Germany’s Michelin Stars Highlight Gastronomic Excellence

A second Michelin star for "Haerlin" in the Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten, Hamburg © picture alliance/dpa Enlarge image Christoph Rüffer's restaurant Haerlin in Hamburg received a second Michelin star in the 2012 guidebook. (© picture alliance/dpa) Say “German food" and many people will automatically think of würste, sauerkraut, spaetzele, or perhaps even döner kebab. But as the country with second most Michelin star-rated restaurants in Europe, Germany is increasingly becoming known as a destination for gourmet dining, satisfying even the most persnickety Feinschmecker (foodie).

The 2012 Michelin Guide, in granting a third star to Thomas Bühner’s La Vie restaurant in Osnabrück, recognizes his tireless commitment to creating a world-class dining experience in the north-western city. Recent editions of the Michelin Guide had identified La Vie as a “rising star,” but Bühner and his team can now take satisfaction in running one of just nine three-star restaurants in Germany. Within Europe, only France has more.

The “impassioned aromatic cuisine” Bühner serves in a townhouse in the city’s historic center promises an “explosion of flavor which, together with around 1,000 different sorts of wine, becomes a flavorful complete work of art.” The set menu’s dishes include Breton red mullet stocked with fried onions, saddle of lamb with garlic and coriander relish, a filet from Canadian bison, and a Couquille Saint Jacques, a passion fruit and black sesame ice cream. Multiple-course meals cost upwards of $200.

The rare three-star rating is a highly coveted recognition of having reached the top of the cooking profession. According to the Michelin system, it denotes “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.” Travelers in Germany now have another reason to visit Osnabrück, known as the signing place of the Treaty of Westphalia and the hometown of Erich Maria Remarque, author of Im Westen nichts Neues (All Quiet on the Western Front).

A second Michelin star for the Bavarian Restaurant Schwingshackl ESSKULTUR © picture alliance/dpa Enlarge image Chef Erich Schwingshackl's restaurant Schwingshackl ESSKULTUR in the Bavarian Forest received a second star in the 2012 Michelin Guide. (© picture alliance/dpa) Of the remaining eight three-star dining rooms, Harald Wohlfahrt’s Schwarzwaldstube in the south-western town of Baiersbronn is in a class all by itself. The legendary bastion of high cuisine in the Traube Tonbach hotel, nestled in the rolling hills of the Black Forest, has maintained its top rating for 20 years—more than any other German restaurant. The restaurant boasts that “everyone who knows how to enjoy should have eaten a menu by Harald Wohlfahrt at least once in his life.”

In total, the 2012 Michelin Guide to Germany lists 249 restaurants with at least one star, up from 237 in 2011. In addition to the one new three-star restaurant, ten new two-star restaurants were added, and 23 new one-stars. Of starred restaurants, Berlin, Munich, and Hamburg offer the greatest concentrations, with 13, 11, and nine, respectively.

In contrast to many traditional German foods, the star chefs often fashion culinary creations with a lighter palette, pleasing the palate without weighing down the belly. Ralf Flinkenflügel, editor of the German Michelin Guide, identified a trend towards vegetables “being used in more inventive ways.”

So while Germany’s culinary diversity still includes traditional favorites from Semmelknödel to Thüringer Rostbratwurst, its growing number of Michelin-starred restaurants also offers sustenance to the Feinschmecker in all of us.

Michelin Stars

Third Michelin star for chef Bühner © picture alliance/dpa


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In Germany, the regional differences in the gastronomy are as numerous and varied as the dialects. Professional and amateur chefs embrace these distinctions, yet a cosmopolitan fare reflecting the country’s vibrant immigrant population has also emerged.