Championing high-quality food and drink
#culinarycologne ambassador: Claudia Stern
Claudia Stern has been helping to advance the dining scene in Cologne for more than 25 years and she’s experienced a great deal along the way. She spent many years managing her own restaurant, worked on the “German Television Awards” gala for 15 years and now has her own agency, specialising in wine and event management.
That alone made it a no-brainer for us to appoint Claudia Stern a #culinarycologne ambassador. We visited Claudia at wineBANK Köln, near Ebertplatz, to award her the title in recognition of her work for the culinary scene over the years.
What does Culinary Cologne mean to you?
Cologne has its own rules when it comes to high-quality food and drink and there are some wonderful culinary craftsmen and women here. Not just Michelin chefs but also bakers, butchers and people devoted to ensuring good-quality food. For a while, there were only a few of us but, fortunately, after 25 years of championing the culinary scene in Cologne, I’m no longer quite so alone. We’re a great community of chefs, sommeliers, food bloggers and journalists, passionate private individuals and purveyors of good food and drink.
The range of produce available to buy has improved significantly – be it at the weekly markets (my favourite is the Tuesday market, or better still the Friday one, outside the St. Aposteln church), the independently managed REWE and EDEKA supermarkets or from small artisan producers.
And yes, our city has the best coffee roasters. In fact, the world vice-champion roaster can be found pursuing his craft every day at MOXXA on Aachener Straße.
Cologne is a place of diversity. And that goes for its culinary offering too. Be it Michelin restaurants from modern to classic, brewery pubs, small cafés or bistros that cook, bake and combine with a hearty portion of authenticity. Be it wine merchants or event caterers that do some really good things! Then there are the food festivals, the new “Wine Fest on the Rhein” – Cologne always puts so much heart into everything. Even the traditional pork tartare rolls ooze devotion – if you go to the right butcher.
I’m glad I’ve been able to contribute to all that through my work over the past 26 years. Cologne still has lots of food ideas waiting to be served up.
What are your three favourite culinary spots in Cologne? Where do you like to go?
I love the Bäckerei Zimmermann bakery. Their “Schwarzbrot” is like nothing else. I always love my little chats with Christel Zimmermann, who, like me, comes from Baden and started a family and a successful quality-food business in Cologne.
Tanica is within high-heel walking distance from my home. I love the team there – Ana, Falk, Mathieu, Gabriel and all their busy helpers. It’s unfussy and good. They always have lots of exciting wines – on the menu or tucked away somewhere.
I’ve also become quite a fan of the HENNE. Weinbar of course. Hendrik Olfen is really a wonderful chef and a young entrepreneur with the right approach. It’s a place with a nice combination of atmosphere, cuisine and memories of bygone days.
How do you think Cologne can progress in terms of its culinary offering? How could that be achieved?
There has to be more joint communication. Fine Food Days Cologne shows that a true community spirit is possible. And, most importantly, the people of Cologne need to stop their penny-pinching. Service and kitchen staff and freshly prepared goods have to be paid for and it’s the proprietors that decide the price – not the guests. Having then had an enjoyable experience, the guests show their gratitude with an appropriate tip.
There has to be a rise in prices if we are to have any chance at all of recruiting new staff. Those who haven’t understood that yet will soon get a shock.
I would really call on lovers of good food and drink just to show more appreciation of the staff. Know-it-alls and moaners should do their own cooking.
What we appreciate are open-minded guests with their heart in the right place. Yes, open-mindedness! It’s important to try things. Don’t always eat the same thing – let all those delicious things out there, for all budgets, lead you into culinary temptation.