chefs he met at the three day program and everyone remained still for a while trying to get to know each other, it did not take too long for all to start bonding. All had come for the same reasons, but also had different cultures and ways of cooking. You could see in Nenad’s eyes how fascinating the experience must have been!
How could Nenad have refused a project with champagne and on top of all with Dom Pérignon! Champagne is something special to him. He said during the project that “Dom Pérignon Rosé is provocative because it is not an ordinary Rosé.”
The Vintage 2003 is complete, compact. It offers a different expression of Pinot Noir, just as glorious but more structured, focussing on concentration and density,” he adds.
Nenad chose to make a pigeon breast served with a roasted brioche because he thinks red meat goes really with the Rosé 2003.
When I ask him how he describes his food, he responds with no hesitation that the flavour is the most important, followed by seasonality. He cares about the products he uses and chooses ingredients from his country.
“I don’t like to put too much on the plate,” he continues and for him decorating a plate is nice but if flavour is not there, the client won’t care for the dish at the end.
Coming back to the pigeon with roasted brioche, I kept on wondering but where was the brioche? During dinner looking at our food in the plate, all the guests were searching for this mysterious brioche? Where had Nenad put it? Was it still coming?
The next day the chef explains that what we thought was a purée was in fact a roasted brioche mixed with cinnamon and sugar. We definitely will not forget that tasty dish nor the leg of a pigeon still with its nails! That will be served in the fall at the Restaurant Focus, says Nenad because it a perfect dish for that time of the year.
We all smiled at Nenad artistic and daring creation and thought well done!
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