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Vitus Winkler and his gourmet restaurant Kräuterreich: Cheerful summit for the palate

By: Reading Time: 3 Minutes
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In Salzburgerland, four-toque chef Vitus Winkler delights guests from all over the world with his subtle Alpine cuisine. He prefers to start his day collecting herbs in nature. KTCHNrebel met up with this likable man in his mid-thirties for a chat.

The name Kräuterreich (herbal kingdom) sums things up nicely. “My philosophy is to bring the mountains, the valleys and the peaks into the dishes,” says Vitus Winkler. Incidentally, he has also written a book with the same title that takes readers on a herbal hike through the Alpine landscape and includes some of the best recipes. However, they will never taste quite like they do at Winkler’s Hotel-Restaurant Sonnhof in St. Veit im Pongau. This restaurant was first opened by Winkler’s great-grandmother, a farmer’s daughter, and is now successfully run by the fourth generation of his family.

Watch the entire video-interview with Vitus Winkler:

Creative surprise menu with alpine herbs and cracker peaks

Winkler has fun with his cooking. His dishes have names like Morgentau (morning dew) and Alpenbrand (alpine brandy), with crackers recreating the jagged mountain peaks. Including up to 30 enigmatic alpine herbs from the wild and his own herb garden, guests come from far and wide for his daily surprise menu. They can choose between the desired number of courses – five to seven – as well as specify any unwanted ingredients. Everything else is left to the chef’s inspiration. One thing is for sure: his guests are delighted and keep returning to the “herbal kingdom”; recently one of them came five days in a row!

Vitus Winkler: regional, fresh products and the people behind them

The down-to-earth family man’s success has by no means gone to his head. Winkler loves to praise the people and the products that make his kitchen what it is. “It’s very important to me to make everything with fresh products, and that’s something you can get here,” he says with satisfaction, and tells us about his excursions to the forests and local farmers. He values the quality ingredients and the people who provide them. “I like to know my ingredients well. And I like working with my partners, the farmers, the fishermen and what they give me so that I can offer something great in the evening.”

Young culinary talent is valued

Winkler also greatly values his employees – and he has an eye for young talent. Like Sandra Scheidl. The first woman to win the Junge Wilde Award, she was once just a promising young woman who auditioned for Winkler – and she succeeded. “I just saw the power in her eyes,” he says. “And I found it great to also have women in the kitchen.” He knows exactly what he has in young colleagues like Sandra. “Having young people in the kitchen is always very important to me, because I learn more from them every day. Sandra was really good for me!”

Krüterreich – sustainability is a must

For Winkler, value also includes practicing sustainability in the way he handles his products. Using as much of the plant as possible is a given for him. “We make jus from the peels,” he says, mentioning one example. He also finds a use for stale bread; Winkler’s sourdough mousse is legendary. And he never uses chemicals in his kitchen, neither in his food nor in any other way. He has been cleaning with steam for a long time – with no added cleaning products of any kind.

Sustainability is a must in Vitus Winkler's kitchen

Image: Vitus Winkler

Digitization makes guests happy – and increases profits

What Vitus Winkler does not do without, however, is digitization. He embraces the possibilities of modern technologies with open arms and knows exactly the advantages of using intelligent cooking systems. It allows him to serve tables more seamlessly, he says. He adds that it makes guests happy when the menu moves along. One thing he definitely knows: Booking more tables per evening increases profits. After all, Winkler is also a businessman. And that’s a good thing.

Have a look at these amazing chefs:

Star chef: Heinz Reitbauer

Two Michelin stars and one Green Star: Ivan und Sergey Berezutskiy

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