It all started more or less by chance. In Sagogn, Grisons, where Andreas grew up, a neighbor invited him to a try-out day at a hotel kitchen when he was 13 years old. “I liked that a lot”, he recalls now, 30 years later. “Everyone was nice to me and I thought, this is what I want to do.”
In 2003, Caminada started his own restaurant with four employees at Schloss Schauenstein in Fürstenau, which is located about 12 miles (20 kilometers) south of Chur. He had already earned his first Michelin star by the following year. Now he has 100 employees. Elegant hotel rooms await guests in the castle and Meierhaus, while the Remisa, with its open kitchen, is used for events and cooking courses. This is also where the Atelier Caminada cooking videos are recorded, which are broadcast weekly on the Gault&Millau channel. At Casa Caminda just a stone’s throw away, you can indulge in Grisons specialties. To do so, you don’t necessarily have to book five months in advance, and families with children will also feel comfortable in the rustic, skilfully converted stables.
“It’s all about a culture of hospitality”, says Caminada. “We have guests who arrive by helicopter and those who come by bicycle; everyone should feel comfortable here.” To help achieve this goal, fine wines are stored in the old cellars of Fürstenau, as well as preserves, such as mushrooms from the region. There is also a bakery, a coffee roasting plant and a store selling its own as well as selected products. In Fürstenau, the “smallest town in the world”Andreas Caminada also cooks for Acasa, his star chef catering business, and manages Fundaziun Uccelin, a talent development program for the catering industry. “We are entrepreneurs”, he explains. “Most chefs at this level are salaried, and it is about cooking well. Although this is also important, we strive to set an example, train people, give something back as well as develop ourselves.”
In his search for new challenges, Caminada designed a second restaurant line five years ago inspired by Asian traditions. It’s called IGNIV, derived from the Rhaeto-Romanic word for nest, where guests are looked after and made to feel comfortable thanks to the fine dining sharing experience. It was risky, because we didn’t know whether this would be well received. There was also some scepticism surrounding the sharing concept.” Instead of the standard sequence of courses, guests choose from three or four courses with different dishes, which are served in a number of different bowls and plates and shared at the table. The first IGNIV at the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz was such a resounding success that a second one opened a few months later at Badrutt’s Palace Hotel in St. Moritz. Caminada opened his third culinary nest last February in the Hotel Marktgasse in Zurich’s Niederdorf, and his fourth will open its doors in Bangkok in October. “It’s about sharing”, he explains, “about good food and a place you like, where you know you will find style and quality in an atmosphere that is nevertheless relaxed.” Even though the IGNIV concept is also marketed under Caminada’s name, the focus in the restaurants will be on the local chefs. “It’s not about going to Caminada’s, but to Silvio’s or Francesco’s.”
They have all worked for Caminada, and yes, there is such a thing as the Caminada spirit and approach. This include being close to the product, playful, but not overly fancy. “It’s about taste. If it’s a cucumber, it should taste like a cucumber,” explains the enthusiastic inventor of new culinary combinations. “It’s all about creating a signature, and then there’s the design. For example, what cutlery do we use, what do the plates look like?” The quality and continuity that characterize Andreas Caminada’s work is also evident in his employees and chefs who have worked here. “However, it is important that the young people continue to develop.”, says Caminada. Sure, you can make it easy for yourself, take the recipes and simply copy them, but that’s not enough. I think you have to step out of yourself and find your own style. That is the task of every single chef who leaves here, and that is what I tell them: Find your own path, do things your own way.”
Andreas Caminada and his IGNIV managers were supposed to be guest in Salzburg this December in Hangar 7, where the historic fleet of Flying Bulls are gathered under a futuristic glass vault, including airplane and helicopters as well as Formula One cars and motorcycles. Caminada has already cooked once at Ikarus, the two-star restaurant in one of the cylinder towers next to the hangar, where a different international top chef presents their philosophy and demonstrates their skills every month – a globally unique experience. The list of previous guest chefs reads like a who’s who of top gastronomy, and Caminada says, “It is a great honor to be invited, and I am very grateful that we will be there with IGNIV.” When his month as a guest chef will be made up for is still open. He himself will only be on site for a few days, then his IGNIV team will work alongside the Ikarus crew. “We will bring our tableware with us to make it as authentic as possible.”
Andreas Caminada knows that he is a role model. “We have been successful and are very grateful for this, but it’s a huge undertaking every day, and you are measured by it. However, it is not just about cooking, but also about this passion to find fulfillment and drive something forward.”