Road to culinary excellence

In the mountains, nature spoils us year-round with magnificent views. In winter time the snowy mountain tops in South Tyrol are simply beautiful. But in spring as well, there are so many pretty little flowers and green plants and trees that are coming into bloom. At remote places, like Hotel & Restaurant Terra, you’ll enjoy the beauty of nature more than anywhere else. There are lots of hiking routes, created to discover the environment. One route we can absolutely recommend is the one and a half hour trip to Stoanerne Mandln. It’s a mythical place, with a long history, even back into the Stone Age. As soon as the snow on the mountain top has melted, the fresh green grass is covered with flowers. Combined with the incredibly nice view, it’s a superb experience!

#INTERVIEW

HEINRICH SCHNEIDER

Chef's Secret: Terra is indeed a magical place. You couldn’t have chosen a better phrase to describe the concept. Can you tell us how it all started?

Heinrich Schneider: Well, this is the place where my sister Gisela and I grew up. Back in 1998 we took over the management from our parents. And from the beginning we wanted to express our proper philosophy, as a unique place like this needs and deserves its own special story. The concept represents our love for nature and the environment. I remember my mother wild foraging, working with herbs and making her own infusions, when I was just a kid. I found that really intriguing, even at such a young age. So that’s how I started developing a special interest in herbs and local produce. And today you can clearly see that influence in the cooking style at Terra.

Chef's Secret: So how would you describe your cooking style then?

Heinrich Schneider: First of all it’s vital that all the food you can taste at Terra represents our philosophy, whether it’s the easy dinner, the full experience or even the breakfast. That unique style has to be something guests won’t easily forget. I really strive to create memories that stick.

Therefore the ingredients we choose to use are very important. I try to work with local produce as much as possible. Mushrooms for example are used in many of the dishes we serve, as nature has many exceptional types of mushrooms to offer in this area. I love to go out and pick them myself in order to select the best and special ones. The herbs as well are fantastic here, so I go wild foraging whenever I can. In spring and summer time nature has an incredible variety of products to offer, so that’s a very nice time for chefs as well. But winter time has its charm as well, since you need to be extra creative as there are not that many vegetables and herbs available then. So in that season I use more dried herbs or herbal oils and powders to create interesting flavours.

Hibiscus praline with peppermint. Firm and crispy outside, liquid inside

Chef's Secret: Are there certain products or ingredients that you just love to use in the kitchen?

Heinrich Schneider: Actually I adore everything you can find in the wild nature, in particular herbs and mushrooms. Generally speaking, in my cuisine about 60% of a dish consists of vegetables, combined with fish or meat. When I choose to serve meat, it’s essential for me to use biological meat only. That meat is of superior quality, and good to use from an ethical perspective. I only use meat when I can be completely sure the animals have been treated in a decent way. For the supply of vegetables, wheat, etcetera, I have excellent collaborations with local farmers from the area.

Chef's Secret: Your cooking style is very creative? Where do you find your inspiration?

Heinrich Schneider: It is indeed important to be creative every single day, since that’s what the guests expect when they come to Terra. As we serve a menu of 12 courses, plus appetizers, I’m always looking for inspiration to be able to develop that many creations. I’m also convinced that every single dish should be a masterpiece in itself. Although the standards are high, that is in fact just what makes and keeps it exciting for me. By using local vegetables as the starting point of most creations, I deliberately limit the options and that makes me extra creative. But of course it’s not only about my own creativity. A good chefs knows how important valuable collaborations can be. Suppliers and farmers who can provide me with top quality products are also an important source of inspiration. They have a fresh and exciting perspective on certain ingredients, that can reveal so many new possibilities for fantastic combinations and creations.

 

However, it’s not only about the food. The plating, exclusive tableware and the atmosphere are just as important, so creativity can manifest itself. The full experience is what actually counts. We’ve made the choice to use unique plates at Terra, handcrafted by different artists. We got into the artists scene via one of our contacts in Bolzano, who introduced us to other artists as well. And today we have a really nice tableware collection in the restaurant. In the end, a creative dish can only be fully appreciated on a plate that is just as special and creative.

Strawberry and tomato gazpacho with purpurascens basil, Imperial caviar, verbena and buttermilk cracker

Chef's Secret: Are there certain people who stimulate your creativity?

Heinrich Schneider: Twice a year I take the time to travel, together with Gisela’s partner, in order to discover other cuisines, techniques and styles. I always try to study the new culinary trends in detail, so I can integrate them in my own style and philosophy when I believe it’s an added value. For example traveling to Tokyo, New York and the Nordics was quite inspiring. Many people say that my cuisine resembles the Scandinavian style. That might be true, as I ‘m  using similar products such as wild herbs. But I started foraging and cooking with this natural herbs already 20 years ago, long before the Nordic Cuisine became famous.

Chef's Secret: Not so long ago, a second Michelin star was awarded to Terra. How does that feel? Did it change a lot?

Heinrich Schneider: It’s indeed just the second year that we have two Michelin stars, and we’re of course very happy that we got this distinction. It’s always great to get recognition, not only in culinary guides or award shows, but also in the positive feedback we get from our guests every single day. We have noticed that a second Michelin star drives professionalisation and the appeal to a new audience.

Chef's Secret: What are your short and long term plans and ambitions?

Heinrich Schneider: We stay really ambitious and motivated. We continuously strive for the best and try to improve ourselves day after day. So much the better if that would result in awards and official acknowledgements. Another big project we are working on is the opening of a brand new Terra restaurant in Shanghai in a couple of months. It will have the signature style of Terra, but of course by using local products and herbs as the centre of flavourful, pure and creative dishes. Just like here, it will be a rather small restaurant with only 25 to 30 seats. Nevertheless, the next months and years we keep our focus on spoiling our guests in Val Sarentino with a top-notch fine dining experience.

Thank you so much, Heinrich. We’re extremely curious to experience Terra to the fullest now. Good luck with all your plans.

Black ash taco with aztec sweet herb

Ground ivy-charcoal cream, raspberries granita, woodsorrel, birch sugar and goat yogurt foam

Tea ceremony: tea of fresh herbs, raspberry ice cream praline, potato chip with white chocolate, seabuckthorn ice cream praline and verbena marshmallow

Glazed roe deer with thousands flowers: lavender, thyme, verbena celery root, fermented garlic, woodruff and dried berries

Rye foam with wheat grass and parsley root cornet

The terra tea of organic beef with rowan berry, cranberries, dried black trumpet and

boletus mus mushrooms

“The sun of Marygold”: raviolo with caramelized yeast foam, smoked celery root, elder flowers and marygold

Trout with seabuckthorn from Pusteria valley and woodsorrel

Organic chicken, bronze fennel, woodsorrel and hazelnut cream

Practical information

Terra – The Magic Place, Prati 21,  I-39058, Sarentino, Italy | +39 0471 62 30 55 | info@terra.place | facebook.com/terraauenerhof | instagram.com/restaurant.terra/

Interview by Sarah De Hondt

Photography by Adriaan van Looy

@hungryformore.mag

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